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Nasir Madani's ordeal
By Mukundan C. Menon, Thiruvananthapuram

A 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 Masjid demolition.

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. Nayanar.

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)
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