CHAND Khan alias Shan Khan spent 11 years in jail in the 2002 Akshardham temple attack case before the Supreme Court in 2014 acquitted him along with five others. Two years after he walked free, Khan has landed in jail again, this time for alleged cow slaughter.
In July 2006, a trial court had sentenced Khan to death in the Akshardham case and the Gujarat High Court had upheld the sentence. In May 2014, after the Supreme Court acquitted Khan and the others, he walked out of Sabarmati Jail and went back to his family in Bareilly. But since June this year, Khan has been in Pilibhit district jail after a case under the Cow Slaughter Act was filed against him at Beesalpur police station in Pilibhit.
According to police, on June 15, sub-inspector Shyam Singh Yadav, who was leading a vehicle inspection drive, stopped a car at Nawadiya Sitarganj locality in the Beesalpur police station area. The police, who claim to have recovered 500 kg of beef, arrested three persons — Shan Khan, Ateeq and Faizan, all residents of Kakartola in Bareilly — and registered a case against them under the Cow Slaughter Act. Police also seized the Maruti Zen in which the accused were travelling.
While police claimed that Khan did not tell them that he also went by the name Chand Khan and that he had been arrested in the Akshardham case, his family alleged that police were falsely implicating him and that his “background” had come to haunt him. Top sources in Gujarat police, however, confirmed Khan’s identity.
On September 25, 2002, two terrorists had stormed the Akshardham temple complex, killing 33 people and leaving 86 injured, before being killed by NSG commandos. Khan was arrested on September 12, 2003.
Khalid Shaikh, who represented Khan in the Ahmedabad trial court, said the court convicted him of helping the two terrorists “by bringing them to Ahmedabad and taking them around the city”.
“However, the Supreme Court acquitted him of all those charges by trashing the prosecution case and saying it did not have sufficient corroborative evidence. The court also did not approve of the confessional statements recorded under POTA (the Prevention of Terrorism Act that was repealed in 2004),” Shaikh said.
The Special Court (POTA), Ahmedabad had sentenced Khan to death on the charges that he met the terrorists who attacked the temple, bought an Ambassador car for Rs 40,000 and made a secret compartment to store weapons and explosives. The court held that he came from Ahmedabad to Bareilly with explosives, took the terrorists around in an auto, and helped transfer the weapons. It also held that he received Rs 30,000 from Zuber, a terrorist killed in a separate encounter.
But the Supreme Court held that the prosecution failed to establish Khan’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt and that he deserved exoneration from all charges. The court dismissed the confessional statements of Khan and the others, and also said that the prosecution could not establish they participated in any conspiracy.
“The confessional statements of the accused persons and the accomplices do not complement each other to form a chain of events leading to the offence. Rather, the depositions of the prosecution witnesses were contradictory and disrupt the chain of events and turn it into a confusing story with many discrepancies, defeating the roles of each of the accused persons which have been allegedly performed by them. Also, none of the events of the alleged criminal conspiracy was supported by independent evidence that inspires confidence in our minds to uphold the conviction and sentences meted out to the accused persons,” the top court had said.
Khan’s younger brother Tahir Khan said that after walking out of jail in 2014, Khan started working as a private taxi driver. “In June, he took two people to Pilibhit in his taxi. After dropping them to their destination, my brother decided to go to our maternal home at Rasiyakhanpur village in Pilibhit. While he was on way to Rasiyakhanpur, a policeman stopped his vehicle. He was taken to the police station for questioning. Later, the police booked him under the Cow Slaughter Act,” said Tahir Khan, who works as a car mechanic in Moradabad.
Shan’s wife Nagma Parveen alleged that the police were harassing her family. “Recently, a police team from Pilibhit visited my house and threatened to attach our house. Their frequent visits are affecting my two daughters and their studies,” said Parveen, who used to work at a kirana shop before her husband was released in 2014. Her elder daughter is in Class IX and the younger one studies in Class VI.
Talking about her husband’s arrest in the Akshardham attack case, Parveen said, “When the attack happened, we were staying at Anantnag in Kashmir, where my husband was working as a car mechanic. When he was arrested, I was pregnant with our second child and our elder daughter was three years old.”
With inputs from ENS, Ahmedabad