Jaipur blasts- A trial that never was

Dr. Ishaq’s medical practice was ruined, as was Dr. Yunus’s. Dr. Yunus’ family including wife and four children had to survive by accepting support and charity.
Taufeeq, Dr. Ishaq’s son, also accused in the case was midway through his BUMS course. His education has been interrupted thanks to his illegal incarceration. Nadeem’s small grocery shop collapsed. Nazakat was the sole breadwinner of the family, after his father had expired—barely a month before his arrest. His shop of tractor parts lies desolate today. Amanullah’s mobile phone business could not recover after his release.
Torture and confinement led many of them to the brink of mental derailment. Amanullah and Munawwar especially suffered from severe depression and insomnia. Amanullah broke down several times, recalling the horrors of torture. Munawwar, as a result of the severe anxiety and stress suffered partial paralysis.
Three and a half years—one hundred and eighty two weeks— of the lives of these eleven men have been spent in custody, in tiny airless cells where humiliation and torture became the order of the day and despair turned them into depressives. Outside, their families were stigmatized and their business destroyed and they even struggled to make ends meet.
A report by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association titled, “ The Case that never was-The SIMI trial of Jaipur raises several important points as to how several men were tortured and also the manner in which the police botched up the investigation in this very important case in which scores and scores of people died in the horrific Jaipur blasts.
For starters the accused were not charged with either conspiracy or execution of bomb blasts in Jaipur in 2008. According to the FIR and chargesheet, they were responsible for carrying out activities of the banned SIMI.
Jaipur witnessed serial blasts on 13th May 2008. Three months later, Kota and the neighbouring district of Bara saw hectic police activity with the Muslim mohallas of the city seeing increased police surveillance. In August,around thetime of the shab-e-baraat to be precise, police parties started to visit homes of Muslim youths asking them to come to the Maqbara Chowk police station for poochh taachh (enquiry).
The first to be picked up were Dr. Ishaq and his son, Md. Taufeeq, who was pursuing a BUMS course in Jaipur and was visiting home during that period. They were picked up by the police from their home in the dead of the night on 16th August. Another young man Nazakat Husain was also rounded up around the same time. The following day saw three young men, Imran, Mehdi Hasan and Dr. Yunus, picked up. The police was not done yet though.
This forced those on the wanted list to surrender themselves for questioning. On 18th, Amaanullah, Nadeem Akhtar and Atiqur Rehman surrendered at the Maqbara Chowk thana. These men and their families were confident at that time that they would be released soon. Their confidence was premised on two things: first, their innocence, and second, the police, especially Nasimullah, the DSP, Kota Police (at that time), kept insisting that they were wanted only for some questioning in connection with the Jaipur blasts—that there was no case against them. These ‘arrests and surrenders in Kota were public knowledge—with many of these men being accompanied by their relatives to the police station and one even quite literally, in media view.
Amaanullah used to run a mobile repairing shop in 2008. The police started to visit his house since the shabe-e-baraat and he went to the Maqbara PS on the night of the 18th at about 11 o clock. He met Nasimullah who told him that he would be released after a few rounds of questioning. No enquiries were made of him however till 4 o’ clock in the early
morning when he was taken to Jaipur by a team of Special Operations Group personnel which had come from Jaipur SOG Headquarters. It was in Jaipur where he was subjected to sustained, relentless—and as the evidence shows, very brutal—questioning.
Munawwar, a ladies tailor, was similarly being called to the Patanpol PS. He consulted the city qazi,who advised him to surrender. When he went to Patanpol PS to surrender on 21st August night, he saw media converged at the PS, waiting to relay the surrender ‘Live’. Nasimullah flew into a rage and telephoned him saying he would not accept his surrender in full media view and ordered him to return. Munawwar returned to the city qazi’s house then in the narrow lane where the qazi’s home was, Nasimullah arrived in his police jeep and whisked Munawwar away. On the way to the PS, Nasimullah called up some media people requesting them to ignore the surrender story.
36-year-old Md. Ilyas—a small time teacher, a post graduate in English Literature from Kota University and resident of Talabpara in Bara—was similarly visited by the Bara police several times between 20th and 25th August. His family was threatened and his father briefly taken away when the police could not find Ilyas. On25th,Ilyas finally surrendered before the Bara police who took him to the SOG HQ in Jaipur. 1
Two people from Jodhpur, namely, Azam Ghazdhar and Md. Sohail Modi were also taken into custody for questioning in connection with the Jaipur blasts, taking the total number to 13.
A feature common to all these cases was the fact that all the accused had surrendered themselves in the police station—whether in Kota, Bara or Jodhpur—but they were shown as arrested in Jaipur, where the SOG HQ is. There was typically a lag of 6-7 days between the date of surrender and the date of ostensible ‘arrest’ and production before the magistrate—thus allowing for illegal detention of a period of almost one week for every accused. This was a period spent in the custody of the SOG, which was turned practically into a vicious torture chamber.
Even though these people had been called into the local police stations on the pretext of making enquiries, no enquiries were made of them there. It was only when they were transported to the SOG HQ in Jaipur that the questioning began.
They were repeatedly asked the name of the mosque where they routinely offered namaz; names and contacts of friends and relatives, and about links with the banned organization SIMI. Questioning was accompanied with horrific torture, both physical and mental. They were continuously beaten with leather straps and belts which were 4 inches wide. These men were deprived of sleep and humiliated by threats that their wives and sisters would be also be picked up by the police.
Amanullah for example, begged the commando guarding his cell to speak to the senior officers, to ask why he was being held like this.
Following their production before the magistrate, the SOG secured police custody for fourteen days, ostensibly for questioning, following which eleven of them were handed over to the judicial custody—while the Gujarat Police got the custody of three, namely, Imran, Mehdi Hasan and Atiqur Rehman and spirited them away to Ahmedabad. When they were finally handed over to the Central Jail, Jaipur, their spirit had already been beaten by the abuse and violation they had suffered at the hands of the SOG.
The first shock they received was that the SOG, while handing them over the jail superintendent, declared that accused in the Jaipur blasts were being handed over. Upon their arrival in the jail, a board was hung at the main gate in full public view, which proclaimed that“Dreaded terrorists of SIMI are housed in this jail. Each was lodged in a solitary cell. This comprised of a kothi, a kind of an ante-chamber of 8 x 10, with two doors: the outer door was made up of metal bars and the inner door was a solid metal door.
In the period in which they were subjected to the extreme torture, a production before the magistrate was due. This was arranged for within the jail premises through video conferencing. The men were lined up, hooded—always hooded outside their cell—and assembled in a little cleared patch within the jail. Here, they waited for hours, and even a little restlessness, movement or stretching of limbs was rewarded by kicks and beatings. One of the men even fainted as a result. They were expressly threatened not to reveal anything about their torture inside the jail.
The second production was in the court where they were produced hooded. The court did not seek their hoods to be removed. It was this time when their charges were to be read out that they peeled off their hoods and showed to the magistrate what horrible states they had been reduced to: their lice- infested hair, the terrible stench from their unwashed bodies, their unbearably foul smelling clothes. It was only then that the magistrate asked the public prosecutor and jailor for ensuring the hygiene and cleanliness of the under-trials. But even now, they could not bring themselves to admit of the violations and violence to the magistrate.
In November of 2008, they moved a writ in the court seeking to be treated as ordinary prisoners—pleading that they be allowed, as per jail manual, to remain free to move outside their cells within stipulated times. When the court sought a response from the prison authorities, the reply was that these prisoners were not being subjected to any discriminatory rules—a reply that was taken at face value, adding to their despair.
They were finally let out from the inner cell into the kothi through whose latticed ceiling, they could at least see the sun. To their great misfortune, however, the same day, terrorists carried out the 26/11 attack. They were pushed back into their dingy cells—as though somehow they were responsible for what was happening in another city—or that somehow, they had become more dangerous by the turn of events.
For a long time these men were kept in the dark about the crimes they were going to be charged with. Notwithstanding the hype of bomb blasts surrounding their surrender, these men were not charged with the conspiracy or execution of serial blasts. The sections under which they were charged were: 153 A, 295 A, 120 B of CRPC and sections 3.10,13, 17, 18, 19 of UAPA (1967). They were accused of carrying out the activities of the banned organization SIMI, rather than any precise activity leading to terrorist acts. The main charge against the accused was of spreading communal venom against Hindu gods and goddesses, talking against national unity, integrity and secularism, of involving Muslim youth in anti-national activities, of carrying on activities of SIMI despite the ban on the organization, and of providing protection and refuge to those indulging in similar activities.
Though neither the chargesheets nor the FIR is able to make any direct links between them and any specific terror act, there are deliberate obfuscations and repeated allusions to Jaipur blasts and Ahmedabad blasts, in order to make their alleged crimes appear suitably grave.

FIR summary:
SIMI was banned through a government notification on 27th September 2001. The Gujarat Police made several arrests in connection with the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on 26-07-2008. The SIT of Rajasthan was investigating the serial blasts of Jaipur on 13-05- 2008 and in its interrogation of those arrested by the Gujarat police and its research found that one Sajid Mansuri, leader of SIMI was conducting meetings in Surat after the ban in 2001.6 The police raided the meeting but Mansuri managed to flee. The FIR claims that Sajid relocated to Kota and assumed the name Salim. In Kota, he organized a cell of SIMI and involved the accused (Munawwar, Imran, Pintoo, Atique, Mehdi Hasan, Ishaq, Nazakat, Amanullah, Dr. Yunus, Nadeem—all residents of Kota) in his activities who supported him knowing full well that SIMI was a banned organization. Munawar was the chief of this core group, Atique was the secretary and Imran the treasurer. Dr. Ishaq provided a house to Sajid Mansuri (alias Salim). Ishaq’s son Taufiq was also well aware of Sajid Mansuri’s activities and supported him. They held several meetings at the homes of Munawwar and Ishaq and enlisted other members as well. … In 2006, Sajid alias Salim left Kota for Baroda, handing over the charge to Munawwar. He however continued to come back to Kota and other towns of Rajasthan for SIMI work. It was found that funds were mobilized for carrying on the activities of SIMI.
Several meetings were held and addressed by SIMI leaders such as Abu Bashar, Subhan alias Tauqeer, Amil Parvez and Inamur Rehman who travelled from outside Rajasthan. Three of these activists – Imran, Atiqur Rehman and Mehdi Hasan – travelled to Gujarat to received arms training between 12-14 January 2008.
Further, the secret meetings of the banned organization were said to be held at a dargah at Nanta, Andha Hafiz Mosque, at Kewal Nagar, and under the railway track puliya on Alaniya river. These spots were identified by the accused under Section 27 of the Evidence Act. Elaborate maps of the sites were then prepared by the police in the presence of independent witnesses.
Banned literature was key evidence to demonstrate that accused were continuing the activities of an unlawful organization. This was seized from the tailoring shop of Munawwar, the alleged kingpin of the Kota Cell of SIMI.

First, senior officers who supposedly provided information to Mahendra Singh Chaudhury are not mentioned by name. No official communication is cited. Not even interrogation reports of those arrested in Gujarat—on whose basis the accused were arrested—are mentioned or quoted. This all remains in the realm of hearsay then.
Second, it inverts the process of policing. FIR is filed, accused rounded up—with not even preliminary investigation being conducted to ascertain the veracity of any of these allegations emanating from the ‘seniors’. The vagueness of allegations is only matched by the infirmity of evidences.
A total of 48 witnesses were listed by the prosecution, of which 43 were examined, the remaining five either dead or dropped by the court. By the end of the trial, almost all—38 to be precise—except the police witnesses, had turned hostile. The police witnesses proved themselves to be unreliable. Below, we examine
The recovery of banned material in the form of magazines, pamphlets and CDs—also fell flat in the court. Naval Kishore Purohit, Additional SP in SOG, who was the investigating officer of the case stated the following in the court in cross examination:
“It is true that I never got a translation of the magazines (articles 8, 9, 10) in Urdu, neither did I write any correspondence for the same, nor can it be stated what is written in these articles. It is true that SIMI was a legal organization prior to the September 2001 and that it was declared unlawful only after 2001. It is true that the articles 6-10 [copies of Islamic Movement] predate the ban. It is also true that they were not sealed upon seizure at the site. It is also true that article 13 (yellow envelope) has not been sealed. There are no signatures on it: neither mine, nor of the witnesses, nor of the accused. Neither is there a date on the article.
So the whole case had been bolstered by the recovery of magazines, which were published prior to the ban on SIMI in September 2001 and it was perfectly legal to possess them.
The report states that there can be no closure, either morally, ethically or legally, till such time as those guilty of carrying out, ordering and supervising the torture of these men in police and judicial custody are not prosecuted. The acquitted men recognize those who tortured them. Indeed, one of their tormentors—IG A. Ponnucahmi—is currently in Jaipur Jail, for a fake encounter case, while another, DIG A K Jain is a declared absconder in the same crime. Nonetheless, even those in jail must be tried separately for the brutality they wreaked in the SOG HQs, as indeed must criminal charges be filed against those who framed these men in a false case. Jail Superintendent Preeta Bhargava, currently suspended from her position as the Ajmer Jail Superintendent for granting parole to a murder convict despite the court rejecting his application, must also be made to pay for brazen violation of the jail manual.

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A ban at last- The IM story

“… Here we are back – the Mujahideen of India – the terrorists on the disbelievers – the radicals of Islam – after our triumphant and successful assault at Jaipur, once again calling you all, who disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger Muhammad to accept Islam and bear witness that there is none to be worshipped except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Accept Islam and save yourselves.

This is just one of the mails that was sent out by the Indian Mujahideen prior to the deadly Gujarat blasts which wrecked havoc. Today the Indian Mujahideen, probably one of India’s deadliest home grown terror outfit has been banned and sanctions slapped by the United States of America. It has today been designated as a foreign terror outfit since it maintains close links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and other Pakistan based outfits.

The Indian Mujahideen was designed in a manner to carry out attacks on Indian soil and more importantly all its cadres were of Indian origin. It was a perfect ploy by the ISI to ensure that terror attacks continued unabated in India without a finger being pointed at Pakistan. Today Indian Intelligence agencies and other police wings welcome the decision by the US to designate the IM as a foreign terror outfit. It is an extremely important decision since today the top leadership of the IM is not in India. Riyaz Bhatkal, Yaseen Bhatkal, Amir Reza Khan(only one of Pakistan origin), Abdus Subhan, Assadullah Akthar and a few others are all out of the country. The Indian agencies were finding it extremely difficult to apprehend these persons thanks to international laws and today with the US slapping sanctions, the job becomes easier. There are a large number of the IM operatives who are settled in the Gulf and this move by the US would make it easier to bring them down to India. However a concern that would always remain is regarding some of the cadres who are at Pakistan and no international law is good enough when it comes to dealing with that country, IB officials point out.

The US move has also given Indian agencies another reason to smile about. Although the ISI had been claiming that the IM is an outfit born and brought up in India, the US order also makes it clear that this outfit has direct links with the Lashkar. This only vindicates India’s stand that any act of terror in India has the blessings of Pakistan based outfits.

The Inception: It is a well known fact that the Indian Mujahideen is just an off shoot of the banned Student’s Islamic Movement of India. In fact it could be termed as the radical SIMI. Almost the entire leadership were part of the SIMI at one point in time. Abdus Subhan himself was a magazine editor when he was in SIMI. Riyaz too was connected with the SIMI as an activist before he decided to become part of the core committee of the IM. The first time that the IM came to the limelight was during the court blasts at Uttar Pradesh in 2007. Although a mail was sent out claiming responsibility for the attacks, no one really took the IM seriously. However what followed was a spate of attacks later. The Jaipur bombings of 2008 is when the IM actually made its entry into the big world of terror. A chilling mail which was sent out after the attack is what made everyone sit up and take notice of this outfit.

After this there were a series of attacks and the infamous operation Bangalore Ahmedabad Delhi or Operation BAD was carried out. The mails that were sent out following those attacks only went to show the kind of arrogance that this group operated with. In fact the mails were more of a challenge and the mail during the Ahmedabad blasts was sent out five minutes prior to the blast. Some in the IB says that it is this arrogance which did them in finally and today they find themselves on a very weak footing.

Acts of terror:

Uttar Pradesh court blasts of 2007 November

Jaipur bombing of May 2008

Bangalore serial blasts on July 25 2008

Ahmedabad bombings on July 26 2008

Delhi bombings of 13 September 2008

Pune bombings of 2010

Jama Masjid Attack of 2010

Varanasi bombing of 2011

The 13/7 blasts (yet to be verified by the police)

Bombay serial blasts-2008

Top Leadership:

Amir Reza Khan of Pakistan who is the only non Indian in the outfit is considered to be the founder of the group. Originally from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, he was a faithful commander and was later handed over the responsibility of setting up this outfit.

Safdar Nagori is another man associated with this outfit. Although he is credited with establishing the radical SIMI, it is said that larger plan hatched by him was to be part of the IM. However before the outfit could take shape he was arrested.

Riyaz Bhatkal who is still elusive was one of the key members of the organization. Hailing from the coastal Bhatkal town he is said to be one of the first members of the outfit. Today however there is a lurking doubt whether he is alive or not. Although some gangster had claimed to have eliminated him, there is absolutely no confirmation what so ever regarding his death.

Abdus Subhan who was originally a magazine editor in the SIMI became a central figure of the outfit. He is said to have set up the technical cell of the IM which eventually hacked into un secured wifi networks and sent out mails. Although those who knew him say way too much has been made out of his capabilities, Indian agencies believe that he is a crucial character in the outfit. Today Subhan is said to be hiding in Pakistan.

Mansoor Peerbhouy is today under arrest. He however could be credited with setting up the technical wing under the guidance of Subhan. A techie who worked with several reputed companies, he in fact after his arrest gave the police all the answers regarding the manner in which the IM mailing system worked.

The downfall:

Basically what the IM did was irk the police no end. All their mails and communication always took a dig at the police and the slogan was clear, “ catch us if you can.” The police did raise the bar and if one notices the manner in which the IM has been handled in the past two years one could say that they were hunted down. The real turning point was however the Batla House encounter. In a major battle between the Delhi police and some boys alleged to be IM members, it was the police who had the final say. However there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this encounter and many cry foul stating that it was fake. While this was the downfall of the IM some feel that this could be one of the biggest excuses on which they would plot their come back as well.

The restructuring:

This is something that has been worrying agencies no end. There has been a slump for the moment, but the fact that the top leadership is still elusive gives out worrying signals. The recruitment drive as of now is very slow. It is hard to say whether this is the correct picture or is it just a ploy to keep the heat at bay. Very slow movement has been witnessed especially in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi and also Pune. Although there is nothing significant the police are not taking chances. There are still several members who are out straying and they have been coming together and carrying out smaller attacks. In addition to this there are also several intercepts to show that the top leadership is very much in touch with groups such as the Lashkar and are planning a come back. It may not happen anytime soon, but they will surely make an attempt, a police officer said.