Saleha Khatoon is convinced that her brother Zahid Sheikh, the alleged mastermind of the July 26 blasts in Ahmedabad is being framed. Her conviction stems from several “factors,” one being that Sheikh rode to the Crime Branch office on his own. “If he was a terrorist, why would he drive to the Crime Branch office on his won motorbike?” she questions.
In the Capital to share her story at the ongoing three-day national meet on “What it means to be a Muslim in India today”, being organised by ANHAD, Khatoon said her brother is among the hundreds of other Muslim men who are being held under charges as serious as terrorism.
“He owned a mobile shop and on the day of the blasts we called him and told him to get home. The next day he watched the news about the blasts with the rest of us at home. A couple of days later on July 31, he was asked to report to the Crime Branch for some inquiry on sim cards. He offered the namaz and went to the police station,” said Khatoon listing the details about her brother’s arrest.
“After several days my parents were allowed to meet him for a few minutes, he couldn’t walk and broke down. He told my parents that he was being mentally tortured. Later we were assured that he will be let off after August 15, but on August 16 he was shown as arrested along with several others,” recalled the sister, who wants justice for her brother.
Testimonies like Khatoon’s poured in from States like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, where hundreds of people have been accused of terrorist activities.
Abu Zafar, a journalist who was detained after he met his brother Abu Baker also an accused in jail, rued that even the human rights commissions in the country have failed to step in and come to the aid of the affected people. “After I was detained I wrote to the human rights commission several times, but never heard from them. This country is not secular, it is communal.
There are no checks and balances and there is rampant injustice even in prisons. In Sabarmati jail they have stopped prisoners from receiving or sending letters written in Urdu. They were not allowed to offer namaz on Eid.”
Pointing out to the apathy of the State, Shafeeq Rehman Mahajir an advocate associated with the Makka Masjid blast said that the claims made by the police about the use of violence against the people are baseless and false. Soon after the May 18, 2007 blasts in the old city area in Hyderabad, police claimed to have opened fire to quell protests. Five people were shot dead immediately after the blasts.
“They claimed that the mob had become violent and had to be controlled. They said the mob was not allowing the ambulances to rescue the injured and they were threatening to set afire a petrol pump. The DCP said there were militants inside the mosque, who were merely recognised as terrorists because they raised the slogans ‘Allah O Akbar’,” alleged Mr. Mahajir, who showed photographs and footage, shot on the day, to contest the claims of the police.
Accusing the State of not doing enough, he said: “There is a visible reluctance on the part of the State to ignore the truth. In the face of damning evidence the Government seems to be turning a blind eye… giving officials the opportunity to act with impunity. This policy can breed terrorism,” he cautioned.
A panel of distinguished members including Admiral Ramdas, Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi, Asghar Ali Engineer, Tarun Tejpal, Zoya Hasan and Mahesh Bhatt among others are scheduled to come up with recommendations during the meet.