Of lip service on Women’s Day and our apathy towards jailed innocents

We ‘celebrate’ Women’s Day, then become almost indifferent to rising crimes against women. Similarly, our apathy towards the prisoners who are released after being proven innocent is shocking

Of lip service on Women’s Day and our apathy towards jailed innocents

Humra Quraishi

It is supposedly Spring time in North India, but where’s the bahaar! Nowhere! There’s distress, in and around. Price rise is one of those aspects affecting most of us. Not to overlook the rising crimes against women. Yes, if we are done and over with ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tea parties on the just passed by Women’s day, it's time to look at the dark chilling details of the killings and rapes taking place.

As a young girl I have travelled through Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, Meerut, Unnao, Kanpur, Jhansi, Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Bareilly … In fact, all possible towns and cities and qasbahs of Uttar Pradesh, as my engineer father loved to travel and invariably my mother and siblings and I would accompany him. In the 60s and 70s there was little scare of the mafia holding sway, killing and raping and dumping young girls.

Today, violence is spreading out to such an extent that no woman feels safe! In the midst of horrifying crimes the Uttar Pradesh government celebrated the International Women’s Day!! Could there be a bigger farce than this!

Another disturbing reality

Few years back, after viewing the late Shubhradeep Chakravorty’s documentary ‘After The Storm’ it got more than writ large that innocents do get framed, and with that their lives ruined!

This documentary focusses on seven young men — Mukhtar Ahmed, Md. Fassiuddin Ahmed, Umar Farooque, Moutasim Billah, Harith Ansari, Md. Musarrat Hussain ‘Bobby’ and Shaikh Abdul Kaleem. They were imprisoned on false charges till they were acquitted by the Courts. Although freed, each one of them found it very difficult to survive. They received no compensation and no apology from the establishment for ruining their lives and with that of their families. In fact, Chakravorty had told me that these seven men were amongst the hundreds arrested, falsely implicated with bogus charges. He detailed that young men can be detained if not arrested by the police on the flimsiest of charges, at times even without a charge! On mere suspicion or to create an atmosphere of fear. And even if acquitted, they sit ruined and devastated for times to come. Nobody even bothers to ask the basic question-What happens to the lives and livelihood of innocent men, caged for so many years?

Out of the many such examples, I’m putting forth these absolutely glaring ones:

In 2019, the Rajasthan High Court acquitted six lifers while upholding the death sentence to one and the life term to another, in the 23-year-old case of bomb blast in a bus at Samleti in Dauisa district, in which 14 persons were killed. The six lifers who were set free by a Jaipur bench of the High Court included five J&K natives — Javed Khan, Latif Ahmed, Mohammad Ali Bhatt, Mirza Nissar Hussain and Abdul Ghani. The sixth acquitted, Rais Beg, was from Agra in Uttar Pradesh. The court acquitted them, ruling that the prosecution failed to prove their links with the conspiracy of the blast.

In the Spring of 2017, two innocents and one ‘half-innocent’ men walked out free from the confines of the Tihar Jail, after twelve long years of imprisonment. Not a word of apology, no compensation from the State to these three men— Hussain Fazili, Rafiq Shah and Tariq Ahmad Dar. They were arrested on charges of plotting and carrying out terror strikes in New Delhi in 2005. But those charges proved baseless. …As the Delhi court said the police “miserably failed” to prove charges against them. Of the three accused of plotting and also carrying out the terror strikes, two of them, Hussain Fazili and Rafiq Shah, were acquitted of all charges. Tariq Ahmad Dar, who the police claimed was the alleged mastermind, could not be convicted of conspiracy in the absence of any evidence.

The court stated, “Even though no charge was framed against Dar for the offences under sections 38 and 39 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the ingredients of the offences (38 and 39 UAPA) are very much made out... Hence for the reasons recorded above, Dar is found guilty of the offences under section 38 and 39 of UAPA... However, Dar will walk free since he has already served two years more than the 10-year-prison term awarded to him.”

And now more recently, in the first week of March 2021, news reports splashed in all the national dailies, that the Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Surat acquitted all the 127 accused booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2001 for participating in a meeting allegedly organised to promote the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), saying the evidence against them was “not reliable or satisfactory enough”.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Amit kumar Dave said the investigators had failed to prove the accused “were members of the banned outfit or that they had gathered there to give a push to the movement”. “The court has found that the accused had gathered to attend (an) educational programme and had not carried any weapons. The prosecution has also not proved that the accused had gathered for any activity related to SIMI. Even during the raids not a single member out of 123 arrested from the spot tried to escape. Neither do the seized documents have any relevance with SIMI.”

To quote from a news report – “ Of the 127, 111 were present in court on Saturday. Seven are dead, five are in jail on other charges, while four are bedridden. Almost all of them spent 10 months to one year in jail, subsequently getting bail from the Gujarat High Court.”

The State did not dismiss nor punish those police officers who implicated these men. Not to overlook this basic underlying factor— those implicated were providers or potential providers for their families before they were arrested and made to sit imprisoned. What now! What happens to them and their families? Who will provide for them?

Remembering Sahir Ludhianvi

I am reading, rather re- reading, Sahir Ludhianvi’s verse from ‘Anthems of Resistance’ Apt time to focus on Sahir’s these absolutely hitting lines on tyranny …

“Tyranny is but tyranny; when it grows, it is vanquished/

Blood however is blood; if it spills, it will congeal/

It will congeal on the desert sands, on the murderer’s hands/

On the brow of justice, and on chained feet/

On the unjust sword, on the sacrificial body/

Blood is blood, if it spills, it takes root/

Let them hide all they want, skulk in their lairs/

The tracks of spilled blood will point out the executioners’ abode/

Let conspiracies shroud the truth with darkness/

Each drop of blood will march out, holding aloft a lamp/…

That blood which you wished to bury in the killing fields/

Has risen today in the streets and courts/

Somewhere as a flame, somewhere as a slogan, somewhere else as a flung stone/

When blood flows, banoyets cannot contain it /

When it raises its defiant head, laws will not restrain it /

Tyranny has no caste, no community, no status nor dignity/

Tyranny is simply tyranny; from its beginning to its end/

Blood however is blood; it becomes a hundred things:

Shapes that cannot be obliterated/

Flames that can never be extinguished/

Chants that will not be suppressed.”

Views expressed in the article are personal

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