When someone like Sharukh Khan is detained for a couple of hours there is a hue and cry in the media and not to mention the number of times that the Government of India seeks an apology.
But, what about those 100s of youth who have been illegally detained, tortured for no fault of theirs’? These youth who have been branded terrorists, condemned and then released for want of evidence would also like an apology so that they would feel wanted by the system.
Here is a case study of three persons who have been through hell. They are unable to re-start their lives and in such an event each one has this to say, “ we wish the government would at least tender an apology to us for the wrong that has been done to us.
Manisha Sethi of the Jamia Teacher’s Solidarity Association says these youth have waited for an apology for the wasted years, for the stigma, loss of dignity and the torture that they have undergone. The Indian government has rejected the ‘mechanical apology’ being offered by the US for detaining the super star Shahrukh Khan at the airport for 90 minutes too long. The US Deputy Chief of Mission has been summoned, and institutional mechanisms to ensure that there is no repeat of such an incident. Now, may we ask the hyper active and sensitive Indian government to tender apologies—and genuine apology please, not a mechanical one—for detaining (illegally), incarcerating, torturing—in short, destroying and tearing apart the lives of hundreds of its own citizens in supposedly fighting terror.
Mohammad Amir Khan:
Mohammad Amir Khan spent half his life in prison before the case against him fell out as there was no evidence against him. Would someone say a sorry to him for a lost childhood, for his grief-crazed mother’s paralysis, for his heartbroken father’s early death, for his broken, crumbling home.
Khan spent 14 years in jail in connection with 20 cases of bomb blasts. A resident of Azad Market in New Delhi he was picked up on February 20 1998 in connection with 20 cases of bomb blasts. Today he has been acquitted in 17 cases while one case of life imprisonment has been over turned by the Delhi High Court while two other cases are in appeal.
Those years in jail have not only had a bearing on him, but his entire family as well. His father Hashim Khan died of a heart attack after battling to prove that his son is innocent. Ironically when he returned home after his acquittal, his mother was barely able to recognise him as she suffered a brain haemorrhage and also a paralytic stroke.
The acquittal may have come by, but life will never be the same. He is still afraid of a witch hunt by the police and he prefers to spend most of his time at home since he fears that the cops may try and fix him once again. He is relying heavily on members of his community to find some work and to be rehabilitated.
Syed Maqbool Shah:
Syed Maqbool Shah, had to spend 14 years in a high security prison because the Delhi police falsely claimed recovering the tyre of the stolen car used in the Lajpat Nagar blasts in 1996. In 2010, the courts pronounced Shah innocent. By then all that was left of his life could be bundled in a small pouch: his mercy petition, copies of handwritten letters addressed to all chief ministers of Jammu & Kashmir since 1996, Union home ministers and the International Committee of Red Cross pleading for justice, his jail diaries and a passport size passport photo of 17-year-old Shah, about the time he was arrested.
He was arrested on 21 May 1996 and sent to the Tihar jail. Today is out and is 32 years old wondering where exactly to make a start in life. He carries with him today diaries which detail his sufferings in jail and hopes to publish this soon. Shah was in Delhi with his brothers at the time the blasts took place. There was a raid and he was picked up. He was studying in class 12 at the time of the incident. Little did he realise that he would spend the next 14 years in jail facing charges of terrorism and under the Indian Explosives Act. After a marathon battle filled with anxiety and grief he was finally declared innocent. The joy of being released was shadowed by the death of his father and sister who fought all the while to prove his innocence. He says that right after being released he left to the grave yard where his family members were buried and such was the irony.
He wants justice, rehabilitation and at least an apology. However that does not look like it is going to happen. When he contacted the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and also the Home Department, he was told that they were unaware of his case. No one can compensate this loss, but at least he says he wants to live in dignity and should get at least a government job so that he can support himself.
Shakeel Ahmed Khan:
Shakeel Ahmed Khan spent six years in jail after being booked under TADA for conspiring to assassinate BJP leaders M M Joshi and former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Jagmohan. His family was reduced to penury and survived by donations from a local shrine.
The police claimed at that time that he had planned the assassination of Murali Manohar Joshi and former Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Jagmohan.
Khan originally from the Valley had come down to Delhi in search of work. He was 31 then. Just upon landing in Delhi he was picked up by the police and charges under the Explosives Act were slapped against him and six others. All he could do under detention was cry for his innocence and each time he did that he was only tortured more.
Then there were these court cases for which he sat and hoped for justice. Finally after years of battle justice came by. All though his ordeal in jail his wife and children had been living off the relief money which was granted to them by a local shrine. However this was just not enough and he weeps like a child when he says that his family ate just one meal a day. Today life is limping back to normal, but the damage has already been done. Will he get an apology from the government? Well that is a million dollar question.
These are just a few cases. Manisha Sethi asks who will pay for the three years lost in solitary cells of the 11 men from Rajasthan for allegedly furthering the SIMI. While the Andhra Pradesh government has channelized funds of Mecca Masjid administration by way of compensation to some of those wrongfully implicated in the Masjid bombings, an apology is still not forthcoming.
Dozens of those falsely implicated by the Special Cell of Delhi: Saquib Rehman, Bashir Ahmed Shah, Nazir Ali Sofi, Ghulam Moinuddin Dar, Abdul Majid Bhat, Abdul Qayoom Khan, Birender Singh (spent over 5 and a half years in jail before being acquitted in 2010); Imran Kirmani (spent 4 and a half years in prison); Gulzar Ahmed Ganai and Amin Hajam (3 years). All were accused of being ISI, Laskar e Tayiba or HuJI operatives and all were acquitted by the courts.
She further asks, “does anyone, anywhere in the machinery of our government ever feel any remorse when young men like Rashid Hussain are picked up for questioning in serial blasts and when their employers Infosys – otherwise the paragons of corporate social responsibility – refuse to let them return to their jobs?