Special Reports

“The notorious tag will stick with me forever”

On Sunday, 17 January, after Sewri Sessions Court acquitted him of terror charges, Maulana Ghulam Ilahi Yahya Baksh, 49, walked out of Arthur Road Jail, four years after his arrest on 13 January 2006. Maulana Yahya had been charged with harbouring terrorists in Haj House and financing terrorist activities. Baksh said he knew Haji, one of three convicted Kashmiri ‘terrorists’, and had many a time vented his ire at him in jail, for dragging his name into this case. The ATS had arrested Baksh based on interrogation of three alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists from Kashmir - Mohammad Ramzan Haji, 64, Khurshid Lone, 35, and Arshad Badru, 31 - and mostly on the basis of intercepted telephone calls between him and Haji. The three were, however, found guilty of planning for terrorist activities and were jailed for seven years. They were arrested after being found in possession of electronic timer devices, detonators, a pistol, and switches on January 6, 2006. Their counsel Mishra had told the court that the police had obtained permission of the court to charge them under explosives act even before explosives were “recovered”. Khurshid, one of the accused, was a student of MBBS when arrested.

Sitting calmly in his rented 200-square-foot Crawford Market house with his wife and three teenaged children, Baksh still draws relief from the outcome and says matter-of-factly, "It is not my job to house travellers as it is done by Haj House’s administration. My job is to only hold prayers." Imam Yahya said he was tortured by the ATS after his arrest and forced to sign papers whose contents were not disclosed to him.

Imam Yahya Baksh was initially an assistant to the imam at Musafirkhana mosque from 1988, and in 1996 he became imam of Haj House. He was dismissed from his job after his arrest. Citizens of Mumbai, especially Amn Committee hedaded by Fareed Shaikh came to his and his families rescue and fought his case legally and politically. During his incarceration, his daughter passed the SCC exams with flying colours. Though jail came as a rude shock, Baksh’s only solace was that almost all inmates looked upon him with respect.

Imam Yahya with his daughter and son after his release

"From gangsters like Abu Salem and Mustafa Dossa to petty criminals, I would be showered with sympathy as they believed an imam like me could not be involved in crime. However, the jail staff would often insult me with terrorist references and treat me badly." He said that he spent every moment of his stay in jail in agony and pain.

Baksh finds it ironic that just days before each of the four times his bail pleas were rejected, some terrorist attack would happen somewhere in India. "Once it was Malegaon, then the series of blasts across Delhi, Ahmedabad, etc and then of course, 26/11. The prosecutor would then oppose my bail, saying I would pose a threat to the tense situation outside."

Baksh spent his last night in jail with a bitter-sweet feeling. "I was neither happy nor sad, because jail had taught me immense patience. And yet I had lost four years of my life and acquired a notorious tag forever. People will now always say ‘Perhaps he had some role in terrorism, or else he wouldn’t have been jailed for four years’."  After many protests and demands, his case was  transferred to a “fast track court” yet it took four years for the case to be decided.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 February 2010 on page no. 17

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at sales@milligazette.com

blog comments powered by Disqus