[Reader-list] Translation, Guilt, Innocence and Two Cups of Coffee

Shuddhabrata Sengupta shuddha at sarai.net
Fri Aug 31 06:15:05 IST 2007

Dear All,

It is always interesting and worthwhile to participate in a discussion 
on questions of the interpretation and translation on language, and 
about how our notions of truth are stabilized or destabilized by the 
apparatus of recording. We learn a lot, especially when the issues at 
stake are as vital and significant as innocence and guilt. This is 
especially true when at the heart of the discussion lies an alleged 
offence which has resulted in the ultimate punishment of the death 
penalty being awarded, twice, and then rescinded, on grounds of lack of 
evidence. This task requires us to look at language, law, evidence, 
theories of mind, interpretative agency, reportage and a host of other 
things. This is precisely the kind of stuff that the Reader List was set 
up to do. So thanks in advance to all those, especially Aditya Raj Kaul, 
Rashneek Kher, Kshemendra Kaul , Pawan Durani and others who have 
provoked this posting/thread.

1. Apologists and Apologies

As you must have figured out by now, I am referring to the spate of 
postings that we have all recently read, that have, in one way or 
another, raised the question of Sanjay Kak's purported 'mistranslation' 
of the intercepted recording of a telephonic conversation between SAR 
Geelani and his brother Faizal immediately after 13 December 2001, 
during the POTA trial court proceedings in the '13 December Case', while 
appearing as a defence witness (Defence Witness #2, if I am not 
mistaken) for SAR Geelani.

These postings have appeared because -

  a) having failed to garner sympathy for the position that 
'Jashn-e-Azadi' is a film that should not be available for uninterrupted 
and undisturbed screenings, or that it should be banned, or that it 
should be prevented by the police from being seen;


b)having witnessed the demolition on this list of the allegation that 
the purportedly Roots in Kashmir (RIK) initiated screening of 'And the 
World Remained Silent' in Kamala Nehru College was cancelled at the 
behest of those who wanted a screening of 'Jashn-e-Azadi' (following 
clarifications from Kamala Nehru College and Sanjay Mattoo, the person 
who tried to organize the screening of 'Jashn-e-Azadi' in the first 
place, as to the exact chronology of events)

- those involved in the campaign to stop the film from being watched 
(RIK activists  and their sympathizers) were left with no other 
alternative but to train their guns on the filmmaker, on the members of 
this list, and to begin making yet another series of allegations about 
the filmmakers motives and antecedents. Having failed in their 
vilification of the message, they have now turned on the messenger. They 
elected to follow rule 38, 'leave the subject altogether, and turn your 
attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character' 
-  from that wonderful list of rules of how to win an argument on the 
cheap, attributed to Scopenhauer in Faiz Ullah's post 'to win and 
argument...' made on the 20th of August on the Sarai Reader List.

Unfortunately for them, this strategy, though momentarily disorienting, 
(because we find it difficult to imagine that people would stoop so low 
as to do such things, and when they do, find ourselves momentarily 
stunned) is bound to fail, in fact it has failed already, for reasons 
that I hope to show in some detail in this  set of postings.

This will involve some very close reading of newspaper reports, articles 
and court proceedings, and some technical details, and will be a lengthy 
post, and may be tedious for some, because, in keeping with the ethical 
standards that this list commits itself to, and that a majority of its 
readers expect, I cannot afford the luxury of making unsubstantiated or 
unsubstantiatable statements. I have to quote sources, contextualize and 
build an argument based on the actual content of publicly available 
documents as opposed to conjecture, prejudice and hearsay. I find myself 
compelled to do this not because I am personally interested in having 
those who make these allegations exposed for what they are, but because 
this list is a public record of sorts, and I do have an interest in 
ensuring that we as list members still retain the capacity to correct 
the grossest of distortions that suddenly erupt amongst us. So apologies 
in advance for the length of this posting.

I really do apologize for the length of my recent postings but I am 
hoping that you all will understand that when dealing with a 
multi-headed hydra as I find myself having to, I too am forced to become 
a snake with a never ending tail, : ) In other words, even a single 
rejoinder has to be long and comprehensive enough to deal with the venom 
injected by (apparently) many different heads. I need to deploy some 
heavy artillery to deal with so much (badly aimed) sniper fire.

Apologies also, for attempting to write this in coherent, 
straightforward and ungrammatical english, so that at least my mirror, 
and all those given to ordinary conversation on this list can understand 
what I am writing. Enough apologies, enough preliminaries. Lets get down 
to business.

2. Mistranslating a Mistrial

As someone who happens to have followed the trial that is being referred 
to ('The Parliament Attack/13 December' Case) quite closely over the 
last five years, as regular readers on this list will no doubt recall, 
I think that I can lay a claim to  more than a casual interest in the 

The A.R.K.P interpretation (thanks, Yousuf for a handy nomenklatural 
abbreviation for this 'league of extraordinary gentlemen' of Aditya, 
Rashneek, Kshemendra and Pawan, or should I say 'Amalgamated Recidivist 
Kooks & Poseurs') of a fragment of the trial proceedings, makes for 
interesting reading. But a word of caution, we would do well to dwell a 
little on the relationship between what was recorded, what was said in 
court, what was reported, and how it is now being interpreted by the 
'forensic linguistics' division of A.R.K.P, before we jump to any 
conclusions, either about Sanjay Kak's purported dissimulation, or about 
A.R.K.P's motives in making these seemingly infinitely expanding series 
of allegations. I get a liitle concerned, perhaps even a little 
suspicious when I see allegations begetting allegations with such 
velocity aand with such with remarkable, and self-congratulatory, 

Let me first take the newspaper reports and articles that were quoted 
recently on an A.R.K.P blog post, titled 'A Lie Which Cheated the 
Courts' in a blog titled 'The Kashmir' and which Pawan Durani, and then 
Aditya Raj Kaul refer to, more than once - in their postings.

The blog entry (and accompanying comments) basically say that - Sanjay 
Kak (and Sampath Prakash) 'mistranslated' the phrase that they render as 
'Yeh Kya Korua' which occured in the conversation between SAR Geelani 
and his brother. The court, they say, was misled by their 
'mistranslation' and hence, SAR Geelani was acquitted.

Nested within this blog entry are four hyperlinks, two of which are 
relevant to the question at hand -

1. A report in the Hindu, Friday, May 02, 2003 ' Parliament attack case: 
HC questions prosecution version of arrests'


2. Basharat Peer's essay in the Guardian - 'Victims of December 13', 
July 5, 2003

(It is in the contents of Basharat Peer's essay that the A.R.K.P theory 
of 'mistranslation' finds its ammunition. Mind you, I am saying 
contents, not argument, because Basharat's argument runs entirely 
counter to the A.R.K.P version of the question of SAR Geelani's guilt or 
innocence, but that is not immediately important. Many among you will 
remember Basharat Peer, he was a Sarai Independent Research Fellow, and 
his excellent essay on reporting from Srinagar is available on Sarai 
Reader 04: Crisis Media at )

I will analyse each of these stories in turn, examine how they are being 
read in the blog under discussion, look at some additional material, and 
then, I will turn to the publicly available court records of the case, 
to try and see if there is any sense in what A.R.K.P are saying.

Let's get a few facts right first. The depositions made by Sanjay Kak 
and Sampath Prakash did not get SAR Geelani his acquittal. These 
depositions were made at the appelate proceedings at the High Court, and 
the High Court confirmed the sentence of death awarded to Geelani by the 
trial court. Sanjay Kak has pointed this out himself, in his posting on 
this list - the one in which he reprimands me for spoiling the party we 
are all having in watching the A.R.K.P hydra expose itself. The High 
Court confirmed the death sentence, even though it found the 
prosecution's arguments with regard to this particular phone intercept 
severely wanting (see below), while simultaneously dismissing the value 
of Sanjay Kak and Sampath Prakash's testimonies, not on the grounds of 
inadequate or faulty translation, but on the ground that they, being 
members of the All India Defence Committee for SAR Geelani, were not 
disinterested witnesses.. SAR Geelani's acquittal at the Supreme Court 
too was not based on the testimonial contributions of Sanjay Kak or 
Sampath Prakash, but on the failure of the prosecution (including in the 
instance of the phone intercept) to show that they in fact had any 
concrete evidence against him. Perhaps A.R.K.P are unaware of the fact 
that the Indian legal system (with the aberrant exception of the now 
repealed POTA) works with the assumption that it is guilt that needs to 
be proved, not innocence.

Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that A.R.K.P now realize their 
factual error in stating that it was Sanjay Kak's testimony that 'freed' 
Geelani, and focus next on intention rather than on consequences. Not in 
order to win or lose a legal wager, but in order to retain their 
terribly difficult and hard won position on the slippery slope of their 
self-assumed moral high ground. Then they would argue that it hardly 
matters whether or not Geelani was acquitted on the basis of these 
statements, what matters is that an attempt was made to mislead the 
court, and by extension, the people of India. This attempt (in their 
reading of reality) shows that Sanjay Kak, (and by association, those 
who stand by him) are indulging in dissimulation.

Now this would be true if,

a) the crux of SAR Geelani's purported guilt of innocence could 
logically be demonstrated to lie in the indisputable meaning of the 
words 'Yeh Kya Korua'.


b)if the police/prosecution/A.R.K.P version/translation of the 
conversation were shown to be perfectly in concordance with and 
consistent with the context in which the conversation (of which, 
remember, the intercept is an imperfect recording) took place.

Remember this, because this is going to be crucial when we look at the 
actual court record of how this was looked at in the Supreme Court, 
where the matter was finally decided on.

But for now, let us stick first to the question of the quality of the 
telephone intercept as evidence, and secondly to the interpretations 
given to the words, 'Yeh Kya Korua'

This is what the report on the Hindu (which is a report on the appelate 
trial proceedings in the High Court, not on the POTA Trial Court) that 
the 'Lies that Cheated the Courts' posting links to, has to say on the 
first of these two questions (the evidentiary quality of the intercept). 
This report, which A.R.K.P invoke but never detail, merits quotation at 
length, in fact, in its entirety.


Parliament attack case: HC questions prosecution version of arrests
The Hindu, Friday, May 02, 2003

By Our Special Correspondent

[ NEW DELHI MAY 1. The two-judge bench of the Delhi High court, hearing 
appeals in the Parliament attack case, today closely questioned the 
Prosecution on its version of the arrests made in the case and the 
contradictions that it throws up.

The Special Prosecutor, Gopal Subramanium, had told the court, quoting 
Delhi police's Investigating Officer, Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, that 
the telephones of S.A.R. Geelani and Afsan Guru/Navjot Sandhu, had been 
tapped on December 13. Calls recorded on December 14 — between Geelani 
and his brother at 12.12 p.m. and between Afsan and her husband at 8 
p.m. — pointed to their connection with the attack and suggested that 
Shaukat Hussain and one other person were in Srinagar.

Geelani's house was put under surveillance on December 13 and December 
14. He was arrested at around 10 a.m. on December 15 and Afsan Guru at 
10.45 a.m. Information received from Afsan Guru about the registration 
number of the truck in which her husband was travelling was sent to 
Srinagar. On the basis of this, the truck was located at 8 a.m. on 
December 15 and Shaukat Hussain and Mohammed Afzal were arrested by 
11.45 a.m.

The Srinagar police officer, who made the arrests, stated in evidence 
that he received information about the truck's registration number at 
5.30 a.m. on December 15.

The defence has maintained that Geelani was arrested on December 14 at 
around 1 p.m. and Afsan between 6 and 6.30 p.m.

Justice Usha Mehra asked Mr. Subramanium to explain the discrepancy in 
the evidence of the Delhi police (that the arrests were made after 10 
a.m. on December 15 and information sent to Srinagar) and of the 
Srinagar police (that it acted on information received at 5.30 a.m.).

``If you go only by the clock, then the prosecution is not telling the 
truth'', Mr Subramanium said. The question related to the credibility of 
the witnesses. ``Your Lordships would have to be assisted to see which 
witness is believable''.

Justice Mehra suggested that ``a lesser explanation'', such as the one 
offered by the defence that Geelani and Afsan were arrested on December 
14, better suited even the prosecutions version of the arrests. She told 
Mr. Subramanium that if the court were to believe his witness, Mohan 
Chand Sharma, it would have to disbelieve the story of the arrests in 

Justice Mehra also pointed to other gaps in the Prosecutions story.

Why did the police, which apparently acted with speed to ascertain phone 
details, intercept calls and mount surveillance on Geelani on December 
13, not go to the evening college where he taught, even if only to get 
his description to help in his arrest? Given that the identity cards on 
the dead militants suggested a Kashmiri connection, why had the police, 
when intercepting calls, not considered that these might be in Kashmiri 
and engage a Kashmiri interpreter? How did the investigating officer who 
did not know Kashmiri and had admitted that the translation of the call 
involving Geelani was done after it was recorded, decide that it was the 
``relevant'' one ? ]

Fortunately, unlike their lordships, we do not need much 'assistance' to 
see whether or not the A.R.K.P cohort, in their new found role as 
witness, prosecutor, judge and executioner combined are indeed 
'credible'. (and I am glad that Rashneek, at least has expressed a 
reluctance to play the role of the hangman because he says that he is, 
like me, against the death penalty, I am happy that there are some 
things on which at least Rashneek and I can genuinely find agreement)

Let us see why I think we don't need much assistance.

3. Figures of Speech

The chronology spelt out by the above quoted report, which 'Lies that 
Cheated the Courts' unhesitatingly invokes, is very clear. When Geelani 
was arrested, (according to the prosecution) on the morning of December 
15,  no one in the Delhi Police, least of all Inspector Mohan Chand 
Sharma, knew what the contents of this infamous phone call was. Even 
though it is on this that the prosecution built so much of their 
argument. It had simply not yet been 'translated' for the police .In 
other words, if the meaning of 'Yeh Kya Korua' in this conversation was 
unambiguously -  'What did you all do' - and if it is true that this 
phrase referred to the attack on the Parliament - a fact on which hinged 
the suspicion that Geelani was involved in the December 13 incident, 
then, the police, while arresting him, had no clue as yet that this was 
indeed the case. They were arresting him for saying something that they 
had not yet known at that time that he had said. They had no other 
grounds for arresting him. His cell phone number was found on the phones 
recovered from the body of some dead men. That was all.

[Aside: Consider this -  it is possible that in some hours, I might be 
able to get Aditya Raj Kaul's cell phone number from somewhere, and feed 
it in the directory of my cell phone, or that in some hours, someone 
will key in Aditya's number into my cell phone. It is also possible that 
I am in fact a terrorist who is, in a few days,weeks, months, hours, who 
knows when -  about to lead a suicide attack on a Cafe Coffee Day outlet 
because I really do not like the way they brew their coffee. It is 
possible, indeed more or less sure that I will die in this attempt. It 
is possible that my cell phone will then yield Aditya Raj Kaul's mobile 
number, (because I have either been dying to talk to him all along, or 
because someone has keyed in this number and put that phone on my dead 
body)  and that then, Aditya Raj Kaul (who, it is true, I have been in 
regular touch with as a fellow subscriber on the Reader List, something 
my laptop will surely yield) will then be arrested and held for five 
years in solitary confinement, and be sentenced twice to death on the 
grounds that he was the terrorist mastermind of the 'All India and J&K 
Coffee Liberation Squad', of which I was a mere zombie underling, sent 
out to court death for the sake of better aroma for us all You get my 
drift: End of Aside]

The depositions of the investigating officer in the case at the trial 
court are to the effect that there were other conversations, other 
intercepts. The depositions of the prosecution witness who translated 
the intercept, the fruit vendor Rashid Ali, and the man who actually did 
the interception both indicate that there was a great deal more that was 
said, and that again - there were other conversations. But the 
investigating officers chose to zero in on Geelani on the basis of these 
two minutes and sixteen seconds alone of a recording where the signal 
drops not once, but twice, without taking into account the intercepts of 
the other calls. But the fact remains that none of these intercepts were 
'translated' or available in any form for the police to understand when 
the arrests were made. So how, then, did the police know which 'segment' 
of which recording of which intercept was relevant to their theory that 
Geelani was guilty, that he was in fact the mastermind?

Secondly, the police officer concerned, was clearly not speaking the 
truth about the timing of the arrests, because if we are to believe his 
chronology of when Geelani and Afshan were arrested in Delhi, we have to 
disbelieve the actual time of arrest of Shaukat Hussain and Muhammad 
Afzal in Srinagar. If the Delhi police is truthful (Geelani suspect and 
arrest justified) then the Srinagar police is lying (thus Afzal 
innocent). Yet Afzal and Shaukat are the only key suspecst who have 
actually been found guilty. And if the Delhi police is lying (about the 
timing of Geelani and Afshan's arrest (because they get to Afshan only 
through Geelani) then the entire story falls apart. This is why, the 
phone intercept, is a basically a flawed piece of evidence. If we take 
it very seriously, then everything else falls apart in the case.

Further, if we take the contents of the conversation to be a tacit 
admission of complicity, then something even more interesting occurs. If 
'Yeh kya korua' can only mean 'what did you/you all do in Delhi' which 
in turn can only mean 'what did you/you all do, as in try to attack the 
Parliament in Delhi' then, the person who asks the question, that is 
Feizal, is clearly aware of what is going on. He would not be in a 
position to make a reference to an event that had just unfolded if he 
had not been aware of its imminent unfolding in advance. In other words, 
in order for Feizal to have asked a question which can only be read as a 
reference to the attack on Parliament, Feizal needs to have been in on 
the conspiracy. And yet, Feizal, who was investigated and questioned at 
length by the police has never been charged. There is no attempt to make 
a case against him. If Geelani is guilty because he  'knew', (and that 
is all we can surmise if we accept this postion, that he 'knew' because 
there is nothing else that can be said with regard to the man) then, 
according to the argument of the defeated prosecution case and the 
renascent forensic expertise of A.R.K.P, so must Feizal be guilty. Yet, 
no one has ever been able to pin anything on him. And yet the 'needle of 
suspicion' continues to quiver in the direction of SAR Geelani, at least 
in the arguments that A.R.K.P are making.

4. 'What Happened'

Still, let us for form's sake, continue to try and take their position 
seriously. Let us actually go into the language of what is being said, 
and the context in which the conversation takes place.

Basharat Peer's excellent article in the Guardian, the second and more 
apparently 'damning' revelation dredged up by the diligent A.R.K.P 
blog-soldiers actually says the following -
"Giving evidence in court, Kak said, "The Kashmiri equivalent of 'What's 
happened?' is 'Yeh Kya Korua'. It is a generic term used for a range of 
ordinary circumstances, such as when a child spills a glass of milk or 
when there is snowfall or a marital dispute." The younger brother of the 
accused teacher had called simply to get a syllabus and a prospectus. He 
translated that portion of the call as: Receiver (accused teacher): 
"Tell me what you want?" Caller (his brother): "Syllabus and 
prospectus." (from Basharat Peer's article, cited and linked above)
Remember, Kak does not say that 'What's happened' is a *translation* of 
'Yeh Kya Korua'. He says it is an *equivalent*. The word equivalent 
connotes a similarity of valence or value, not an identity. Equivalent 
is not identical. Equivalent means 'something approximating to another 
thing' not 'something identical with another thing'. But Kak does not 
stop here. He locates the phrase rendered as 'Yeh Kya Korua' in the 
context of how people might talk about events, idiomatically  - as  'a 
generic term used for a range of ordinary circumstances'.

Just as in Bengali, we might say 'E ki kando' (what's been done/'Oh, 
what happenned') or 'E ki korlen' ('what did you do') to express - 
surprise, delight, pain, pleasure, irritation, wonder, astonishment and 
a whole gamut of expressions. Idiomatic language often contains 
expressions that might have a different import from their 'literal' 
meaning, and that may or may not refer to personalized interactions, but 
could even extend to general comments on nature and the cosmos, as a way 
of 'greasing' the levers of conversation. Such that a Bengali like me 
could say, very easily, to another Bengali 'e ki korlen' while looking 
up at the thundering sky, in a difficult to translate idiomatic move 
that includes in its ambit, not just the other person, but also the sky 
god Indra as well . Sampat Prakash's testimony in the trial court also 
includes several examples of the diversity of ways in which the phrase, 
"Yeh Kya Korua' might be deployed in ordinary conversation between two 
Kashmiris who were on familiar but respectful terms with one another.

But I digress, it is not references to natural phenomena that we are 
discussing here. The question of context becomes all the more important 
if we look at the entire contents of the conversation - which is about a 
syllabus, a prospectus and a host of other humdrum matters, some of 
which are referred to not explicity, but implicitly.. Actually, it is 
interesting to read the entire conversation. And you can read it as a 
downloadable pdf, in romanized Kashmiri and English, in no place other 
than Sarai Reader 04 - Crisis Media (page 158) on the page facing the 
beginning of Nandita Haksar's article 'Tried by the Media': The SAR 
Geelani Trial.

The pdf file is available for free download, like the entire contents of 
all Sarai Readers at 

Read it carefully, and you will see that on line 15 there is a statement 
(after static noise) by Faizal, Geelani's brother which reads, in mixed 
Kashmiri and Hindustani - "meh vonmus 'hota hai' " - which translates as 
"I said it happens (hota hai)". This is preceded by polite, near phatic 
preliminaries of a totally casual nature, and followed by an enquiry 
about a prospectus, at the end of which, Faizal asks, "Yeh kya korua". 
To which Geelani responds by asking "Kya?Dilli ha" ('What?In Delhi?) and 
Faizal asks again, "Dilli Kya Korua". it is here that the words "Kya 
Korua" are  located. Indeed, they can mean 'what did you do', or 'what 
happenned' depending on how you choose to read them, because neither 
reading is incorrect or antagonistic, even if one is more exact and the 
other is idiomatically apposite. In fact, if you do read them as 'what 
did you/you all do' too, there is room for ambiguity, because the query 
could be about people in the plural, or as correctly hinted at, even in 
part by Rashneek, as a - second person singular respectful, (not plural) 
past perfect continuous question. Whichever way you choose to read it. 
it must be read in conjunction with the "hota hai" that has preceded it 
by second. And once you do that, there is no getting away from the fact 
that the query refers to a situation,  a general state of being, rather 
than to a concrete event.
Even the prosecution has never really challenged the reading of 'Kya 
Korua' as a reference broadly suggesting 'What;s happenned'. This is 
clear from another report in the Hindu. One which A.R.K.P neglect to 
invoke, but I am quite happy to pull out of my archive of news reports 
of the 13 December trial.
Dec. 13 case: tape of phone intercept played in court
The Hindu, Tuesday, May 06, 2003
By Our Special Correspondent


NEW DELHI MAY 5. The tape-recorded telephone intercept, which was the 
mainstay of the prosecution's case against S.A.R. Geelani during the 
trial of the Parliament attack case, was today played for the Delhi High 
Court bench hearing the appeals.

The prosecution has maintained that the tape contains the question, put 
to Mr. Geelani by his brother, "what happened in Delhi'' to which he 
laughs and replies "yeh che zaroori (this was necessary)''. Having heard 
the tape, Justice Nandrajog said that he had not heard "yeh che zaroori''.

Justice Usha Mehra asked the Special Prosecutor, Gopal Subramanium, if 
this evidence was the core of the evidence against Mr. Geelani. "I am 
not putting all my eggs in the basket of that intercepted call,'' he 
5. 'Was This Necessary?'

Things get a little complicated for the A.R.K.P theory here. This 
newspaper report seems to suggest that even the prosecution refers to 
the question 'Yeh Kya Korua' as 'What's happenned in Delhi'. The judge 
does not disagree. Since according to A.R.K.P, rendering 'Yeh Kya Korua' 
as anything like 'What's happenned' is a sure sign of the fact that the 
person found doing so is in cahoots with terrorists, and must be a paid 
agent of JKLF, we have to arrive at the conclusion that not only Sanjay 
Kak and Sampath Prakash, but also the Special Prosecutor Gopal 
Subramaniam who tried so hard to get Geelani to hang, as well as the 
honorable justices Nandrajog, Mehra and Dhingra, must be, according to 
this theory, in league with terrorism and the paid mercenaries of JKLF 
or some other 'tanzeem'.

If A.R.K.P had the patience to go through the trial proceedings they 
would know that shortly after the hearing in which the whole telephone 
intercept argument is explored, the court calls upon Defence Witness #5, 
Aarifa Geelani, SAR Geelani's wife, who tells the court that the 
telephone conversation conains delicate and discreet references made 
between the brothers ('hota hai', 'yeh kya korua') to the fact that 
Geelani and his wife were at that time quarrelling about when they 
should be visiting Kashmir. That Aarifa's mother in law, Geelani's 
mother, had asked her son, Feizal, Geelani's brother, to enquire about 
why Aarifa was not coming up to Kashmir to visit them as was planned and 
to ask if everything was all right at home in Delhi, and so on.

  Of course, A.R.K.P don't do boring things like detailed reading of 
court transcripts, because they would then know that Aarifa's testimony 
passes without adverse comment in the court room. Doing that requires 
more than punching messages and scoring points on Blackberries, and then 
giving each other virtual congratulary back-slaps. it requires slow, 
patient reading. It requires hard work at the careful knitting together 
of an argument before even daring to make the hint of an accusation. But 
A.R.K.P wouldn't waste their time doing that, would they, becasue that 
would inhibit their capacity to post rapid fire slander. They would much 
rather spend their time making random links to newspaper reports and 
articles that they haven't read or digested, and then, on the basis of 
these links, scream 'murder' on our list. It is so much more exciting to 
deceive yourself and the world, acquiring in the process a momentary 
flash of internet fame, than it is to actually undertake a patient 
reading of a judicial record.

Things actually get a lot more complicated for A.R.K.P if we realize 
that the real controversy in the testimony as it unfolds through the 
depositions of defence and prosecution witnesses is not about the 
meaning of 'Yeh Kya Korua' at all (about which there is no real debate 
in the court room) but about whether or not an expression rendered as 
"yeh che zaroori" in the police transcript of the recording is actually 
audible or not in the tape.

The edifice of the police and the prosecution's case is actually 
entirely built on the purported presence of the words "yeh che zaroori" 
immediately following the exchange between the two brothers that are 
rendered as "yeh kya korua"..."dilli ha", ..."dilli kya korua"

The police, in its deposition maintained that the words "yeh che 
zaroori" translated in the charge sheet as "yeh kabhi kabhi zaroori hota 
hai" or, "this becomes necessary at times"( accompanied by laughter) is 
indicative of the fact that Geelani was somehow justifying the attack on 
the parliament.

Even if we accept, theoretically, that "Yeh kya korua" refers to a 
concrete occurence, that is the attack on the parliament, we have no way 
of knowing what Geelani thinks about that occurence unless we have in 
hand something like "yeh che zaroori". We are not, in other words in a 
position to form a reliable theory of mind vis a vis Geelani and his 
response to the attack on the parliament. We are not in a position where 
we can know anything about guilt, innocence or complicity unless we know 
what Geelani's explicitly expressed opinion on the occurence.   This is 
possible only if we can pull out an expression like "yeh che zaroori" 
from our bag of tricks. The problem is, no one, till date, neither 
prosecutor, nor defence, nor judge, nor expert technical witness brought 
in by the prosecution, has ever been able to hear anything remotely like 
the words "yeh che zaroori" in the recording.

This is what the High Court commented found necessary to say in 
paragraph 346 of its ruling while discussing whether or not it heard the 
words "yeh che zaroori".

  "During  the hearing of the appeal, we had called for the tape from 
Malkhana and in the presence of the parties played the same.  Indeed 
the voice was so inaudible that we could not  make head or tail of the 
conversation.  We tried our best to pick up the phonetical sounds where 
there was a dispute as to what words were used, but  were  unable to do 
so.  Testimony of Prosecution Witness # 48 reveals that he could not 
analyse the talk as it was highly inaudible.  Prosecution Witness # 48 
is a phonetic  expert.  If he could not comprehend the conversation in a 
clearly  audible tone, the probability of ordinary layman picking up the 
  phonetic sounds differently cannot be ruled out.  The prosecution 
witness, PW #71, Rashid, who prepared a transcript of the tape is fifth 
  class pass and it was not his profession to prepare transcript of 
taped  conversation.  The possibility of his being in error cannot be 
ruled out. Benefit of doubt must go to the defence."

6. Signal and Noise

And the reason why they have not been able to hear the recording is the 
fact that the sounds that make up those words are simply not there. What 
we have instead is digital noise, a dropped signal, auditory degradation 
- something quite common in recordings of cellular phone taps, which 
always suffer in audio recording quality in comparison to the signal 
level of the actual conversation.

We might recall at this time that throughout the POTA trial court 
proceedings, which preceded the High Court trial, the police and the 
prosecution did not find it necessary to produce the actual 
audio-recording as evidence, even though they declared from every media 
roof top, that they had conclusive evidence about Geelani's complicity 
in the contents of that very recording. They produced instead a 
transcript of a translation, done after the arrest, days after the 
recording, by a person, who happenned to be a Kashmiri fruit vendor 
whose working knowledge of Hindi or English was demonstrably not 
adequate to the task of translation.

Geelani has insisted in every statement made by him, at every stage of 
the trial, that the words "yeh che zaroori" represented an interpolation 
in the transcript of the recording. But it took the inability of anyone 
to hear the words in the judges chamber during the trial in the high 
court for it to be admitted that the three crucial words, were in fact, 
simply not said.

It is not surprising therefore that the public prosecutor was candid in 
saying that he 'did not want to put all his eggs in the intercept 
basket'. But clearly, the A.R.K.P division of forensic linguistics and 
spin doctoring possess a far higher level of legal acumen than the 
special prosecutor who tried so hard to get Geelani the death penalty. 
They want to put their eggs, their chicken, the vegetable matter between 
their ears and all their rhetorical heavy spices into the basket of the 
telephone intercept - a piece of evidence that everyone acknowledges as 
being degraded by confabulation. They are not content at doing just 
that, they are also able to shift the weight of evidence from a 
statement whose existence is found to be wanting to a statement whose 
interpretation actually provokes no controversy. And so, the 
translation, interpretation or rendition of 'Yeh Kya Korua' which 
establish nothing either way, become, in their eyes, (or should I say 
ears) more important than the lynchpin of the prosecution's argument.

A.R.K.P deserve to be recognized not just as champions in wasting this 
lists time and energy in the pursuit of one red herring after another, 
but also as highly creative, wildly imaginative legal analysts. Their 
abilities in this regard surpass the best brains of the Special Cell of 
the Delhi Police, which has provided us with such a shining example of 
probity and integrity throughout the course of the 13 December trial.

It is not Sanjay Kak who has lied and played with the trust of what 
A.R.K.P call the 'people of India', or of this list. It is A.R.K.P 
themselves who occupy that stellar role, and it is not necessary for us 
to ask whether they do so out of ignorance, stupidity, or worse, design. 
What is not disputable is that no one can do it as energetically, and 
with as much pretentious self righteous humbuggery and maudlin, 
narcissistic, self flagellatory assumption of the status of the 
perpetual victim as they can.

They lied when they said that their screening was scheduled and then 
cancelled at Kamala Nehru College, and when that fabrication was 
exposed, they lied again, this time about something far more serious. 
Instead of attempting to engage with the task of serious criticism, as 
was demanded of them by this list, they tried to defame and insult 
someone's reputation. In doing so, they have only exposed themselves. 
This list knows now who they are and what their intentions are.

Regular readers of the Sarai Reader List will be familiar with the 
expression "Free speech needs fearless listening." Well, they have 
spoken freely, we have listened fearlessly, and I think that many of us 
have not been intimidated by the high volume at which they have dished 
out their bile. In the end, they have suffered, because by speaking too 
loudly, too quickly, too often, they have really ruined their own 
chances of the possibility that we would give them a sympathetic hearing.

I have no doubt that the Kashmiri Pandit people have suffered enormously 
in the last twenty years. I have absolutely no qualms in saying that 
those who visited violence upon them as well as those who manipulated 
their fears and anxieties to their own ends are all guilty of having 
done things that are terribly wrong. But the cause of justice for 
Kashmiri Pandit people, which must surely lie in a solution to the issue 
of Kashmir which is just for all people in Kashmir, is not safe in the 
hands of a group of motivated and self serving individuals who have 
absolutely no scruples in the way in which they represent that cause. 
Their actions indicate that perhaps they could be counted as amongst the 
worst enemies that the displaced Kashmiri Pandit population have, or can 
have. They may not have murdered people, but they have certainly 
attempted to assasinate time and again the possibility of a peaceful 
settlement of the Kashmir question.

7. Epilogue: Stray Thoughts on Audio Recording and Translation

I spent this evening talking separately to two friends, very different 
people, before sitting through the night to write this posting. One was 
a sound recordist and engineer with a special interest in the auditory 
qualities of mobile phone devices, an inventive, cheerful and curious 
person who is passionate about the properties of of sound and the craft 
of sound recording. The second was a person who teaches  a foreign 
language in Delhi university, someone whom I have known for the last six 
years, and whom I have had several regular but occasional conversations 
that I always find personally rewarding.

I asked the first person whether a set of significant sounds, say three 
words, could be retrieved from the auditory black hole of digital noise 
in a recording of a mobile phone conversation. She said "no, a digital 
auditory black hole is a digital auditory black hole. Once a signal 
passes below the threshold of audibility and recognition due to the 
interference of noise, it cannot be retrieved by 'cleaning up' the 
recording". In other words, there are next to no chances of the recovery 
of words that might or might not have been said from under the patina of 
digital noise in a recording. Ambient noise can be cleaned, provided 
there is a sufficient sample of ambient noise available for a detailed 
acoustic analysis to be done, which in turn would help in eliminating 
the interfering frequencies, and so 'recover' the lost sound. But a 
mobile phone conversation is a digital signal, and a phone intercept of 
a mobile phone conversation is a degraded digital signal, and with a 
less than quality signal to noise ratio, in other words, more noise, 
less signal. These degradations are usually irreparable. For all 
practical purposes, we might as well assume that whatever may be 
underneath the corroded patch of signal, is non existent. The words 'yeh 
che zaroori' will never be found, even if we look for them.

Unfortunately, words let loose in spite, or in anger, on an electronic 
list, rarely if ever go into a digital black hole. They stay orbiting 
the ether for a long time, bouncing across continents in forwards, 
replies and rejoinders. Everything A.R.K.P said on this list is going to 
stay, and it is their problem as to how they will live with the endless 
google searches that will turn up their fabrications, time and time 
again. Archived lists have cruel and unforgiving memories, I hope that 
before the next time anyone hits 'send' on a mail written in undue 
haste, they remember this simple fact.

After I met the sound engineer friend, who is by nature shy and 
reticent, and wishes to remain nameless, I went to another 
rendezvous,this time with the language teacher. We talked of many 
things, and one of the things we talked about, was the fact that while 
the narration of an offence or a misdemeanour always translates easily 
in a courtroom, and then in society at large, as guilt, it remains very 
difficult to translate innocence. When someone does something wrong, or 
is seen as doing something wrong, you can always find words to give form 
to what they have done, or to what you think they have done. On the 
other hand, when someone has done nothing, it becomes very difficult to 
find words to give substance to this absence of an action. How can you 
sculpt a form and a shape out of the negation of a form or a shape? That 
is why innocence is difficult to translate in any language. That is why 
it is so easy for us to point fingers at others. Words of accusation 
fall off the tip of our tongues, or our fingers, like acid rain.

We spoke in a comfortable mix of Hindustani and English, switching from 
one language to another as if they were playmates. I gave examples about 
how one might say 'E ki kando' in Bengali, he talked about the occasions 
when one might say 'Yeh ki Korua' in Kashmiri. We had several cups of 
coffee. We talked about the difficulty of translating silences in any 
language. We parted promising to lend each other books that we had 
talked about in the course of the conversation.

This friend speaks Kashmiri at home, teaches Arabic in the university, 
and has had to think, due to a continuing set of circumstances, long and 
hard, harder than anyone I know, about truth, translation, guilt and 
innocence. His name is Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani.

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