Arrest all 42 cops whose testimonies have been proved false by Nimish panel: Khalid’s uncle

In the early hours of December 22, 2007, the Uttar Pradesh police Special Task Force (STF) claimed to have arrested Khalid Mujahid of Jaunpur and Tariq Kasmi of Azamgarh with explosive substances — gelatin rods, detonators and RDX — from the Barabanki railway station. The police said they were Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami operatives and involved in the serial court blasts that rocked Faizabad, Lucknow and Gorakhpur earlier that year.

However, the police version was strongly contested and after an uproar, the Bahujan Samaj Party government constituted the R.D. Nimish Commission to probe the arrests.

During its enquiry, which lasted four and half years, the one-man Commission examined oral and documentary evidence of several witnesses of State authorities, the prosecution, the accused and rights groups. Noting discrepancies in the police version, it concluded that the “arrests on December 22, 2007” were “suspicious” and incongruous with the facts narrated in the FIR. The commission also calls for possible criminal proceedings against the officers who implicated the duo.

Though the Nimish report was submitted last August, it is yet to be made public; nor has it been acknowledged in any of the applications moved by the State while seeking to withdraw the cases against Khalid and Tariq. In its election manifesto, the Samajwadi Party had promised to withdraw cases against innocent Muslims implicated in terror cases.

An affidavit filed in a Barabanki court on May 3 mentions “the public interest and maintenance of communal harmony” as the reasons for withdrawal of the case. But there is no mention of the Nimish report. The government’s application was outright rejected.

As per procedure, the report should have been tabled in the Assembly within six months of submission. However, various RTI queries for releasing the report in the public domain have gone unanswered, and a PIL petition has now been filed for the same in the Allahabad High Court.

Key questions

The Hindu has a leaked copy of the 237-page Nimish report, which raises key questions about the arrests. The versions given by the two accused, as acknowledged by the Commission, indicate that they were “abducted” by unknown persons days before they were shown as having been arrested by the STF. Tariq, a Unani doctor, was abducted on December 12, 2007 near his clinic in Azamgarh by men in a white Tata Sumo. He was taken to a location in Varanasi and later in the evening transported to Lucknow and shut in an undisclosed room. Call details indicate that after the last call made on December 12 from his locality, his mobile phone’s locations on December 13, 17, 18, 19 and 20 were shown to be different places in Lucknow.

Four days after the abduction of Tariq, Khalid was allegedly picked up similarly from a market at Madiyahu, Jaunpur, and taken to Lucknow.

In their statements, both the accused alleged that they were assaulted during this period and threatened that their relatives would be harmed if they did not confess to the crime. They were also allegedly forced to sign on some documents.

The Nimish report says it cannot be said “that the persons who abducted the two were indeed STF personnel.”

Significantly, on the day of the alleged abductions, Tariq’s grandfather Azhar Ali and Khalid’s uncle Zaheer Alam Falahi filed FIRs in the local police stations. Mr. Falahi sent applications also to the National Human Rights Commission and the U.P. Director General of Police. The following days, letters, representations and applications were sent to the Chief Minister, the District Magistrate and other authorities. Yet, why was no action taken, asks the report. Another poser is why despite Tariq’s phone remaining switched on and off, as noted in the FIR, no attempt was made to trace its location.

When Mr. Falahi sought, in an RTI plea, general diary entries made during the period December 16-23, 2007 relating to “Khalid’s abduction and (or) arrest,” the Madiyahu Circle Officer informed him that his nephew was arrested on at 6.30 p.m. on December 16 by the STF from Madiyahu. Since it was a criminal case, further information could not be provided as it was barred under Section 8(j) of the RTI Act, the reply said. The Hindu has a copy of the document.

Also, in the intervening night of December 18-19 some plainclothesmen reached Khalid’s house and took away his personal belongings including a copy of the Koran, without giving any reason.

The STF’s claim that Khalid was found with a bus ticket and a cycle stand coupon dated December 16 from Varanasi has also been punctured by the Commission. “If he was abducted and his motorbike stolen the same day, how was it possible that he parked his bike at a cycle stand in Varanasi?”

As for the report that Khalid and Tariq were allegedly caught with explosives, the Commission asked: if the two men were abducted days before their supposed arrests, then who was the source of the explosives?

The news of the abductions was carried in local dailies; in Khalid’s case on December 17, 2007 and on various dates till December 22, 2007 about Tariq.

On December 17, Hindi Daily Hindustan reported a dharna staged by the National Loktantrik Party (NLP) in protest of Tariq’s abduction. Days later, the NLP sent a plea to the Chief Minister, calling for a search. The head of the State’s youth wing even wrote to the Governor saying if Tariq was not found by December 22, he would commit suicide in public.

Taking a view of these developments, the Commission says that without proper cause, the FIRs could not have been filed and a dharna staged.

Now, following the custodial death of Khalid last month, pressure from civil rights groups has been mounting on the State to make the report public and act on it. On Tuesday, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced that the Cabinet had accepted the report and it, along with an action taken report, would be tabled in the coming legislature session.

Responding to this, Mr. Falahi called for the arrests of the 42 police personnel, including senior officers, whom he has named in an FIR filed after Khalid’s death.

“Their testimonies have been proved false by the Commission. They must be arrested. The government talked of the Nimish report only after the death of my nephew” he says.