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.
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.