Mumbai Local

Spy who never was, speaks up after 14 years

On the evening of April 12, the Little Theatre at the National Centre for Performing Arts was packed with people listening to the story of Mohammad Aamir Khan, a 39-year-old man from Delhi who was proved innocent 14 years after being charged in 18 bomb blast cases. He has been acquitted in 17 cases. Two appeals are pending before the Delhi High Court.

Mr Khan, the author of a book, Framed As a Terrorist: My 14-Year Old Struggle to Prove My Innocence (Speaking Tiger, 2016), was in conversation with journalist Sidharth Bhatia, and the event was hosted by Literature Live. Khan spoke of police brutality and torture, the pain of his now deceased mother who ran from pillar to post to ensure he got justice; his wife Alia who patiently waited for his release; his two-year old daughter Anusha in whose education he has deeply invested; but, most of all, his unshakeable faith in democracy, secularism, and justice. Anil Dharker, Founder and Director of Literature Live, said: “Aamir’s lack of bitterness, and his humanity, have touched us all.”

Mr Khan has co-written the book with human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar, who sets the context for his struggles in the criminal justice system with an introduction. Ms. Haksar describes Mr. Khan as “an ordinary young man born in a Muslim family living in the by-lanes of Old Delhi” whose dreams “were cut short when he was kidnapped by the police and found himself accused of being a terrorist and being in league with dreaded Pakistan-based militants.”

The book provides a detailed account of the events before Mr. Khan went to Karachi in February 1998 to visit his sister Chaman Ara who had married a Pakistani businessman, Mohammad Nasir Batla. When Mr. Khan was making an exit from the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi with his travel documents, he writes, he was “accosted by a man who introduced himself as Gupta from the Intelligence Department.”

Through this mysterious person, writes Ms Haksar, “Aamir was recruited to be a courier, but not given any training ... he did what any untrained person would do when asked to smuggle something across a militarized border: abort. He ran to the safety of his home, his country.”

On his return to Delhi, Mr. Khan met Guptaji in a restaurant, who, he writes, was not just angry, but also “threatened me with dire consequences.” Mr. Khan was accused of being “a Pakistani agent,” recruited “by the Pakistani intelligence services.”

While Mr. Bhatia emphasised how Mr. Khan had perhaps paid the price of “the unfinished business of Partition,” Mr. Khan said, “I am proud of my ancestors because they chose India, and rejected Jinnah. We are Indians by choice, and not by chance.” My father, who is no longer alive, used to say that we will die on the soil that we were born in.” Mr. Bhatia praised Mr. Khan for his “total faith in India despite everything that has happened to him,” and called it “much deeper than the kind of fake nationalism we hear about these days.”

While Mr. Khan talked about the discrimination meted out to him in prison on account of his being Muslim, he also expressed his gratitude towards “witnesses who spoke the truth even under pressure, though they were not of my religion.” He pointed out that police brutality is not restricted to Muslims alone.



Aamir Khan of Delhi says he is thankful to witnesses who spoke the truth under pressure



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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 4:34:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/Spy-who-never-was-speaks-up-after-14-years/article14238733.ece

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