It’s a spine chilling saga, youth lodged in jail for years because the authorities had suspected them of committing crime but there were no evidence against them. Arresting of Muslim youths on false terror charges are a matter of concern now. Today, it’s Nisar but if we fail to seek accountability from the authorities then tomorrow it may be some Nilesh or Nelson too. Irony is that, even after the release of a person and proved that he is innocent, no authorities or officers ever questioned for their act to conspire against the innocents. There are hundreds of innocent Muslims in jails, without committing any crime. It is an accepted practice that the police arrests innocent Muslims and brands them as terrorists. After blasts like Mecca Masjid, Parbhani, Jalna, Mumbai local trains and Malegaon twin serial blasts of 2006 and 2008, Muslims were arrested in the name of counter terrorism, locked in jails, tortured and majority of them are still behind bars. Arrested and tortured Muslims do not receive the opportunity to prove their innocence.
Nisar was among three men who walked out from Jaipur jail after the Supreme Court acquitted them of all charges, setting aside their life sentence and ordering their immediate release on May 11. They were booked for five blasts onboard trains — on the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition — that killed two passengers and injured eight. He was just 20 years old when he was imprisoned. Today he is 43.
On January 15, 1994, police picked him up near his home in Gulbarga, Karnataka. He was a second-year student in Pharmacy. A police vehicle was waiting. A man showed me his revolver and forced me to get in. The Karnataka Police had no idea about his arrest. This team had come from Hyderabad. They took him to Hyderabad. That’s how his family got to know where he was. His older brother Zaheer-ud-din — Nisar has two brothers, two sisters — who was working in Mumbai as a civil engineer, was picked up in April that year. His father Noor-ud-din Ahmad left everything to fight a lonely battle to prove his children’s innocence. He didn’t see any hope until he died in 2006. Now, there is nothing left.
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. Zaheer says, he could fight the cancer because that was the only way to get his brother out of jail.
Police records link the two to five separate bomb blasts in trains at Kota, Hyderabad, Surat, Kanpur and Mumbai in the intervening night of December 5-6, 1993, bomb on the Bangalore Kurla Express, while the train was near Karjat Railway Station, was detected by a passenger who threw it out. Initially, police booked them for a bomb blast that had taken place in October 1993 in a Muslim educational institute in Hyderabad. This case was registered in Abid Road Police station. They were also booked in few unsolved bomb blasts that had taken place in August and September that year. Subsequently, they were booked in the serial train blasts. The only evidence police produced was their alleged custodial confessions — the provisions of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) were later invoked to make these admissible.
These alleged confessions of Nisar, Zaheer and Yusuf, as per court records, were taken by Hyderabad Police officers at Abid Road Police station. In his alleged confession, police claimed that Nisar “accepted his role in planting of 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. Similarly, the others too had allegedly confessed their role in the train bombings. In these alleged confessions, however, there was no mention of the case in which Nisar, Zaheer and others from Gulbarga were first arrested and brought to Hyderabad.
This is not first case of same type. Last month, a Special Mumbai Court discharged all the Muslim men accused in the September 2006 Malegaon blast case. Similarly, Nisaruddin Ahmad was acquitted in the Babri anniversary blast case after spending 23 years in jail. Delhi Police had recently released seven of the 10 suspects held for their alleged involvement in a Jaish-e-Mohammed terror plot. There have been several instances in which innocent Muslim youth were sent behind bars.
Most of the police officials and personnel of intelligence bureau are pro- Hindus. The reports appearing in the media of unconfirmed claims by police and intelligence about the involvement of Muslim organizations or persons in each and every act of terror even before an inquiry begin further. Enhance the fear factor in minds of the thinking people, irrespective of religion, caste, colour and race in the country. This has been going on for years even though such claims turn out to be false in most of the cases.
Around 72,000 out of 77,000 detained under TADA were released without having been charged or tried. Most of them were tortured with a view to extract confessions from them. Thirteen years after the TADA lapsed, 147 persons are still under detention, for offences under that Act. Similarly, around 3,500 persons in 18 states of India were held under POTA in three years of its existence. Gujarat is the state with the highest number of detentions but one of the 287 people initially held under the act were Muslims. As many as 234 Muslims belonging to various groups are currently lodged in different jails in Assam.
The Andhra Pradesh Minority Commission had appointed Ravi Chander as Advocate commissioner to submit factual report on the illegal detention and torture of Muslim youth. Advocate Ravi Chander, in his interim report submitted in November 2007, had clearly mentioned that the Muslim youths were illegally arrested, detained by the police and they were inhumanly tortured, and implicated in false cases. In Maharashtra, the percentage of Muslim jail inmates in all categories is way above their share in the population (Muslim share in population is 10.6%, share in the total prison inmates is 32.4%).
When it comes to those in prison for less than a year, Muslims contribute 40.6% of all prisoners in Maharashtra. In Gujarat, the percentage of Muslims in the state is just 9.06% but they make up over a quarter of all jail inmates.
Assam, the second highest Muslim populated state in the country, after J&K, has 30.9% Muslims, and here, the percentage of Muslim jail inmates is 28.1%.
Even Karnataka, which did relatively better than other states in providing jobs to Muslims, shows the same trends, 17.5% of its jail inmates are Muslim as compared with 12.23% of its population.
The government is requested to drop the false cases and immediately release all individuals held without charge under those cases. The time spent in detention should be counted towards time served. The trial, conviction and sentences imposed in cases already completed and must be reviewed in light of the provisions and requirements of ordinary criminal laws and of international standards of justice and fairness. The same principles should be applicable to those still detained or imprisoned under the earlier Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1987. If Government or judiciary fails to do justice then in future we might find many innocent youth languishing in jail. People will lose trust in judicial system.
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