• Caste and Religion and the Role of the Judiciary

    Abdul Wahid Shaikh

    July 15, 2019

    On April 17, 2018, The Pune Police raided the homes of several intellectuals and activists in Nagpur, Mumbai and Delhi for their involvement in the Bhima Koregaon riots. At the Elgar Parishad protest organized against the arrests in Mumbai on May 3, 2018, advocate Abdul Wahid Shaikh made a spontaneous and moving speech. This is Part 1 of the speech:

    Today, we live in a world where the tyrants and cruel rulers lead a glorious life, while we lag behind in our job to show a mirror to them for their actions. Those who dare to do so are conspired against and fake allegations are registered in their names. They are awarded prison sentences. As Urdu Shayar Faiz Ahmed Faiz had said,

    Bol ki lab aazaad hai tere, bol ke zubaan ab tak teri hai,

    Tera sutawav jism hai tera, bol ki jann ab tak teri ai.

    Dekh ki ahgar ki dukaan mein, tund hain sholen surkh hai aahan

    Khulne lafe Kuflon ke dahane, faila har ek janzeer ka daman,

    Bol te thoda waqt bahut hai, jism-o-zubaan ji maun se pehle,

    Bol ki sach zinda hai ab tar, bol jo kuchh kehna hai keh le!”

    Through these beautiful lines, I would like to present some facts and some crucial aspects of today’s event before you. While introducing me earlier, you were told that the seven consecutive bomb blasts in Mumbai’s local trains in 2006 killed 200 and injured around 700 people. The incident created such terror in the city that if anybody had been harassed by Mumbai’s ATS police or the anti-terrorist squad since then, it is the Muslim community. Around 5,000 Muslim youth were taken into custody and detained in police stations . People were tortured for several days. Unfortunately, I was arrested by the police in this case.

    A teacher, a lawyer, a husband, a father – falsely accused of a terrorist crime

    I am just a teacher at a school in Mumbai. I am also a lawyer, a common man residing in Mumbai for the past 35 years. In 2001, the police booked me falsely for the crime of bomb blasts. Imagine if they can register a fake complaint against someone for a crime as serious as bomb blasts, how many minor crimes must they be booking people under falsely?

    In 2001, they accused me to be a part of the SIMI terrorist outfit. They said that these people continued to conduct meetings at as late as 2:30 in the night, and they intended to disrupt law and order. I was arrested and detained at the prison in Thane. I could not wrap my head around why was I arrested? What was the matter? Why was I imprisoned? I was released on bail after a month, and after six months, a charge sheet was filed against me. It was then, after reading the charge sheet, that I realised why was I being held by the police, and what were the sections I was booked under.

    My son is innocent – with just this one hope of my liberation in his heart, pleading to see me one last time, making innumerable trips to the government offices, my father finally breathed his last in a hospital. My mother was driven to insanity with the grief of having her only son imprisoned. She had begun flinging stones, eating faeces.

    Since then, whenever there have been any riots in the country, the police have continued to call me to the police station, and torture me endlessly. As a true citizen, I, too, continued to cooperate with the police considering it to be my duty. And in return, what the police did was involve me in a fake case of bomb blasts and arrested me. Since then, my blood starts to boil every time I see the police and their uniform. I can never trust the police again. I have lost my faith in law and order.

    How would you feel about a young man, who has recently been married, whose wife is expecting their first child, and he is suddenly arrested and sentenced to a 10-year-long imprisonment? This man has not even been able to share his life with his wife yet, and he is made to confess to a fake crime only to be locked up for ten years. He is tortured, his family is harassed. What would you think about him?

    You would find all of this in my book. I was in jail for nine years, but my torture had not ceased even in prison. ATS officials would illegally torture us in the prison, beat us up, pressurise to become witnesses to the prosecution.

    A family destroyed for a President’s Medal

    It wasn’t like they didn’t know that I was not involved in the crime. They would say to me that they knew that I had not committed the crime, and yet they had falsely accused me of it. They wanted to receive the President’s Medals, get famous, and add some more stars to their uniforms. And you should not be surprised that the man who handled this whole case in such an illegitimate manner, that ACP SL Patil, Sadashiv Laxman Patil, was felicitated with the President’s Medal in Delhi. He is awarded for falsely accusing 12 innocent people in a crime, which brought them the death penalty.

    When I began writing my book based on my experiences in prison, Jail Superintendent Swati Sathi tore the pages of my book, burnt them, several times. They beat me up and tried to stop me from writing the book. However, I kept on writing and talking about it. Since the day I have been released, I have been traveling across Maharashtra, talking to people, taking everybody’s names fiercely. I have revealed the names of those who booked me under the false crime, who conspired against me. You would find the names of 100 such ATS officers in my book, who ambushed us, tortured us, and yet no one has dared to challenge me in the court. Nor has anyone demanded a ban on the book.

    How would you feel about a young man, who has recently been married, whose wife is expecting their first child, and he is suddenly arrested and sentenced to a 10-year-long imprisonment? This man has not even been able to share his life with his wife yet, and he is made to confess to a fake crime only to be locked up for ten years. He is tortured, his family is harassed. What would you think about him?

    So I was telling you how I was systematically harassed. My son is innocent – with just this one hope of my liberation in his heart, pleading to see me one last time, making innumerable trips to the government offices, my father finally breathed his last in the hospital.My mother was driven to insanity with the grief of having her only son imprisoned. She began flinging stones, eating faeces. If you go and see her even today, you will not be able to stop yourself from crying. My wife had to live the life of a widow despite her husband being alive. The woman whose face hadn’t been seen even by her brother-in-law had to go out to the streets to find work. It was necessary to do something for survival. She had children to take care of, so she left the house to look for a job. And all this while, I was in prison, for a crime that I had never committed.

    I am not the only one to have gone through this harassment. You would find several innocent people like me locked up in different jails across India. Not just those from the Muslim community, but you would find people coming from a variety of backgrounds. Those arrested under the charges of Naxalism too were locked up alongside us. I personally know that they were innocent, and they were specifically targeted and imprisoned. This is nothing but a farce.

    The level of this tyranny is such that the police do not stop at booking people under false crimes, but they do away with anyone who threatens to obstruct their ways. You must have heard about ACP Vinod Bhat; he was one of the honest officers at ATS. He had said, “Raghuwanshi Saheb, the 13 people, against whom you are telling me to file the charge sheet, are innocent. How can I file the charge sheet knowing this? If I do so, they all will face the death penalty.”

    At this, Raghuwanshi said, “You have no option but to do as I have told you to, otherwise your wife would be the next one to be arrested.” These people can go down to such levels that they will not even spare the families of their colleagues. That honest ATS officer was so depressed, that instead of going home that day, he committed suicide on a railway track near Mahim Railway Station.

    Innocents arrested while rioters walk free

    This is actually happening. In our country. It has become very easy for the police to arrest the innocent. But those who are criminals, the ones to actually ignite riots are left untouched. They walk free. See what has been happening in the Bhima Koregaon case. Officers at all the levels of hierarchy are busy protecting such people.

    While coming back from Delhi, recently, I read the charge sheet, the copy of the verdict of the Mecca Masjid case. The verdict given by the Hyderabad Court is 140-pages long. I was focussed on how conveniently all the accused in the case – Aseemanand and group – were denounced of the charges. So, I decided to read and see what exactly had happened. And I was utterly shocked.

    The more I read, my astonishment continued to increase. What is happening in this country? First of all, we need to discover why did Justice Reddy, who gave the verdict in the Mecca Masjid case, resign the same day? And then he was put under house arrest. His family members too were denied permission to leave the house. What was the reason that he had to resign? Why was he put on house arrest?

    When I thought about it, I realised that it is the prosecution that actually decides on the verdict that has to be given, and the judge is merely asked to sign it. There is no need for you to think over it or do any justice. Either do or die. This has happened in my case, and so has it happened in the case of Justice Loya as well. The same thing was done to protect Amit Shah.

    Gentlemen and women, I would like to share something about that verdict. Only then would you realise where our country is heading, how it is becoming full of atrocities. And be assured, when tyranny rises in a country, the rulers of that country are bound to be destroyed, their generations are bound to be destroyed. Remember that.

    Aseemanand’s confession had been made before the magistrate by his own will, not before any police officer. The confession has the name of a person whom Aseemanand was going to be meeting along with his entire group, to discuss bombings at mosques and dargahs. … And in spite of this, the court ignored the entire confession statement. Why? For what reason? On what basis?

    The first point in the Mecca Masjid case was the confession given by Aseemanand before the magistrate. You must know that in India, confessions are registered in two different ways. One, under the Criminal Procedure Code section 164, and the other under the black laws like TADA, POTA, MCOCA, etc.

    Justice Abhay Saheb (Ed: former Bombay High Court judge, Abhay M Thipsay) was here two days ago for a lecture. He said that while India has the provision to book confessions of criminals before the magistrate under the Criminal Procedure Code, why do they bring in special acts for the same process again? Doesn’t the government trust the magistrate? Or have they lost faith in the law? Surprisingly, it would have been understandable if a judge from a High Court or the Supreme Court would have been appointed under the special acts in place of the magistrate, considering that the magistrate might be sold out, or be under pressure. Confessing before the Supreme Court Judge himself would have left no room for any doubts. However, you would be shocked to hear, that this right has been taken away from the magistrate and bestowed upon the police. According to this, the confession made before a police officer is considered legal and could be used to punish the accused, even with the death penalty. The judge raised questions regarding these basic issues. Anyway.

    Aseemanand’s confession had been made before the magistrate by his own will, not before any police officer. The confession has the name of a person whom Aseemanand was going to be meeting along with his entire group, to discuss bombings at mosques and dargahs. You would be surprised to know that the name of that person is Adityanath.

    “Help us, give us money so that we can carry out bomb blasts in mosques.” That is why these people were planning to meet Adityanath. And in spite of this, the court ignored the entire confession statement. Why? For what reason? On what basis?


     

    First published in The Leaflet.

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.

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