Hung upside down, deprived of sleep, forced to drink urine and liquor — Naushad Kazmi endured all this and communal slurs in jail. However, his faith in the law dithered when a senior Uttar Pradesh STF officer told him he should expect no justice in a “Hindu Rashtra.” The officer, he claims, said: “This is a Hindu Rashtra. The courts will listen to us, not you,” .
A resident of Bijnore in western U.P., Mr. Kazmi walked out of a Lucknow jail on Friday after spending almost nine years behind bars on terror and sedition charges. Three others acquitted with him — Ali Akbar Hussain, Sheikh Mukhtar Hussain and Aziz-ur-Rehman Sardar — are residents of West Bengal’s 24 Paraganas North district.
A labourer from Alwar, Rajasthan, Mr. Kazmi was picked up by police on June 19, 2007. He says he was tortured for the next three-four days and asked to name the “terrorists” working with him. On June 23, 2007, he was shown as arrested in Lucknow, with another terror accused Jalaluddin, who Mr. Kazmi claims he had never seen.
The two were among the many arrested in 2007 by the U.P. Special Task Force, which claimed the men were trained Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam operatives on their way to carry out terror activities in the State. A special court in Lucknow in October 2015, however, acquitted the four men, along with two others, Jalaluddin and Nur Islam, of the terror charges for want of evidence.
In the course of their trial, in August 2008, they were booked on sedition charge for allegedly raising anti-India slogans in court. On Friday, Ali Akbar, Sheikh Mukhtar, Naushad, Aziz-ur-Rehman and Nur Islam were acquitted in the sedition case. “It’s like a natural calamity — no matter how angry you get, there is nothing you can do. When the State is not honest, what justice can the common man expect?” asks Mr. Rehman.
Mr. Rehman, who did odd jobs for a living in West Bengal at the time of his arrest, was initially detained by the Kolkata CID for questioning in a smuggling case. To extend his remand, he says, he was also implicated in a case of robbery.
“The STF claimed that the men had come to U.P. to indulge in “anti-national” activities but when they learnt of the arrest of their alleged associates, Naushad and Jalaluddin, at Charbagh station, they went to nearby Mohanlalganj and hid their explosives. Mr. Rehman, however, says the policemen “planted” the explosives at the site.
For lawyer Mohammad Shoaib, the acquittals are a personal victory. “The central investigation agencies have been planting stories, some of which are like film scripts,” Mr. Shoaib alleged.