Fourteen years after over 120 Muslims were ruthlessly battered and one killed in police excesses,as observed by retired Justice A D Mane in his report,and the victims themselves were named as accused for rioting and vandalising public property,the state government has finally withdrawn the case against them.
The incident dates back to December 6,1999. The Muslim Action Committee (MAC) had organised a symbolic protest rally to mark the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. Over 8,000 protesters marched from Shahganj area to Vikram Stadium in Aurangabad,when they reportedly faced police action.
In the interest of administration of justice and in the public interest and in the interest of the society,and to maintain harmony… the government has decided to withdraw the case, said the closure report filed by the state government in the Aurangabad sessions court on November 18. The prosecution had earlier filed an over 600-page chargesheet in the case.
It is 14 years too late, said 85-year old Zahida Begum Zameer,the then corporator who was at the forefront of the rally. She was among those who were injured,suffering multiple fractures on her neck,back and arms in the police lathicharge on December 6,1999.
Her limbs may be failing her,but she still remembers that day. Khaki-clad policemen and women rounded up all those they assumed to be Muslims. They beat us with their rifle butts,targeting our eyes and necks. It was not a lathicharge,but an attempt to kill us, she claimed.
Hum Allah ke waaste ladh rahe the,humare hak ke liye awaaz utha rahe the… aur woh bina wajah (we were protesting for Allah,for our rights. They had no cause, she said.
We had courted arrest and were in police custody. The attack happened outside the police headquarters. It was a conspiracy, said Ziauddin Siddiqui,another victim who lost his eyesight. Siddiqui was SIMIs all-India general secretary from 1984-92.
The Samajwadi Partys local activists had also organised another rally to the same spot. The police rounded us up and began beating us. I had a beard then. Assuming I was a Muslim,they beat me up. A police constable hit me on my right eye with his rifle butt,and I lost my eyesight, said Radhakrishna Pandit,SP activist who was one of the two Hindus named in the FIR.
Several others suffered head injuries,as observed by Justice Mane in his report.
Most men in Shahganj area,a predominantly Muslim area,have a scar on their face or walk with a limp caused by injury sustained on that day. Nobody cared if we lived or died. But every election,it became an important ingredient in each partys manifesto. The withdrawal of the case is a political gimmick too, said Mohammad Fareez Ahmed,a victim and an accused.
The injured were paid a compensation of Rs 10,000 as recommended by the Justice Mane commission. Most of us spent over a month or so in hospital. Since then,we have made over 150 appearance before the court,and spent lakhs of rupees on visiting government offices and police stations, said Hafeez Mohammad Ansari,a prime accused.
The FIR,followed by a chargesheet in 2000,had named minors as well as Ayyub Shaikh,a 35-year-old who was killed in the incident. His daughter was a month old then. The family was given Rs 10,000 as compensation. My daughter Reshma does not have any memory of her father, said Shaikhs wife Kursheed Begum,35,who works as a clerk at the Collectors office.