In the third part of our series on the dreaded special cell, tehelka profiles two kashmiris whose lives have been destroyed by false cases
‘I WAS NEVER A TERRORIST’
NAZEER AHMED KHAN, Travel agency employee, 38
MAY 28, 2005 was a normal day as Nazeer Ahmed Khan headed to work at Samarkand Tour and Travels in Daryaganj, north Delhi. When Nazeer, 38, failed to return home, his wife called his employer and found that the Special Cell of Delhi Police had arrested him. Khan was later branded a Hizb-e-Islami terrorist trying to smuggle RDX.
Even though Khan’s wife and employer say he was arrested on May 28, police claim a Special Cell sub-inspector received a tip-off exactly a week later that Khan was to arrive from Jammu by bus, carrying a huge quantity of RDX. Around 10 am of June 4, 2005, a police informer pointed at Khan emerging from a busy bylane near the Red Fort. Khan was arrested allegedly with 490 gm of RDX and Rs 30,000.
When the case came up for hearing in the lower court of Additional Sessions Judge Madhu Jain, glaring loopholes came to light. His lawyer MS Khan pointed out that since Nazeer was charged under the Explosive Substances Act, the Special Cell needed to seek sanction for his prosecution from a District Magistrate. “Instead of the District Magistrate, as per the Explosives Act rules, they took it from the Police Commissioner, and vitiated the trial,” Khan said.
To undo this mistake, the Special Cell sought such permission from District Magistrate Nutan Guha Biswas on December 12, 2008. Biswas later told the judge she gave the permission without knowing that the trial had already begun.
The judge pointed out inconsistencies in the police’s statements. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma (who was killed in the 2008 Batla House “encounter” in south Delhi) had led the raiding party that arrested Khan. Sharma had deposed that a sub-inspector had received the first tip-off. But another sub-inspector deposed that it was Sharma who had received the first tip-off. Khan was arrested in the busy Red Fort area. How come then, the judge asked, the police failed to get public witnesses?
There were even discrepancies about the time the FIR was filed. Inspector JS Mehta, the investigating officer for the case, gave different versions during his cross-examination. The Special Cell officials differed even about the time they had been present at the spot from where Khan was arrested.
In her judgement, Jain said the police had not been able to prove beyond doubt that RDX had been recovered from Khan. The Kashmiri is now a free man after a harrowing ordeal that lasted four-and-a-half years. Asks his lawyer: “Khan was never a terrorist. Now who will wash away the stigma that he will face throughout his life?”
‘WE’LL KILL YOU, HE SAID’
GHULAM MOHIUDDIN SHAH, former DPS student, 29
HE HAD LOST all hope of returning home again by the time Delhi High Court acquitted Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, 29 last October. When he was finally released after nine years of being in jail — six of them in solitary confinement — the young Kashmiri couldn’t sleep for a month. He couldn’t meet relatives, friends and neighbours for more than a few minutes. His father had died while he was in jail. Now, he couldn’t bear to see his mother a widow.
A decade ago, Shah left his native village near the apple town of Sopore to study at Delhi Public School in New Delhi. He also worked part-time with a transporter. On July 24, 2001, a Tata Indica knocked him down as Shah, then 20 years old, rode home on his motorcycle. Men from the car hit him with a blunt object as he lay sprawled on the road. “Almost unconscious, I was bundled into that car with dark tinted glasses,” he says.
Shah was taken to a farmhouse near Mehrauli in south Delhi. A Kashmiri friend of his, Gulzar Ahmed Wani — a doctorate student of Arabic from Aligarh Muslim University — was also brought there. “They tortured us separately for seven days,” Shah recalls. One of them told us that he was ACP (Additional Commissioner of Police) Rajbir. (Not the Rajbir Singh Yadav, Special Cell police officer, who was controversially killed in 2008 by a property dealer in Gurgaon.) Police said Shah and Wani had carried out bomb blasts. “Give us your weapons,” they were told. “You Kashmiris have no business here.”
Shah says someone calling himself Laxman from IB (Intelligence Bureau) came over to recruit them to turn informers to find “Kashmiri terrorists”. They declined. On July 30, Rajbir asked the two Kashmiris to pray, for they would be killed in a fake encounter. They were brought to New Delhi Railway Station in handcuffs and briefly released before the police screamed“atankwadi” (terrorist) and “caught” them. Soon, journalists arrived with cameras. “Reporters were shown RDX in a bag supposedly found in my home,” says Shah.
That day, two UP Muslim men, Mumtaz and Feroz Rafi, were also brought to the railway station. Back at the Lodhi Road police station, Shah says, “Rajbir accused us (Kashmiris) of getting the RDX for the UP Muslims.” After a judge remanded Shah into its custody for 14 days, police began to torture Shah.
Later, Shah landed in high security prison number 3 at Tihar Jail, joining dozens of Kashmiri and Pakistani “terrorists”. On a visit to the jail, his father asked if he was involved. “I said ‘no’. He was relieved,” Shah says. He never saw his father alive again. When he wanted to make a phone call home on hearing of his father’s death, the jail warden told him, “No. You are a terrorist.”
He may be free now, but Shah believes he never got justice. He now runs a grain shop in the village. His brother, a lowlevel government employee, is still repaying the loan he took to pay the Rs 1 lakh fine the court imposed on Shah. Shah’s family worries he will never be “normal” again. Would he ever go back looking for work in Delhi? The not unexpected answer comes quickly: “No.”