When I met Abdul Nasar Maudany, the well known Muslim spiritual leader a few years ago in jail with other colleagues and friends, much before we made our documentary film `Fabricated', he talked to me with great compassion as a long lost friend. I was meeting him for the first time in my life, though I have known him through my own sub-conscious mind. After listening to him for half an hour, I asked him a question: `What can we do for you?' He smiled and said that he was not the only innocent person spending his life in jail, but there are thousands of others also who have been implicated in fabricated cases like him. He said that there are enough cases in the same jail where he is imprisoned and he requested us to do something for them. His words `I am not the only one' still echoes in my ear. It was like John Lenon song `Imagine' where he sings that he was not the only one. But John Lenon was singing about his dream. Maudany was talking about his hard reality.
Since Maudany could not walk and was moved on a wheel chair by a young person, he requested him to bring a boy to us. Maudany could not walk because one of his legs was bombed by the RSS activists. The boy who was brought to us was called Zakaria, who was also in the same jail called Parappana Agrahara Jail, around one and a half hours from Bangalore. Incidentally, the term `Agrahara' means `Brahmin Village'.
Zakaria came to us and my colleague and friend Jisha Josh started asking him about his situation. The boy seemed dazed and physically and psychologically affected. He did not even know why the hell he was in this `Brahmin vllage' called `jail'. Perhaps it was a historical compassionate treat for the boy with a Muslim name in a Brahmin village, saying that you don't have to struggle hard with small time jobs. Your food and lodging is guaranteed here.
Zakaria was in literal terms `kidnapped' by the Karnataka police in Tirur, Kerala and accused of providing technical services for the Bangalore blast. Forget the idea of providing technical services for the blast, the boy could not even speak English when we met him. Interestingly, many of these programmed blasts may not kill people. But they kill so many innocent lives slowly in jail. The crime of the boy was: 1) He was working in a small mobile store, and 2) He was a Muslim. That was enough.
The nineteen year old boy Zakaria was arrested under UAPA, and even under this draconian law called UAPA ( Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) there are provisions which says that if you arrest a person, the police should inform the family immediately. Even this minimum human act was not undertaken and he was not allowed to call his family. The worried family came to know that their child was imprisoned ,`branded' as a terrorist, through the newspapers only a few days later.
The Karnataka police did not take take the permission from the Kerala authorities to arrest a Malayali Muslim boy.
After we came out of this agrahara prison village, where every `civilised' men in uniform were extending their hands for money, my colleague Jisha Josh wrote an excellent article in a mainstream Malayalam publication, exposing the lies behind this case. She went to Zakaria's village and enquired about the case and met the witnesses, friends and his family. Accidentally when I called her while she was with his family, I could hear his mother sobbing in the background. It was not one Zakaria whom they arrested branding as a terrorist. It was a whole family, relatives and friends who were ostracised after the blatant lies which came out in the mainstream newspapers, fed by the police.
The article by Jisha Josh on Zakaria created some waves in Kerala. Before Jisha's article on Zakaria, KK Shahina had exposed the lies behind the fabricated case on Abdul Nasar Maudany in Tehelka. Both these articles were written by women. And I do not know why men in Kerala do not have the courage to do such investigative stories.
After the article by Jisha Josh on Zakaria, with the initiative of Solidarity Youth Movement, a joint action committee comprising of many groups called for a public meeting in Zakaria's home town known as Parappanangadi in Malappuram district. The public meeting was attended by around 1,000 people and many secular persons as well as representatives of Muslim groups also spoke. I was one of the speakers along with Jisha Josh, Civic Chandran (well known poet), M. Gangadharan (known historian) and many other speakers. It was only after this public meeting that the local people realised that the innocent boy was not a terrorist. Till then, the family, friends and relatives of Zakaria had faced some kind of ostracisation due to mainstream media reports based entirely on the police version only. When I went to buy cigarrettes in between the meeting, I could hear the local people near the shop talking with guilt that till then they had assumed that their boy was a terrorist.
The Karnataka police did not take take the permission from the Kerala authorities to arrest a Malayali Muslim boy. They had produced two witnesses to justify their claims. One of them was a person whom the Karnataka police had not even met and the other was a person was forced to sign a statement in Kannada. Malayalees in Malappuram district do not read Kannada language. Both these witnesses came out in public saying that the case was fabricated. But unfortunately, the court did not listen. The case is still going on. More witnesses are being fabricated now to strengthen the case. When I go through such cases, I feel that `agrahara' is not just a term for a village, it can also be applied to the court rooms in India also.
Zakaria is completing six years in prison on February5, 2015. No judgement yet, and he is waiting for a judgement. He is just one of the thousands of people who are waiting for their judgements in prison. The question for a democratic country is this: Why the hell should prisoners wait for their judgements in prison. If Zakaria is proven to be guilty, a judge can make a judgement that he deserves to be in prison for a certain period of time. But spending six years waiting for a judgement is unacceptable as per any civilised norms. It violates the basic premises of the Indian Constitution itself. However, the UAPA (the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) provides justification for such a crime over innocent people branded and fabricated as terrorists.
On this day of February 5, we must not only listen to the sighs of thousands of innocent people like Zakaria who are languishing in Indian jails, but also the sighs of their dearest ones, struggling to gather justice for their kith and kin. Justice in this country will not be received as a charity. It is something that the people of this country will have to struggle for!
K.P Sasi is an award winning film director and a political activist. He is also an Associate Editor of Countercurrents.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
04 February, 2015