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NIA should investigate UP blasts of 2007

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Lucknow: It has taken almost two and a half years for the courts to set aside the charges against Sajjadur-Rehman Vani, accused in the Lucknow court blast case of Nov 23, 2007. The ordeal for Sajjadur-Rehman Vani son of Ghulam Qadir Vani, then 23 years, a resident of Kandwar, Kuchal in tehsil Chatru, district Kishwar (J&K), began on Dec 22, 2007, when he along with Muhammed Akhtar son of SabirVani (then 32 years) alias Tariq Kashmiri, a resident of Bankot, Banihal, Ramban in J&K were taken into custody in J&K, and soon their names figured in a confessional statement of Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi, accused in the serial blasts of Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi on 23 Nov. 2007. Fifteen people had died in three blasts, nine in Varanasi and five in Faizabad and no casualty had taken place in Lucknow.

Khalid is a resident of Madiyahun in district Jaunpur, UP. He was arrested from Barabanki and Tariq, a resident of Rani ki Sarai, Azamgarh was arrested from Sarai Meer in Azamgarh by UP Special Task Force on 22 Dec 2007.

How could the duo from J&K land up in UP and that too be involved in a high profile terrorism case is a story of a long intrigue with the traditional role of police, of manufacturing required evidence. “The Investigation Officer (IO) Chiranjeev Nath Sinha had taken out a non-bailable warrant against the duo from J&K on 26 Dec 2007 and the next day he reached J&K to find that the duo were already under arrest and were stationed at the Joint Interrogation Centre, J&K. On the same day, the duo were released from police custody for want of sufficient evidence by a court in J&K as police, under section 169 of Criminal Procedural Code(CrPC), had filed its report, but Sinha was there to arrest them and bring them to UP, informed Muhammed Shoaib, the counsel for the accused. Muhammed Shoaib became famous as he had pleaded the case of Aftab Alam Anasri, who was accused by the police in the same serial blasts, and who was released within 22 days, because of a case of mistaken identity.

Thus the Kashmiri duo were brought to Lucknow and were slapped with cases under sections 115, 120-B, 121, 121-A, 124-A, 307 of Indian Penal Code, together with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under sections 16, 18, 20, 23 and Explosive Substance Act under sections 3, 4 and 5. “Thereafter, the duo were branded as operatives of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJi). Muhammed Tariq Qasmi was simultaneously accused in a blast at Gorakhpur in May 2007.
“They were produced by Sinha on Dec 29, 2007 before the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) in J&K, and were given a three-day remand. On 31 Dec 2007, they were brought to Lucknow. The next day, on Jan 1, 2008, they were produced before CJM Lucknow and were given a 14-day judicial remand, during which they were brutally tortured during interrogation,” said Shoaib.

A confessional statement, was recorded and Sajjadur-Rehman “confessed” to his role in the blasts. A full chargesheet was later filed against him on 29 March 2008 and CJM committed his case to Sessions Judge. The case was further transferred to the Second Additional Session Judge where the accused were produced handcuffed. “I had pleaded against this exercise citing a Supreme Court order not to handcuff an accused under trial. My move was opposed by a fanatic Hindu lawyers’ organisation Balaji Brigade and I suffered a murderous assault on 12 August 2008. The courts too rejected my plea saying that the issue concerns national security. The next day I was assaulted again. Thus the case was transferred to District Jail, Lucknow” said Shoaib.

“I later submitted an application under section 227 of CrPC in which I pleaded that except for the confessional statement there was no proof against Sajjadur-Rehman. This discharge application was given in 2009 and it has taken two long years for the Additional Session Judge Shashank Shekhar to order the release of one of the accused in the Lucknow blasts. As a matter of fact, Sajjadur-Rehman is still an accused in Faizabad blasts. Under Section 25 of IPC, a confessional statement is not sustainable at all, said Shoaib.

What is the status of his other cases? “Well, 30 witnesses have been produced by the prosecution until now, four remain to be heard. There has been no witness of the incident. None of the witnesses have as yet said that they have seen Sajjadur-Rehman. Shoaib, then elaborately mentioned all the intrigues involved. “The Kashmiri duo were caught on 22 Dec 2007 on some flimsy ground and were released too. The UP duo were caught on the same day in UP. The coincidence is baffling, if it was not a grandiose plan of our police force, which is more than willing to brand Indian Muslims with the label of terrorist and that too with an international dimension,” he said.

Peoples Union for Civil Liberties has described the discharge of Sajjad-ur-Rehman as “a slap on the UP government face” and has demanded that a criminal case be registered against the UPSTF. PUCL secretary Rajiv Yadav has demanded that RD Nimesh Commission, which was formed to investigate the triple blasts 2007 should file its report at the earliest as three years have already gone by whereas it was given a time limit of only six months.

PUCL reiterated its stand that the triple blasts of 2007 are the handiwork of Hindu organisations, particularly when the role of Hindu organisations in various blasts in the country has now come to light. “The blasts in Faizabad had happened under the eyes of BJP members like Mahesh Prasad Dubey and Vishwanath Singh. Both of them had left the scene before the blasts. What is intriguing is that on 25 Dec 2007, UP ADG Brij Lal had said that the “technique and material” used in Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad blasts and that of UP blasts has been the same. Then why was not the investigation done keeping in mind the role of Hindu terrorist organisations. The state government and also the whole police apparatus becomes benevolent, when it comes to Hindu terrorists,” said Rajiv Yadav.

Meanwhile, Ghulam Qadir Vani, father of Sajjadur-Rehman, visited Lucknow Jail to meet his son. He is a poor daily labourer. His whole family is wrecked beyond imagination.

“My son was a student of Darul-ul-Uloom Deoband and was present in his class on Nov 23, 2007 when the blasts occurred. He is falsely framed. I am broken as the last four years have been a nightmare of the worst kind. Right now, I have lost all hope,” he said.

Today, more than three years later, RD Nimesh Commission, is still far from submitting its report, while the duo languish in jails, with no immediate respite in sight. “Except for law, there is no hope. Justice is getting done albeit very slowly. National Investigation Agency (NIA) should investigate the blasts of UP 2007,” said Shoaib, while on his way to the room of RD Nimesh, as witnesses are getting their evidence recorded.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2011 on page no. 1

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