Special Reports

Muslim youth victim of state terrorism

By Abu Zafar Adil Azmi

It is a fact that no society can survive for long with injustice and double standard in giving justice to its people. Unfortunately India is fast turning into a society of that kind. The attitude of police, administration and judiciary towards Muslim youth, arrested in connection with terror cases, shows the double standard in the dispensation of justice.

There were several devastating bomb blasts in the country in 2008 in which hundreds of people were killed and several hundreds injured. Consequently, hundreds of Muslim youth have been put behind bar on the charges of terror activities.

This is not something new: In the name of terror, every year scores of Muslim youths had been arrested for past some time but the trend got momentum soon after the blasts in courts in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, and it is still going on. The details of the cases show that the police and administration have deliberately implicated Muslim youth in scores of cases. Given the speed of disposal of court cases, it seems they perhaps will never be released.

Common Pattern of police investigation
The pattern of police investigation of terror cases is also questionable. Indiscriminate arrest of Muslim youths in terror cases and implicating them in forty-fifty gives the impression that it is all part of a big conspiracy. Most Muslim youth, implicated in terror cases earlier, were acquitted by the court as the police could not prove charges. The large number of cases now being charged against them points toward a big conspiracy.

Take for instance, the July 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts and recovery of dozens of bombs in Surat. The police have accused 102 people in 35 cases. Of the accused 52 have been arrested and most of them are accused in all 35 cases. For May 2008 Jaipur blasts, 11 people have been made accused in 8 cases. Four are arrested. For September 2008 Delhi serial blasts 28 people have been accused in 8 cases. Sixteen have been arrested. Besides, the Mumbai police have arrested 21 people accusing them of being members of the Indian Mujahideen.

Mumbai Crime Branch has made Sadiq Sheikh as main conspirator of all blasts in recent past. Mechanical engineer by profession, 38-year-old Sadiq Sheikh is the founder member of Indian Mujahideen, according to Mumbai police. He, with the help of his Pakistani friend Amir Raza, hatched the conspiracy of the above blasts. Police claims that Atif Ameen, who was killed in the Batla House encounter, had close contact with Sheikh and that he was involved in all blasts in the country since 2005. He went to Pakistan in 2001 and got training in fire arms and weapons. After that he sent several youth from Mumbai and Azamgarh to Pakistan for similar training. There are 54 cases against Sheikh in Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. He has also been accused, along with his nine friends, for 11 July 2006 Mumbai local train bombings. He was arrested under MCOCA and in confession he admitted his role in the train bombings. The confession was telecast by some TV channels. After that the Mumbai Crime Branch handed over the case to Maharashtra ATS. ATS immediately appealed to court to ban media from publishing stories about it. The court accepted the appeal.

The ATS gave clean chit to Sadiq Sheikh and told MCOCA court that he had no role in the July 2006 train bombings. He said that his confession earlier had been extracted under pressure from Atif Ameen (who was killed in police encounter in Batla House on September 19, 2008). The ATS, however, did not give details as to when and why Atif threatened Sheikh when according to police Atif was junior to Sheikh in the Indian Mujahideen.

Cases Galore
One of the key accused is Muhammad Saif. Hailing from Sanjarpur village in Azamgarh, Saif was doing MA in History in Delhi. He was also doing courses in English speaking and computer application. After the encounter at Batla House, the police arrested Saif from that flat. Saif, 23, is accused in 45 cases in Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Surat. He has been charged for planting bombs in these cities.

Meanwhile, UP police has said Saif is involved in UP court blasts also. Then they took him in their custody in connection with the blasts at Sankat Mochan Mandir and railway station in Varanasi but so far they could not charge sheet him.

Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy of Pune was arrested for sending mail in the name of Indian Mujahideen before the blasts. Just one month before arrest, Peerbhoy had joined Yahoo as principal engineer on an annual salary package of Rs 19 lakh. More than 40 cases have been slapped against him in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi and Hyderabad to blast conspiracy to cyber crime.

Mufti Abul Bashar was arrested jointly by Gujarat Police and UP ATS from his Beenapara village in Azamgarh on August 14, 2008 but police claimed he was arrested from Charbagh Railway Station in Lucknow. He was declared as the mastermind of Ahmedabad blasts and chief of Indian Mujahideen. He is facing 40 cases in Ahmedabad, Surat, Hyderabad and Balgam.

Qayamuddin Kapadia was arrested early January 2009 in Madhya Pradesh but his family members say they had no contact with him for five months before his arrest. Charges against him include his being senior member of SIMI, holding terror training camps in the jungles of Gujarat and Kerala and conspiring for blasts in Ahmedabad, Surat and Delhi. He is facing 40 cases in different states.

Strategy to Jail for Life
The 38-year-old Arif Badruddin Sheik of Asroli village in Azamgarh, according to Mumbai police, is an expert of bomb making. Father of 3, Sheikh has been accused of almost all terror blasts since 2005.  Arif's father, mentally challenged, passed away a couple of months after the arrest of his son. His mother is blind and is living with her daughter-in-law in a dilapidated house in the village. Atif is also facing 41 cases in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Surat.

Saifur Rahman was arrested by Madhya Pradesh ATS from Jabalpur in April 2009 when he was taking his sister from Azamgarh to her in-laws in Mumbai. They were travelling in Godan Express. ATS kept his sister also in custody for 12 hours. Saifur Rahman has been accused of blasts in Jaipur and Ahmedabad. He confessed his involvement in the blasts before the Magistrate in Bhopal but retracted before the Jaipur magistrate saying he was under pressure from Madhya Pradesh ATS. He told the Jaipur magistrate that ATS tortured him and threatened to rape her sister who was in their custody. Then Jaipur ATS requested the Jaipur court for narco test on Saifur Rahman but the court declined.

There was a dramatic turn in the Jaipur blast case when an accused Shahbaz Hussain pleaded the court to order narco and other test on him so that he could be proved innocent. This was the first instance in the history of the country that an accused himself was demanding narco test on him. Prosecution opposed the demand and thus the court rejected Hussain's appeal.

These are some prominent names among the 200 people arrested in recent months in connection with terrorism. The number of absconders in these cases is higher than those arrested. The police and government have severely violated human rights in these cases.

There are many instances where Police first arrests a Muslim youth and then tries to implicate him in some terror related case, something unheard of before. Sadiq Sheikh is facing 54 serious cases and police has not yet taken him on remand in many of these cases. In the normal course, if police takes him on remand for 14 days it will take at least two years. And taking an accused from one state to another will take much more time. It can be guessed how much time it will take from filing chargesheet to completion of trial. It is necessary for an accused to be present during trial, according to Indian law.

Custody Torture
There are reports that these accused have been assaulted even in jails apart from what they suffered in police custody and some more charges added to the first list of cases. In Gujarat now these accused are facing 36 cases - one case added after they were assaulted in Sabarmati jail.

On mounting of cases on terror accused, Manisha Sethi, leader of Jamia Solidarity Group, says: "by this the government wants to complicate the case so that it could absolve itself from its responsibility and has an excuse to torment Muslims." "Imported concept of War on Terror is being encouraged by the Congress and it is using it as a weapon against the Muslims," says Manisha who teaches comparative study of religions at Jamia Millia Islamia.

Case against terror accused in different places

Name Ahmedabad Surat Delhi Mumbai Jaipur Others Total
Sadiq Sheikh 20 15 5 1   Hyd, Kol 54
Arif Badr 20 15 5 1     41
Mansoor Peerbhoy 20 15 5 1     41
Md Saif 20 15 5   5   45
Mufti Abul Bashar 21 15       Belgam, Hyd. 40
Saifur Rahman 20 15     6   40
Qayamuddin Kapadia 21 15 5     Indore 40
Jawed Ahmed 21 15         36
Ghyasuddin 21 15         36
Zakir A Haq Sheikh 20 15   1     36
Saqib Nisar 20 15 5       40
Zeeshan 20 15 5       40

Sanjarpur Sangharsh Samiti president Masihuddin says that the natural life time will not be enough for the accused to prove themselves innocent.

Advocate Shahid Azmi, who is taking the case of Sadiq Sheikh and other accused on behalf of Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind sees a well thought out conspiracy against Muslims. According to him, this is a conspiracy to spoil the life of educated Muslim youths in jails. Such technique was used against Naxalites also. Many of them are in jails for last 30 years and are facing 70-80 cases" he says.

Cases and Chargesheets in different cities
Cities No. of cases No. of accused No. of arrested Pages of chargesheet
Ahmedabad & Surat 36 102 52 60,000
Mumbai 1 26 21 1809
Jaipur 8 11 4 12,000
Delhi 7 28 16 10,000

Rajiv Yadav, Joint Secretary, UP chapter of People's Union for Civil Liberties, says: This style has been imported from America where this was used against Blacks. Either they were slapped with a number of cases or were awarded sentences of 200 or 250 years in jail.

Families and relatives of the accused are speechless seeing the gravity and number of cases.

The police have also broken records in filing charge sheets. The police have filed 60,000-page chargesheets in 35 cases of Ahmedabad and Surat. Mumbai Crime Branch has filed 1800-page chargesheet. Similarly Jaipur has filed 12,000-page chargesheet in 8 cases. All charge sheets are in Hindi, Gujarati or Marathi. If case reaches Supreme Court, translation of these charge sheets will be another expensive and time taking job.

The prosecution has also gathered a crowd as witnesses in cases. A case has 50-250 witnesses.

Pre-dated cases
What is more disturbing is that many of the accused in Ahmedabad and Surat cases are those who were already in jails several months before the terror attacks took place there. For example, Safdar Nagori, former secretary, SIMI, and other 13 accused including Shibli, Hafeez and Amil Perwaz were arrested on March 27, 2008 in Madhya Pradesh. But they have been charged as main conspirators in Ahmedabad and Surat cases. Similarly, Raziuddin Nasir, Allah Bakhsh and Mirza Ahmed are in Karnataka police custody since January 2008 but they also have been accused in Ahmedabad and Surat cases.

Advocate Shahid Azmi says charge of conspiracy is a weapon that police uses to implicate anyone in any case. Talking to Afkar-e-Milli he revealed: "Afzal Muttalib Usmani whose arrest was shown in Mumbai on September 24 was actually arrested on August 27 from Lok Manya Tilak Terminus. Afzal was coming from his hometown Mau on Godan Express to appear in a different case in Mumbai. We informed concerned authorities about this through telegram but it was ignored. On 28 August he was presented before the 37 Metropolitan Magistrate in Mumbai but on the direction of Crime Branch court did not register his arrest or remand. Similarly Sadiq Sheikh was arrested on August 17 but according to police records he was arrested on August 24 along with five others who were accused of being in possession of explosives and arms.

Advocates admit that no trial in these cases will take place within two years. It will be much longer as several individuals are accused in different cases at different places.

The question is how long an old father will struggle for the release of his son? It is around one year since they were arrested but neither charges were framed nor trial started. How much time they will need to prove their innocence? Given the pace of judicial process, will they be alive to see the result of the case? This is not the question of a Sadiq Sheikh, Mufti Abul Bashar, Mansoor Asghar, Arif Badr or Saifur Rahman but of the 200 youths who are in jails for the last one year.

(Translated from Urdu
by Mumtaz Alam Falahi-TCN)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2009 on page no. 13

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