Bhusawal, Maharashtra – On Could 28, 1994, Farukh Ahmad Khan, a tall, slim man, was delivering a lecture to his college students in Thane, Maharashtra, when he was informed police officer was in search of him.
Khan, then 24, needed to work overseas and had utilized for a passport. He thought that the officer’s go to was associated to his software.
The officer left a message for Khan to go to the native police station. When Khan arrived, he was escorted to the commissioner’s workplace for questioning.
He was requested whether or not he knew somebody named Jamil Khan, and responded that Khan was his cousin.
He was then requested if he knew Ashiq Hussain Khandey, and responded that he did not know anybody by this title.
Police described Khandey as a “Kashmiri terrorist” and accused Farukh of planning assaults in Maharashtra with him, saying the pair needed to “unfold terrorism”.
They then, he claimed, took him into custody and assaulted him.
Khan was unaware that in his hometown of Bhusawal, greater than 400km away, police had already picked up Jamil and Yusuf Khan, his cousins.
With them, he grew to become a part of a bunch of Muslim males accused of planning to hold out bomb blasts throughout the state of Maharashtra, which is residence to greater than 100 million folks, of which Mumbai is the capital.
For weeks, they appeared on the entrance pages of newspapers, slammed as “terrorists”.
Twelve folks have been accused initially – one confederate gave proof to the prosecution and escaped trial.
The eleven suspects – Jamil Ahmed Khan, Mohammed Yunus, Yusuf Khan, Wasim Asif, Ayyub Ismail Khan, Shaikh Shafi, Farukh Ahmad Khan, Abdul Qader Habibi, Syed Ashfaq Mir, Mumtaz Murtuza Mir and Mohammed Haroon Ansari – have been accused of sedition and conspiring in opposition to the nation.
We cried quite a bit within the courtroom and hugged one another. It took 25 lengthy years for us to show that we have been harmless.
Jamil Ahmed Khan, acquitted suspect
On February 27 this yr, after a 25-year battle, they have been all acquitted.
Police had initially claimed to have had data that Jamil, a member of now the banned College students Islamic Motion of India (SIMI), alongside together with his two cousins and different associates, have been planning assaults in opposition to Hindus to avenge the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.
Following the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu attackers in Ayodhya in December 1992, communal riots erupted in a number of cities, together with Mumbai.
The tense state of affairs worsened when in 1993, bomb blasts in Mumbai killed 257 folks and injured a whole bunch.
In addition to the sedition fees in opposition to the 11 males, police invoked the Terrorist and Disruptive Actions (Prevention) Act, an anti-terrorism regulation which was utilized in India between 1985 and 1995.
After going through court docket in Bhusawal, the group was remanded in custody the place they have been allegedly tortured and compelled to just accept the fees.
|Farukh Ahmad Khan, seen together with his son at their home in Bhusawal, misplaced his job as a lecturer; he struggled to rebuild his life after being accused of terrorism [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]|
“We have been accused of harbouring terrorists, legal conspiracy, planning terror actions and so many different issues. We saved saying that we do not know something and are harmless, however the police saved torturing us,” Khan informed Al Jazeera.
“The cops would tie our fingers by rope behind the physique, and stretch our legs in the other way making a 180-degree angle. On a number of events, our fingers have been tied, and we’d be hung the other way up.
“After torture, they’d ask us to signal on clean papers.”
They spent 4 months in jail earlier than being launched on bail by a particular court docket that offers with terror instances in Nashik, a metropolis in Maharashtra.
“We by no means went to jail once more, however we weren’t free additionally,” mentioned Jamil, earlier the prime suspect.
A lifetime of discrimination
After being stained with the “terrorist” label, life was not straightforward. Jamil mentioned he was seen with suspicion, not solely by police.
Khan mentioned: “Such was the atmosphere in Bhusawal in 1994, that half of our mates had left the city with concern that police would possibly arrest them as nicely. Lots of our family and mates would not even alternate greetings with us. We had develop into strangers amongst our personal locality.”
Within the group, three have been medical doctors and two have been engineers. Abdul Qader Habibi now has a PhD.
Khan had a diploma in electronics and telecommunication and one other in industrial electronics.
“I needed to work exterior for just a few years, make some financial savings after which transfer again to my metropolis and begin one thing of my very own. That’s the reason I had utilized for the passport, however this case ruined my life,” he informed Al Jazeera.
After being accused, he misplaced his skilled job. He now repairs residence inverters for a dwelling.
“This case ruined our lives,” he mentioned.
Mohammed Yunus, 63, is a physician by career and runs a small clinic in his hometown.
“After popping out of the jail on bail, for months folks would not go to my clinic. A prefix, TADA, was added to my title,” he mentioned, referring to the acronym for the Terrorist and Disruptive Actions (Prevention) Act.
Although TADA was repealed by the federal government in 1995, the case stalled due to administrative hurdles.
There’s a systematic investigative bias in terror-related instances in opposition to sure communities in India. At any time when there’s a terror assault, the primary intuition is to arrest Muslims, which could be very unhappy.
Manisha Sethi, writer and activist
The Maharashtra authorities in 2003 claimed that no offence was filed underneath TADA and beneficial dropping proceedings.
However a decide in Nashik rejected the suggestions.
“For years, the court docket did not drop the TADA fees regardless of the state authorities’s suggestions. We then approached the Supreme Court docket in 2012 interesting that fees underneath TADA be dropped in opposition to us,” Jamil informed Al Jazeera.
In 2016, they approached Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a Muslim civil rights group, for authorized support.
After they obtained authorized help, the group approached the Supreme Court docket once more. On this event, the court docket directed the TADA court docket in Nashik to finish the trial in a single yr.
The trial started in July 2018.
|Mohammad Yunus, a physician, mentioned folks taunted him after he was accused [Bilal Kuchay/Al Jazeera]|
When TADA court docket decide SC Khatti acquitted the boys, “we cried quite a bit within the courtroom and hugged one another. It took 25 lengthy years for us to show that we have been harmless”, mentioned Jamil.
“It was like Eid right here,” mentioned Jamil’s spouse, Rehana. “There was a lot happiness.”
In December 2016, Innocence Community, which campaigns for the wrongfully prosecuted, launched a report calling on the federal government to pay compensation to victims of wrongful convictions.
Indian officers behind wrongful arrests and prosecution needs to be held accountable, the report mentioned.
“There’s a systematic investigative bias in terror-related instances in opposition to sure communities in India,” mentioned Manisha Sethi, an writer and member of the Jamia Lecturers Solidarity Affiliation human rights group.
“At any time when there’s a terror assault, the primary intuition is to arrest Muslims, which could be very unhappy.
“It is unlucky that there wasn’t any dialogue on that report. Except the police and investigating businesses are made accountable, issues will not change.”
Muslims in India, based on a number of current reviews, consider they’re unfairly focused by police.
Arshad Madani, president of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (Council of Muslim theologians in India) mentioned that inside moments of an assault, fingers level in the direction of Muslims.
“Motion is just not being taken in opposition to the officers concerned in these bogus instances which have destroyed lives of hundreds of harmless Muslims,” he informed Al Jazeera. “And the rationale given is that it might demoralise the police pressure.”
“Are police superior to folks? This lack of accountability and denying of justice solely reveals that irrespective of to what extent injustices are carried out to Muslims in India, their perpetrators is not going to be punished.”