Acquitted School Teacher Rallies For All ‘Innocent Prisoners’ | #teacher | #children | #kids


Urdu satirist Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi
survived several dictatorial regimes in Pakistan without compromising on his wit and humour. Many
people find solace in his writings and get inspired to face the toughest phases
of their lives with a determined heart and a smiling face. Reading Yusufi,
while being subjected to physical and mental torture by the sleuths of Mumbai
(Anti-Terrorism Squad) ATS, has perhaps kept the hope and resolve alive in Abdul Wahid Sheikh, one of the 13 accused in 2006 Mumbai blasts case.

At least 209 people were killed and more than 700 hundred were officially declared injured in a series of seven blasts that took place in Mumbai Suburban Railway on July 11, 2006. 

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Abdul Wahid was cleared of all the
terror charges and released in 2015 after the Mumbai ATS failed to produce any evidence of his involvement in the deadly bombings.
He, however, believes that other accused – who were convicted by the same court – are also innocent
and have been framed in the case. In his book, ‘Begunah Qaidi’ – which
reveals the entire investigation of the case from an accused’s perspective
– first released in Urdu and Hindi, Wahid recalls what the accused had to face in the case. It talks about how the proofs were fabricated to suit the narrative of the security agencies. 

This
book contains several details on how some professionals like lawyers and
doctors work closely with the ATS to forge evidence to build up a particular
case against anyone. The 504-page book is now available in English as ‘Innocent Prisoners’.

The book also covers case studies of German Bakery blasts 2010, Malegaon Blasts 2006, Aurangabad Arms Haul case 2006, Akshardham attack 2002 and the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ plank used by the security agencies.

Wahid spoke to Indiatimes about his
book, his life in and outside the jail, and his efforts to ensure that other innocent prisoners come out of
jail and live as a free citizen of the country.

‘More innocent than me’

Wahid,
who had to spend more than nine years of his life in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail,
says that others, who are still in jail in this particular case, are the victims of the Mumbai ATS that was working under pressure to solve the case.

“You
will be writing about me and my story, that’s not enough. There are others who
have been framed in the case like me. But they too are innocent. More innocent
than me,” pleads Wahid.

He
was first arrested in 2001 when the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI)
was banned by the government and many of its members were nabbed by the
security agencies on various terror charges. Wahid was working as a primary
school teacher at Mumbai’s Anjuman Islam School. His was reinstated after getting a clean-chit in the case. 

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“They
booked me as a SIMI member under the UAPA, but couldn’t find anything against
me. In 2003, I got married and started a new life with a scar of being arrested
on terror charges. However, my wife supported me all the while. When I was
picked up in 2006 after the blasts, she was the one who informed every one,
therefore, the police could not plant fake evidence at my home,” he recalls.

In September 2015, court found twelve people guilty for the blast. In its 1839-page verdict, the court awarded five of these convicts the death sentence, and the rest were handed life terms. Only Wahid was let off.

“Others
could not understand the intentions of the police initially, they thought it was just an
interrogation. Meanwhile, police planted false proofs against them, which
proved that they were guilty. But police know very well what they have done to
all of us,” says Wahid, adding that it was easy for the police to pick them
because they had their names in police records. They had nothing to do with
the train blasts, he reiterated.

“I am out, that’s fine, but a part of me is still languishing in jail with the eleven accused, who are also innocent.”

How Advocate Shahid Azmi helped
disseminating the message

The
idea of writing a book didn’t come to Wahid all of a sudden. He had been contributing
articles to Urdu dailies on current issues.

“Even
when I was in jail, I used to write for Urdu newspapers. I am thankful that
they published my work at that time. In 2007, we thought of making an annual
report of what the ATS was doing in the case. We did it for the nest two years
and were forced to stop it in 2009,” he says.

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“Late
advocate Shahid Azmi used to translate our reports in English and share it with
human rights activists and lawyers. Police used to snatch and destroy some
parts of it. We had to stop doing this in 2009, but the idea of writing a book
came during that time. I wanted it to be a document for all those who are the
victims of this system.”

Azmi was assassinated by a gunmen at his office in Mumbai in February 2010.

When Mumbai ATS explained its logic

“You
are Muslims, Muslims support Pakistan, Pakistan sends RDX, RDX can only be used
by Muslims, Hindus can’t carry out blasts in India.” 

Wahid says that the Mumbai
ATS had only presented this explanation, whenever they were asked about the reasons for
making the 13 people accused in this case.

“It
is clear that we were targeted because of our Muslim identity. The majority
of police officers we have come across believe that Muslims are responsible for terrorist activities. I have learnt
it during my stay in jail. If you are a Muslim, you will be a scapegoat,”
laments Wahid.

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When
asked if he ever thought of giving up his religious identity because of which
he was targeted, he replied, “Never, the realisation that we were targeted
because of our religious identity brought us closer to our faith. We never stopped
praying. It gave us strength to withstand all the atrocities.”

Disappointment with judiciary

Despite
being let off by the court, Wahid feels that judiciary is not doing its work
properly. He says that if the judiciary works in without preconceived notions, security agencies can’t
fake the proofs easily.

“Judiciary
is meant for justice, not for toeing the dominant politics. Over the years we
have seen that many cases are decided to suit the dominant political and security narrative. It breaks my heart to see judiciary behaving in such a
way. It has resulted in injustice for many innocent people,” he says.

Prose, poetry and hopes of better times

While
suffering mental and physical torture, Wahid says, he did not give up on small
moments of joy with inmates as they all knew they were innocent and were hoping
to come out of prison sooner rather than later.

“Whenever
we were not interrogated or beaten up, we would sit and read poetry by
Mirza Ghalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Iqbal. We would recite romantic poetry too.
That made us forget our mental and physical scars,” he says.

“I
am a huge fan of humourist Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi. I read his four books while I
was in jail. We all used to read and discuss what he has written.”    

Wahid hopes that like him, other innocent prisoners across the country will get justice and their misery will end soon.

“I have travelled across India with my book. I tell people our stories. I know others are not guilty, police have told us privately that they are innocent. One day, i hope and pray, they will also be released.”  



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