Five years after being acquitted in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case, life continues to be a struggle for Mohd. Abdul Raheem (32), now a grocery store owner. The trader was arrested in the Mecca Masjid blast case in 2007 and had to spend nearly six months in prison before being released on bail.
At the time of the arrest, this Malakpet resident was driving auto rickshaw for a living. He was one among the several youth from Old City who faced charges of criminal conspiracy in the Mecca Masjid blast case. Memories of the ordeal are still etched freshly in Rahim’s mind.
“I was kept in a farm house and tortured for days, and later police presented me before a court and sent me to jail where I spent six months,” he recalls.
Those six months changed Raheem’s life forever.
“After my release, my family members became social outcasts. Fearing police, relatives, friends and neighbours avoided us. Strangers looked at us with suspicion, and I became an outsider in my own neighbourhood. I had no option but to shift to a new place to start life afresh,” Raheem, now father of a two-year-old boy, says.
Raheem lived in the Malakpet area where terrorist Shahid Bilal resided. The trader maintains that like any other person in the neighbourhood, he also knew Shahid Bilal.
“Police picked me up on mere suspicion. They could have released me after interrogation, but they jailed me, which ruined my life,” he says. On the recommendations of the National Commission for Minorities, the government had offered Rs. 3 lakh as compensation to those who were falsely implicated, arrested and jailed.
“Can the government wash off its hands by paying some money? If it was not for my family’s deteriorating financial condition after my arrest, I would have rejected the compensation. If the government is really sincere, it should punish the guilty police officials,” he demanded.
It was March, 2008, and Moutasim Billa recalls stepping out of his home when a police team in plainclothes dragged him into a waiting four-wheeler and sped away. The M.Tech student maintains that for the next few days he was subjected to third degree torture at a farm house on the city outskirts.
“Police wanted me to confess that I was involved in the Mecca Masjid blast. How can I do it when I did not have any role in it?” the second year M. Tech student asks. At the time of the arrest, Moutasim was pursuing B-Tech degree.
“I spent 100 days in jail before being granted bail by the court. I lost one full academic year due to this, and my family was shattered,” he recalls. The 27-year-old has been steadfast in rejecting the compensation of the government.
“The compensation was a bribe to keep my mouth shut. Why can’t the government punish the guilty police officials for foisting a false case? he claimed. Frightened by the possibility of police targeting his friends, Moutasim, these days, has become a social recluse. “I do not meet people frequently or make friends, because if I do, then they could be targeted by police,” he says.