Framed, Damned, Acquitted: But All Muslims
Young Muslim boys have been arrested as a cynical default mode, prejudged and condemned by the media, public and security establishment even before trials could begin. The poisonous idea that “Every Muslim is not a terrorist but every terrorist is a Muslim” had seeped into the country’s consciousness. No one was interested in the facts.
The whole nation has now raised questions over the alleged Bhopal encounter. What prompted the police to shoot the men, allegedly belonging to the terrorist outfit SIMI, at almost point blank range? Initially media organisations had dubbed them as terrorists- who were under-trial prisoners, who may have got a clean chit if they undergo the formal judicial process.
Soon after the alleged encounter, asserting that judicial process takes a long time to give justice, former MP Chief Minister Babulal Gaur had demanded a shoot at sight action against terrorists. He also hailed bravery of the Madhya Pradesh Police.
The former MP CM said judicial process takes a long time to give justice, which provides opportunity to the terrorists and terror organizations to become stronger.
“There is a need to change the law so that the police can shoot the perpetrators directly as they pose danger to the society. The court trials for terrorists should be closed. There should be shoot at sight action for people like these,” Gaur told a news agency.
In the aftermath of Bhopal “encounter”, wherein 8 under trial prisoners of SIMI group were killed, Narada News Photo Editor Vijay Pandey profiles six victims, who were imprisoned for many years, and later given clean chit by court.
“I have clocked 8,150 days of the prime of my life inside jail”
Name: Nisar Ahmad
Case: Babri Masjid anniversary train blast
Arrested: January 15, 1994
Acquitted: May 2016
Years in jail: 23
Nisaruddin Ahmad was arrested on the charge of causing five blasts on trains on the eve of the first anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid that killed two passengers and injured eight.
Nisar wasn’t even 20 when he was put behind bars. Now, he is 43.
“I have clocked 8,150 days of the prime of my life inside jail. For me, life is over. What you are seeing is a living corpse,” Ahmed said after being acquitted by a court.
Nisar Ahmed was picked up by police near his home in Gulbarga, Karnataka on January 15, 1994. He was a second-year pharmacy student.
“I had an examination in 15 days, I was on my way to college. A police vehicle was waiting. A man showed me his revolver and forced me to get in. The Karnataka Police had no idea about my arrest. This team had come from Hyderabad. They took me to Hyderabad,” he said.
Nisar was produced in court on February 28, 1994.
Name: Zaheeruddin Ahmad
Arrested: April 1994
Bail: May 2008 on medical grounds
Number of years in jail: 14 years
Nisaruddin Ahmad’s elder brother Zaheeruddin, who was working in Mumbai as a civil engineer, was picked up that April. Like Nisar, Zaheer, too, was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released on bail on May 9, 2008 by the Supreme Court on health grounds — he was diagnosed with lung cancer in jail.
Custodial confessions were the only evidence the police could produce against them in court under the provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). In these alleged confessions of Nisar, Zaheer and Yusuf, the police claimed that Nisar “accepted his role in planting bomb in the compartment of A.P. Express on 06.12.1993 and that he was also having two other bombs which were meant for use in K.K. Express on the same day but because of his ill-health he could not use them”.
On his release, Nisar said: “I am thankful to Supreme Court to give my freedom back. But who will give my life back?”
Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, who represented five among the accused, including Nisar and Zaheer in the apex court, said their alleged “confession in police custody is the beginning and end of the case”.
Regarding Zaheer, the judgment said: “In the absence of any other material on record to lend any semblance of corroboration to the confession (of the co-accused), we find it extremely difficult to sustain the conviction and sentence of (Zaheer) simply on the basis of confession of (the co-accused).”
Name: Mohammad Aamir Khan
Case: Charged with 17 cases in Delhi, including murder, sedition and waging war against the Indian State. Among the charges were two blasts in Haryana and one in 1996, on the Frontier Mail (train) in Ghaziabad.
Arrested: February 1998
Acquitted: January 2012
Years in Jail: 14
On a February night in 1998, Mohammad Aamir Khan, a resident of Old Delhi, made his way to a chemist to buy medicine.
He was picked up by police forcefully and pushed into the jeep, and taken to small room, where he said he was tortured and made to sign blank papers.
Khan was charged in 19 cases, for crimes including murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. He was accused of masterminding bomb blasts that occurred in Delhi and neighbouring states between December 1996 and December 1997.
His parents invested whatever they had to get their only son out. His father died during the trial, leaving just an ailing, paralysed mother in the family when he was acquitted.
On his release, he said: “Government have a policy for rehabilitating surrendered terrorists. Why don’t they have a rehabilitation policy for those who are wrongly sent to jail?”
Name: Dr Salman Farsi
Case: Malegaon Blast 2006
Arrested: November 5, 2006
Acquitted: April 2016
Years in Jail: 5
Farsi, a Malegon resident and a BUMS graduate, was working in his clinic in Govandi, Mumbai, when his life changed forever. The Maharashtra ATS picked him up on November 5, 2006 alleging his involvement in the blasts. He was arrested along with eight other Muslim youths for having participated in the conspiracy and orchestrating serial blasts. Maharastra ATS claimed they were members of the banned organisation Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). In its chargesheet, it stated that the accused wanted to continue unlawful activities within the state of Maharashtra to overthrow the government by causing communal riots.
In November 2011, having spent five years in prison, that all the youth accused, including Dr Farsi, were granted bail. The National Investigation Agency did not object to their bail and instead charged Hindu radicals for the blasts.
“There was a delay in granting bail and for me justice is yet to be done as charges have not been absolved,” Dr Farsi said.
Name: Shoaib Jagirdar
Arrested: 26 June 2007
Acquitted: July 2014
Years in jail: 7
Case: Mecca Masjid Blast
Shoaib Jagirdar, who hails from Jalna in Maharashtra, was arrested by a Special Investigation Team of Hyderabad police on June 26, 2007. Subsequently, it arrested his cousin Imran, friends Nayeem and Rafi Ahmad and charged them with criminal conspiracy, waging war against the State and securing a fake passport. Police had also charged Shoaib with helping Nayeem, who was described as a Lashkar-e-Taiba activist.
Almost seven years after a bomb had rocked historic Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad killing nine people, and five years after the CBI exposed the involvement of Hindu fundamentalists in the incident, a court in Hyderabad acquitted four persons charged with criminal conspiracy and various other offences in connection with the blast.
The CBI arrested Lokesh Sharma, Devender Gupta and RSS activist Swamy Aseemanand for conspiring and carrying out the blast in the mosque during Friday congregation on May 18, 2007.
Name: Wasif Haider
Case: Kanpur Bomb Blast 14 August 2000
Arrested: July 2001
Years in Jail: 8
Syed Wasif Haider, a resident of Kanpur, UP, was jailed for eight years, before the courts finally acquitted him of all charges on August 14, 2009. At the time of his arrest, Haider was 29. The only son of his parents, he left behind a pregnant wife and three children, while he spent eight years shuttling between Kanpur Jail, the Navi Central Jail in Allahabad and the Central Prison in Fatehgarh.
“Today I’m jobless. I can’t start a business because friends refuse me loans. Wherever I go looking for a job, once they learn about my eight years in jail, companies tell me they will get back to me. They never get back.”
“Please stop the media from defaming me. I was declared innocent in 2009. Yet, the local media drags my name in whenever there’s a blast. I’m a victim of a boycott. Children in the locality don’t play with a “terrorist’s” daughter. Relatives feel police will hound them for visiting me,” Haider said.
(Photographs: Vijay Pandey)