Scared for my children: Iftikhar Gilani
New Delhi, Feb 11 : Two days after he was detained by police along with his family following the execution of Afzal Guru, senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani Monday said his children were still scared, and he was scared for them too.
Gilani and his family were detained Saturday by the special cell of Delhi Police. Gilani's 16-year-old daughter is a student of Class 9, while his 14-year-old son is a student of Class 7.
"Police locked my children in their rooms and about 10 officers were there. Whatever happened to me is not an issue; but the way they behaved with my children, that was totally outrageous," Gilani told IANS.
"The treatment of my children by the police haunts me. They are scared, they are so young, this is the age when events leave a deep impact," he said.
Iftikhar Gilani was taken to the residence of his father-in-law S.A.S. Geelani, leader of the Jamaat e Islami. Gilani's wife too moved to be with her father, leaving the two teenaged children alone at home, locked in their bedrooms.
Gilani was let off after some media persons assembled at the spot and protested his detention.
"I had SMSed my office, so I was not worried about myself. While talking to a senior journalist, my phone kept shutting down, they had blocked it," he recounted.
The journalist was accused of being a terrorist by the officials.
Talking of his treatment by Delhi Police, Gilani said: "They asked my neighbours if they felt no shame in living so close to a terrorist. My children's tuition teacher was there in the house Sunday, and they interrogated her for an hour. 'What is the point of educating them?', they asked, as they would ultimately become terrorists."
Gilani added that going by the talk of the police officials, it appeared like they represented a right-wing group, not the police force of a secular country.
"Police have changed their versions so many times. First, they said I was never detained. Then, they said I was already there at S.A.S. Geelani's home when they came, insisting there was a miscommunication. I say I will still give them the benefit of doubt. But why were the children detained? I was also arrested in 2002. Whatever may have happened in jail after that, at least I was arrested in a dignified manner that time," Gilani said.
Iftikhar Gilani was earlier arrested on charge of spying in June 2002 under the Official Secrets Act. He was accused of working with Pakistan's ISI, but later acquitted.
The journalist added that the problem was the lack of accountability of the police force.
"The problem is that there is no accountability. Had those officials had the fear that they would have to answer someone, they would have behaved differently. I was pleading to them for my children," he said.
The Indian Women's Press Corps expressed its dismay at the manner in which a senior journalist like Gilani was harassed by Delhi Police.
"We have learnt from his first-hand account how he was accosted by plain-clothesmen on Feb 9 and manhandled on the pretext of seeking out some Kashmiri leader. They threatened him and locked up his children," the IWPC said, in a statement.
The IWPC joins other media organisations in demanding that action should be taken against the police officials who subjected him and his family to mental and physical harassment, it said.
The journalist's detention has been criticised by the Editor's Guild of India, which demanded an apology from the police.
Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has, meanwhile, written to the home ministry asking it to chargesheet and suspend police officials who had kept Gilani under alleged illegal detention.