Abdul Karim Tunda: Framed, damned, acquitted

By Jawed Akhter
Delhi/Pilakhua: People never expected that Pilakhuwa, a textile and cloth-dyeing hub in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh, would be known for alleged terror involvement. But this town surfaced in media when Abdul Karim Tunda, a “bomb expert of Lashkar-e Taiba,” as claimed by the Special Cell of Delhi police, was arrested on 16 March, 2013 after evading arrest for many years. This town again hogged media headlines when the Delhi Additional Sessions Judge Neena Bansal Krishna on 10 March, 2015 acquitted Abdul Karim of alleged offences under the provisions of TADA, Explosive Substance Act, Arms Act and under Section 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Tunda in police custody

Abdul Karim Tunda was wanted in 33 alleged bomb attacks across the country. He was one of 20 terrorists India had asked Pakistan to hand over after the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Special Cell of Delhi Police had filed a chargesheet against Tunda in a case in which five accused were arrested on 17 January, 1994 and 150 kg explosives and six daggers were allegedly “recovered” from their possession.

Mahmood Alam in Tunda’s dilapidated house

“On the basis of the confessional statements of these accused, Abdul Karim was arrested on charges which were not proved by the prosecution. As those accused were themselves discharged from the case, the court had to discharge my client,” said MS Khan who defended Tunda.

Shakil’s daughters doing embriodery for living

Speaking to The Milli Gazette, MS Khan said, “The judge discharged Tunda of the said charges saying that there was no evidence against Tunda and the police were desperate to create false evidence against the accused.”

According to a press release of Special Cell issued on 17 August 2013, Abdul Karim was arrested on Banwasa-Mehendarnagar border with Nepal at 3 pm on 16/08/2013. But on 17 August, 2013 said, “There were conflicting reports over the circumstances in which Tunda was arrested, with one police source claiming that he was deported from a Gulf country. Another source said that Tunda left Karachi around ten days ago and reached Kathmandu via Dubai. Some sources say that he was arrested from Raxaul (Bihar) while others say that he was arrested from Banbasa-Mehendarnagar border in Uttarakhand. Intelligence agencies were tracking him from Dubai and gave a tip-off to the Special Cell of Delhi Police, which finally nabbed him from the Indo-Nepal border.”

But people in his home-town have a different story to tell  about Tunda who was a semi-literate person engaged in small time business of cloth dyeing. Earlier he had dealt in scrap carpentry. He had lost an arm, hence was called “Tunda” (armless).

“Abdul Karim Tunda was a man of humble nature and never had any clash or conflict with anyone,” said 64-year-old cloth merchant Lekhraj Singh, a neighbour of Tunda in Pilakhuwa.

Mahmood Alam, a relative of Abdul Karim who now lives in Abdul Karim’s house while Tunda’s own family has disappeared without trace, said, “His house was raided in 1993 and nothing was left. Police seized everything. He lost everything. Abdul Karim was a religious-minded and good man. He had two wives. Abdul Karim was a very honest man who devoted himself to his business. He was also a small-time homeopathy practitioner.”

Abdul Karim’s humble house, deserted after the raid of the police in 1993, tells much about Abdul Karim’s crumbled economic condition with which he was struggling. Mahmood Alam, a relative, who now lives in Tunda’s house, said he has no knowledge about the whereabouts of Tunda’s family. Mahmood said, “Abdul Karim’s family disappeared since long. We have lost our respect and have chosen to live in anonymity. We faced many abuses and had to live with the blot of ‘terror’. I don’t know what will happen to my children.”

Mahmood Alam himself was arrested in connection with Abdul Karim and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Now he is out on bail after spending six years behind bars. Mahmood is not the only link in the Tunda connection. It includes Amir Khan and Mohammad Shakil and a long list of accused who were arrested, tortured and finally acquitted due to the failure of the prosecution to prove its case.

Amir Khan from Old Delhi and Mohammad Shakil from Pilakhuwa were arrested in connection with several blasts. The chargesheet filed in April 1998 said Aamir had been trained in Pakistan by the “dreaded” Abdul Karim Tunda gang. It further claimed that Aamir and co-accused Shakeel “collaborated to make bombs” out of a factory rented by Shakil in Pilakhuwa and that these were the bombs used in blasts during 1996-1997.

Amir Khan said, “Police falsely and illegally implicated me in many terror cases in its bid to find an scapegoat. I have been made to go through extreme physical and mental torture. In this period, because of tension and societal pressure, my father died of heart attack while I, his only son, couldn’t attend even his funeral.”  

Aamir Khan finally walked free in January 2012 after he was acquitted in 18 out of the 20 terror cases — an astonishing acknowledgement of framing and fabrication done by police. Without a single witness in any of the cases connecting him to the blasts, the trial court - which acquitted him in 17 cases - came up with one and same line on each judgment day: “there is absolutely no incriminating evidence against the accused.” The Delhi High Court, which overturned one of the three cases that went into appeal, said: “the prosecution has miserably failed to adduce any evidence to connect the accused appellant with the charges framed, much less prove them.”

But Aamir’s co-accused Mohammad Shakil was not so fortunate. He left behind his wife and daughters when he was poisoned to death in custody while in Dasna Jail in Ghaziabad just as Qateel Siddiqui was murdered in Pune’s Yervada jail on 8 June, 2012. The Dasna jail superintendent claimed that Shakeel had committed suicide. His body was found hanging from the ceiling of his cell on 19 June, 2009. But Shakil’s family has maintained all these years that he was murdered. Even an NHRC-ordered magisterial enquiry found it to be a case of poisoning, after which the Sessions Court of Ghaziabad ordered the registration of an FIR against the then jail superintendent V K Singh.

Shakil’s sister-in-law while talking to The Milli Gazette, said recounting her aching memories, “When we went to meet Shakil in Dasna jail, he said that he would be soon out of jail, but added that a conspiracy is being hatched to kill him and if he is not freed, he might be murdered.”

Shakil’s mother started crying when MG team asked her about Shakil. The 80-year-old mother did not stop crying while telling about her son. She moaned, “I can’t say anything. All I know is that Shakil was implicated and murdered. I have lost my son. Who will care for his daughters?”

Shakil’s wife Afsana, who suffered multiple heart attacks after Shakil’s death and her health has been deteriorating ever since, tried to speak. Sobbing, she said with difficulty, “Who will marry our daughters? One of them got engaged and unfortunately the alliance was broken. Nobody wants to marry them. We are bearing the agony of Shakil’s death. He was the main source of our income. Now, we are financially devastated.”                 

Though acquitted in one case, Abdul Karim Tunda still remains in jail facing trial in three other cases in which the judgment might be pronounced at the end of March 2015. (With input from Aqeedatullah Qasmi and Kausar Usman)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2015 on page no. 1

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