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Mainstream, VOL LV No 11 New Delhi March 4, 2017

On Release of Innocents after Long Imprisonment

Sunday 5 March 2017, by Humra Quraishi


After twelve years, two innocents and one ‘half-innocent’ walked out free from the confines of the Tihar Jail, yet not a word of apology and nor a rupee in terms of compensation from the state to the three Kashmiri men—Hussain Fazili, Rafiq Shah and Tariq Ahmad Dar. They were arrested on charges of plotting and carrying out terror strikes in New Delhi in 2005.

A Delhi court said the police “miserably failed” to prove charges against them. Of the three accused of plotting and also carrying out the terror strikes, two—Hussain Fazili and Rafiq Shah—were acquitted of all charges. Tariq Ahmad Dar, who the police claimed was the alleged mastermind, could not be convicted of conspiracy in the absence of any evidence.

The court said: “Even though no charge was framed against Dar for the offences under sections 38 and 39 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the ingredients of the offences (38 and 39 UAPA) are very much made out... Hence for the reasons recorded above, Dar is found guilty of the offences under section 38 and 39 of UAPA... However, Dar will walk free since he has already served two years more than the 10-year-prison term awarded to him.”

This brings me to ask two basics: Shouldn’t the state compensate these men for wrecking twelve years of their lives and also that of their families? Also, shouldn’t the state dismiss, if not arrest, the police officers who falsely implicated these men?

How easy it is for the police and the agencies to arrest an innocent and heap terror charges on him; with that he sits languishing as an undertrial for years to come. Tortured in that prison hell-hole. Maybe even hanged to death.

I have read at least six books by former prisoners who were arrested on fake charges and lodged in the various jails and prisons of the country. And the tortures inflicted on them by the jail staff and police need to be high-lighted... yes, highlighted every single day, till the guilty cops are arrested and dismissed from service.

Why No ‘Looking’ into the Prison Hell-holes?

Though big-bodied commissions had been set up to look into the living conditions of the Muslims of the country, yet what seems callous is that there’s no looking into the conditions of the imprisoned Muslims.

If the social structure of the largest minority community of the country has to be seriously studied, then the jailed population definitely needs a looking into. It is important to know how the police and agencies treat the imprisoned Muslim. Also, it is essential to know why more and more Muslims are sitting jailed—more in terms of the population ratio. There could be various reasons and aspects to this factor alone. Do not overlook the fact that all those who were charged/arrested under POTA in Gujarat happened to be Muslims, save for one exception.

And above all, why are Kashmiri Muslims treated in the most humiliating of ways? If one were to read journalist Iftikhar Gilani’s book, My Days in Prison (Penguin), which is based on the seven months of his imprisonment in the Tihar Jail (he was imprisoned in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail from June 9, 2002 to January 13, 2003 under the Official Secrets Act) you‘d realise that a Kashmiri Muslim prisoner faces not just torture but rounds of humiliation. He could be called ’gaddar ‘(traitor) as Gilani was called. Also, as he’d said: “the bogus charges they framed against me were enough to see me imprisoned for 14 years ...they even had plans to implicate me in a POTA case.”

And if one were to read Kashmiri woman activist, Anjum Zamarud Habib’s book, Prisoner No. 100 (Zubaan), the horrors faced by Kashmiri prisoners hold out ...It is a first-person account of the five long years that Anjum Zamarud Habib spent in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

Now this Latest Volume from a Former Prisoner 

Abdul Wahid Shaikh, a Mumbai-based school teacher, was among the 13 young Muslims arrested for plotting the Mumbai serial train blasts of July 11, 2006. After ten years of brutal torture, he was acquitted in September 2015, while five other accused in the case were sentenced to death and seven to life imprison-ment.

Shaikh wrote a detailed account of his ordeal in Urdu which has just been published by the Delhi publisher, Pharos Media, as Be-Gunah Qaidi (Innocent Detainees).

In this book, Shaikh has ‘dissected’ the case against each accused and exposed the modus operandi of the police and ATS to fabricate cases and implicate the innocent. He describes in detail, with dates, places and names of officers, how ATS people fabricated the cases, prepared fake documents and forged papers, propped up fake witnesses and panches, hid documents proving the accused men’s innocence, procured doctored narco test reports from forensic labs and used extensive third degree torture over months to force the accused to break down and sign confessions written by the ATS. These confessions were in the end used to indict these innocent victims.

The author details the police tactics, torture methods, faking of evidence and threats to the relatives of the accused, so that they’d sign the fake confessions. In fact, one particular aspect that he dwells on is this: desist from signing confessions despite all police pressures and torture because these confessions, which he calls ‘convictions’, are finally used to indict and sentence the innocent to death or life imprisonment.

Time To Wake-up!

Shouldn’t such books be enough to jolt us! Shouldn’t such books be read by the heads of the various Commissions?

The stark truth is that something or every-thing is wrong in the way arrests are made; yet there is no stopping the brutal system wrecking many more lives. Where is the transparency in these arrests? Why should we go only by police hand-outs? Why shouldn’t a non-governmental agency be allowed to carry simultaneous investi-gative probes? Why shouldn’t the biased and corrupt and ruthless police officers be dismissed from service? Why should the minorities sit in fear of the police and its ways!

In fact, in several Muslim mohallas, anxious parents have told me that even if there’s a cracker burst in an adjoining area, the cops will rush towards the Muslim mohallas,”looking for our young sons, making arrests. Even if they are released after weeks but their names and addresses are in police records and with that they are picked up again and again ...till we sit ruined.”

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