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Mainstream, VOL L No 42, October 6, 2012

Trauma of Former Terror Accused Set Free by Law Courts

Thursday 11 October 2012, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

More of those dark realities stumbling out from Modi administered Gujarat. Those encoun-ters and mass murders and detentions…the sheer brutality hits. And one is left wondering the impact of this, on generations to come. For riots and communal violence not just kill forms but dent psyches. Affecting hundreds and thousands.
Some amongst us are not sitting as mere spectators. Perhaps, they have been seeing and sensing these build-ups for far too long and have begun to question and query. And highlight. One such person is the New Delhi based documentary film maker Shubhradeep Chakravorty.

His latest documentary (aptly titled—After The Storm) focuses on the stories of seven former terror accused set free by various law courts across India: Mukhtar Ahmed, Mohammad Fassiuddin Ahmed, Umar Farooque, Moutasim Billah, Harith Ansari, Md. Musarrat Hussain ‘Bobby’ and Shaik Abdul Kaleem. Together with these details—“Fortynine-year-old Mukhtar Ahmed from Bangalore was in retail business of readymade garments when he was picked up by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Septem-ber 3, 1993 under the Terrorist and Disruptive Acti-vities (Prevention) Act and then framed in the Chennai RSS regional headquarters blast case. He was acquitted, the final judgement came from Supreme Court on December 6, 2010. In all he spent six years in jail and remained in Chennai on conditional bail for eight years; away from his family and business. Mohammad Fassiuddin Ahmed from Hyderabad was doing his graduation when he was picked up on September 1, 2007 by the Hyderabad Police as a suspect in the blast at Gokul Chat and Lumbini Park. Ironically his cousin died in one of the blasts. He was shown arrested on September 5, 2007. He spent six months in jail and finally secured his acquittal in February 2008. Twentyeight-year-old Umar Farooque was picked up by the Ahmedabad police on May 11, 2006 in the conspiracy case to kill the Right-wing Hindutva leaders. He was shown arrested on June 9, 2006 along with five others and after spending four-and-a-half years in jail he finally secured the acquittal on July 29, 2010. On March 5, 2008 engineering student Moutasim Billah was sitting in front of his house in old Hydera-bad when he was picked up by the police and then along with 20 others he was framed in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. He spent six months in jail and then got the acquittal on December 31, 2008. Harith Ansari, son of Dr Shakeel Ahmed, a prominent Ahmedabad based social activist and politician, was in the profession of medical transcription. He was picked up on December 7, 2003 from his home and his arrest was shown as December 11, 2003. Harith along with five others was framed in a conspiracy to conduct bomb blasts in prominent buildings of Ahmedabad. After remaining six years in jail he finally got acquitted on December 12, 2009.

Thirtyfive-year-old Mohammad Musarrat Hussain ‘Bobby’ was working in a printing press when he was picked up on March 5, 2002. His arrest was shown on March 7, 2002. He was charged as a conspirator in the firing and killing of policemen at the American Centre, Kolkata. He spent eight years in jail and remained on death row for five years. Finally the Kolkata High Court acquitted him on February 7, 2010. Shaik Abdul Kaleem is the person who was credited to influence Swami Aseemanand by his behavi-our and prompted him to confess the Hindu terror plots. He was a paramedical student when he was first time picked up by the police on June 1, 2007. His arrest was shown on June 7, 2007. He was framed in the Mecca Masjid blast case and fake SIM cards case. After spending one-and-a-half years in jail he secured acquittal on September 20, 2008 (SIM cards case) and January 22, 2009 (RDX case).”

And when I ask Shubradeep the crucial why—why did he decide to make this particular docu-mentary and also his other documentaries?—he details: “This could be because I’d wit-nessed the demolition of the Babri Masjid. In fact, those years I was residing with my family in Faizabad. Though I was young but could see and sense the hand-in-glove role played by the police with the Right-wing brigades present there… All these years what I have been seeing is not just communalism but fascism which is destroying the very fabric of our land, our lives… Through my documentaries I want to project what’s been going on at the ground—My earlier made documentary film, Encountered on Saffron Agenda, is based on investigative documentation of encounters of Sameer Khan Pathan (October 22, 2002), Sadik Jamal (January 13, 2003), Ishrat Jahan-Javed Seikh (June 16, 2004) and Shorabuddin Seikh (November 26, 2005) that took place in Gujarat. And in another documentary film, Out of Court Settlement, I have focused on the intimidation of several defence lawyers across the country who were appearing in terror related cases. And in this latest one, After the Storm, I have focused on the former terror accused who secured acquittal through various law courts in the past few years and are now somehow surviving against all possible odds.”

And as Shubhradeep details their back-grounds together with the aftermath of those arrested years, it’s sheer tragedy that lies spread out—” These men and their families have really suffered with the stigma of terror charges on their heads and with that not just ruined on the emotional and financial fronts but also socially. On a couple of occasions I broke down whilst hearing the trauma they are still facing …”As he details, “Mohammad Fassiuddin Ahmed finished his graduation somehow but mental trauma and fear still continues to haunt him. Umer Farooque’s life seems ruined today; as he is unemployed and his family is debt-ridden. And Harith Ansari also sits unemployed. And though Moutasim Billal spent relatively shorter time in the jail but his education got ruined and he is yet to finish his engineering and his sisters are not getting married because of that stigma. And Mussarat Husain Bobby’s family is financially in a bad shape and he, along with his two daughters and wife, live in the house of his father-in-law. And Shaik Abdul Kaleem is studying law…Only Mukhtar Ahmed managed to somehow go re-establishing his business in Bangalore, though on a much smaller scale.”

And as one views this documentary, this vital query hovers—If Dr Haneef could get compensation together with an apology from the Australian Government, so why not these young men get compensation-cum-apology from our government?
“Yes…,” Shubradeep says, “they ought to be compensated and an unconditional public apo-logy should be made by the authorities/estab-lishment…these young men are still sitting too petrified and affected to go about asking for compensation and sadly no one’s coming forward to help them with their higher studies or even to give them some sort of assistance so that their families can survive and make two ends meet.”

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