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Nasir Madani's ordeal
By Mukundan C. Menon, Thiruvananthapuram
vociferous speaker, Nasir Madani was confined to socio-religious
activities in and around the Anvarussery area near Karunagapally in Kollam
district of Kerala. However, the volatile situation emerged out of Ayodhya
allowing public darshan of the disputed Ram idol in Babri Masjid in
February 1986 and the Shilanyas for temple construction in November 1989
which was marked by widespread communal carnage in North India, forced
Madani to form the Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS).
As a non-political social organisation, the ISS was meant to act as a
collective body of all Muslims to protect their interests. Besides, the
Ayodhya fiasco and his powerful oratorial skills, the absence of a Muslim
organisation under an influential leader in the Travancore belt of Kerala
helped ISS to grow rapidly. Even as his electrifying speeches inspired
Muslim masses, they earned him numerous enemies among Hindu
fundamentalists. The RSS allegedly hurled bombs on him near Karunagappally
as a result of which one of his legs was amputated in 1992.
Following the December 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, the Union home
ministry issued orders banning Madani's ISS, alongwith Jamaat-e-Islami,
RSS and VHP. However, a day prior to the ban, Madani surprisingly
disbanded the ISS. Later, he formed the PDP (People's Democratic Party) as
a political outfit to unify minorities, backward communities, Dalits and
Adivasis since the Indian Union Muslim League continued to remain within
the then Congress-led ruling UDF, despite widespread anger among Muslims,
including the quitting of Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait from the latter to form
the INL, over the Congress-led central government'' role in the 1992 Babri
Although the PDP has not gained enough strength to win any assembly or Lok
Sabha seat, its decisive presence and support to the LDF to defeat
Congress candidates were openly acknowledged even by the CPM veteran late
E.M.S. Namboodiripad in the Ottappalam Lok Sabha by-poll in 1993 and the
Thalassery assembly by-poll in 1996 which elected Chief Minister E. K.
Following the Coimbatore serial blasts, Madani was initially arrested by
the Kozhicode Police on the night of March 31, 1998, at his Kochi
residence by the Nayanar government without informing him of the grounds
for his arrest. A protest statement by the Confederation of Human Rights
Organisations (CHRO) on April 1, 1998, said: "The arrest of Madani in
the name of the Coimbatore bomb blasts is in utter disregard of existing
laws (and) manifest gross violation of December 18, 1996, Supreme Court
directives on arrests and detentions. Despite the firm directive that
arrest details should be informed, the exact reason for Madani's arrest
was not officially disclosed. Neither an arrest memo was prepared nor
Madani's advocate, C. V. Antony, was allowed to meet him." Although
Madani was arrested by the Kozhicode police at Kochi, the police officials
refused to reveal the charges. Only the CPM organ, Deshabhimani, in its
story on the front page, stated on April 1, 1998, that the arrest was
related to Madani's alleged connection with the Coimbatore blasts. The
police claimed that the arrest was in pursuance of a long-pending case of
a non-bailable charge against Madani's derogatory speech at Kozhicode way
back in 1992. Madani was remanded to judicial custody in Kannur jail.
Within three days, the Tamil Nadu police came to the Kozhicode court
producing an arrest warrant against Madani in connection with the
Coimbatore blast case. Upon the court order, Madani's custody was taken by
the SIT and since then he has been languishing in Tamil Nadu prisons,
especially at Salem and Coimbatore.
The Tamil Nadu government failed to give Madani the charge-sheet within
the stipulated 90 days of his arrest. Granting his petition for bail, the
Coimbatore sessions' court ordered Madani's release in the first week of
July. However, the Coimbatore police commissioner issued orders under the
National Security Act on 7 July 1998, against Madani to ensure his
continued detention without trial. Widespread protests followed in Kerala.
Despite a joint memorandum submitted to the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister
M. Karunanidhi by luminaries like Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, Justice K.
K. Narendran, Prof. K. M. Bahauddin, Prof. Hasan Mansur (PUCL, Karnataka
president) and Adv. Sudha Ramalingam (PUCL Tamil Nadu President), neither
the NSA against Madani was revoked nor was he released on bail.
However, both the central and Tamil Nadu governments received a jolt in
the second week of March 1999 when the Supreme Court ordered revocation of
the NSA detention warrant against Madani. Despite this order, he was
neither released nor the charge-sheet given to him for another year.
Finally, when the charge-sheet was given a few months ago, his pleas to
submit it in his mother tongue, Malayalam, was rejected. The charge-sheet
was newsworthy as it was in 16,800 pages and weighed 48 kg! The
charge-sheet contained translated versions of articles and news items from
different Malayalam newspapers against Madani, published years before the
Coimbatore blasts to substantiate the Tamil Nadu police charge that Madani
is a "hardcore and dreaded Muslim fundamentalist and terrorist".
Imposing the NSA charges on Madani, after the Tamil Nadu government's
failure to charge-sheet him within the stipulated 90 days of arrest or to
release him on bail, raises some valid questions. Madani's PDP has no unit
in Tamil Nadu, nor can he speak in Tamil. His open socio-political and
religious activities within Kerala never caused any security threat before
or after the Coimbatore bomb blasts even though he was arrested under the
NSA for a brief period following the Babri Masjid demolition.
Justice VR Krishna Iyer wrote to Justice Nainar Sundram, chairperson of
the Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commission on April 29, 2000 : "A
person by name Madani has been in jail for long and there is no prospect
of his case being taken up for trial and finished early. He is terribly
disabled because he has to live with one leg and other disabilities.
Whether a man has committed a crime or not, human rights cannot be denied
because our compassionate Constitution does not denude a prisoner of his
human rights. When I visualise the suffering of Madani who is now an
undertrial, I feel impelled to write to you to see that within the prison,
he is given all facilities without the infliction of disablement and
neglect or hostility. Perhaps, some measure in that direction by your
commission may demonstrate the humanism of our composite cultural heritage
(Article 51-A and 21)."
In response to this, the commission sent a curt reply on 20 May 2000 :
"Your letter could be seen by me only now. I was away from Chennai on
official duties. I would like to know where this person by name Abdul
Nazar Madani is incarcerated. I shall certainly do the needful if the
required information is given." (keralahumanrights.com) q