The war on terror & its collateral damage


Over 10 years in jail. For a crime they did not commit. Baba Umar on the Muslims whose lives became hell in false terror cases

ON 31 July 2001, Syed Wasif Haider’s life changed, going from the humdrum to the hunted in the course of one long night. The plainclothes policemen, who came knocking at his door that night, were not guests the 1972-born sales manager in American multinational Becton Dickson was expecting. Haider calls it a kidnap because “they didn’t have an arrest warrant”. In the FIR, the police claimed to have arrested Haider on 3 August 2001.

The next morning, a credulous media splattered the story across its pages. It made for ‘big’ news. Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran’s headline screamed: “Chamangunj Mein ISI Key Teen Agent Giraftaar” (Three ISI agents arrested in Chamangunj). The story quoted “highly placed sources” on Haider’s links with the Kashmir-based outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen. The condemnation came before the trial, and much before the case even reached the courts.

So when, on 18 November 2012, General Secretary of the CPM Prakash Karat led a delegation to President Pranab Mukherjee to demand the rehabilitation of wrongly imprisoned youth, Haider, who had spent eight long years in prison, found a place in it.

The CPM had warned Parliament of the “dangerous consequences” of certain provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) Bill that are similar to the now-abolished TADA and POTA. Now, he told the president, these youth needed to be rehabilitated.

“What has happened with many of these youth justifies the apprehensions we had spelt out then,” he said. “The new provisions of UAPA, added in 2008, in fact, give sweeping powers to police; and make it extremely difficult for the accused to get bail. So our party wants those provisions to go.”

With Haider were Mohammed Aamir from Delhi and Syed Maqbool Shah from Kashmir. Both had stayed behind bars for 14 long years, only to be acquitted.

Aamir told the president that in the name of fighting the war on terror, Indian security agencies were inventing terrorists where none existed. Shah recounted several years of incarceration, of how young men are left to rot in jails for years together before being freed with a hollow redemption that leaves them jobless, stigmatised, and with the question: “Why us?”

Aamir, the most outspoken of the trio, handed over a list of 33 youth who had been “implicated” (in a total of 22 cases) and remained in jail for over a decade before being acquitted by the courts. Each of them is today, Aamir asserts, without work, considered unskilled, and faced with a future that looks uncertain at best.

‘Justice came to me only to make me realise that I was guilty until proven innocent’

Mohammad Aamir, Delhi

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‘I’m jobless. I can’t start a business also because friends refuse me loans’

Syed Wasif Haider, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

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‘I couldn’t walk without falling. My family saw a disorder in me, but that had become my order’

Syed Maqbool Shah, Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir

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1. Mohd Marouf Qaamar (Delhi)
Acquitted on 11 November 2008

2. Tariq Ahmad Dar (Kashmir)
Discharged in 2006

3. Tasleem (Moradabad, UP)
Discharged and released in 1998

4. Najeem (Moradabad, UP)
Discharged and released in 1998

5. Shamim Akhtar (Kolkata)
Discharged & released in 1998

6. Syed Maqbool Shah (Kashmir)
Acquitted on 8 April 2010

7. Mohd Aamir Khan (Delhi)
Acquitted & released on 9 January 2012

8. Haroon Rashid (Bihar)
Acquitted in January 2010

9. Dilawar Khan (Odisha)
Acquitted on January 2010

10. Salman Khurshid Kori (Manipur)
Acquitted on 14 December 2011

11. Syed Mubarak (Sitapuri, UP)
Acquitted in December 2009

12. Abdul Mubeen (Siddharthnagar, UP)
Acquitted in August 2008

13. Ghulam Mohd (Kanpur, UP)
Acquitted on 12 August 2009

14. Sajad-Ur-Rehman (Kishtwar, J&K)
Discharged on 14 April 2011

15. Mumtaz Ahmad (Sopore, J&K)
Acquitted on 6 April 2003

16. Faheem Ansari (Maharashtra/ Mumbai 26/11 case)
Acquitted on 21 February 2012 by the Bombay HC & Supreme Court upheld acquittal on 29 August 2012

17. Saba Uddin (UP/ Mumbai 26/11 Case)
Acquitted on 21 February 2012 by the Bombay HC & supreme court upheld acquittal on 29 August 2012

18. Rehmana Farooqui (2000 Red Fort Case) Acquitted in 2007

19. Jogeshvari Rly Stn Case
2 persons acquitted in october 2006 (Ehtesham Qutub + 1 more)

20. Tilak Nagar Ry Stn Case
2 persons discharged (Masoom Ali & Nazar Alam) & 2 acquitted (Sadiq Hussain & Shalil Ur Rehman) in September 2011

21. Ghatkopar 2002 Blast Case
8 persons acquitted in June 2005 (Abdul Mateen, Sheikh Muzamil, Imran Rehman Khan, Mohammad Altaf, Toufiq Ahmad, Arif Hussain, Haroon Rashid, Rashid Ansari)

22. Gateway of India 2003 Blast Case
2 persons acquitted (Mohammad Ansar & Hasan Batterywala) in November 2008



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