“If I was the mastermind, then why are the others still in jail?”
A day after his release from jail, 26-year-old journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui has accused the police of harbouring an “institutional bias” against the Muslim community. “If I wasn’t Muslim, they would never have held me [on charges of being part of a terror module],” he said at a packed press conference here on Tuesday.
Barely able to conceal his resentment toward law enforcement agencies and sections of the media that branded him as the “mastermind” of a terror module, Mr. Siddiqui said: “The media and the police need to be more sensitive toward the downtrodden, Dalits and Muslims. The way the media and the police behaved raises basic questions about their attitude toward Muslims. Muslims are often cast by them in stereotypes. There is an institutional bias which manifests in such cases. This is not just about me; it is about hundreds like me who are in jails [across the country] on terror charges. Muslims are not terrorists.”
He said, “The media forgot the ‘A’ in the ABC of Journalism [Accuracy-Brevity-Clarity].”
Mr. Siddiqui was arrested by the Crime Branch of the Bangalore Police, along with 14 others, in August 2012 on charges of plotting to assassinate prominent Hindutva leaders as well as some journalists. The National Investigation Agency, which later took over the case, found no evidence against either Mr. Siddiqui or Yusuf Nalband in their charge sheet.
Pleading the case of the other 13 still in jail, Mr. Siddiqui said, “According to the [Bangalore] police and the media, I am the mastermind. If I am the mastermind, why are the others still in jail? I hope they too will get justice.” He said journalism was his passion and he wanted to continue. Asked if he would sue the police, he said, “I haven’t thought about that. I want to spend time with my family first.”
He also alleged that the police did not follow protocol during his arrest. “They did not inform our families. They did not tell us what we were being arrested for. They made us sign 30-40 blank sheets of paper. One of these papers was used to create fake, back-dated arrest intimation.”
Mr. Nalband (28), the technician who was released along with Mr. Siddiqui, was reticent during the press conference. He later told The Hindu, “I could not sleep the whole of last [Monday] night. I had all kinds of thoughts. I am not sure if life will be normal again. I am hoping I can get back to my life, God willing.”
He also alleged that the Hyderabad police, who assisted the Bangalore police during the arrests, forced the accused to wear Islamic skull caps before taking them out of the house where they were arrested. “I don’t know why they did that,” he said.