OUT ON bail after spending nearly 16 months in jail for a rape he never committed, 27-year-old Wasim Malik, who is back with his family in their one-room shanty in Sector 52, says he is awaiting justice. Last month, the Chandigarh Police arrested two other men, Mohammad Irfan and his cousin Kamal Hassan, in the same rape case and realised that Wasim was innocent. The Chandigarh Police has now initiated the procedure for withdrawing the case against Wasim.
His devastated family says the entire episode has ruined their lives: Wasim has no job, they are steeped in debt over legal expenses, and his younger sister’s marriage could not take place because of the rape taint on Wasim. Before his arrest, Wasim was the breadwinner of the family — his parents and a younger sister. Everything changed on December 15, 2016, when the Chandigarh Police picked him from a lodge at Hansi of Hisar district in Haryana. Four days later, the police told him and his family that he was arrested on charges of raping a call-centre employee in his autorickshaw on December 12.
Wasim’s mother Mustari Begum recalls the day when a family had come to her for fixing their daughter’s marriage with Wasim. “While we were finalising dates for the marriage, policemen entered my home and started inquiring about Wasim. I was left embarrassed in front of the family. After a few days when police arrested Wasim, they withdrew their proposal and went away. I kept trying to convince them that my son [Wasim] was innocent, but they did not believe me. Because of this taint on my family, I could not even get my younger daughter married off. Nobody wanted to make any relation with our family as people believed that Wasim was a rapist,” Mustari Begum told Chandigarh Newsline.
“I had gone to Hansi for delivering a consignment in my mini-truck. I was sleeping in a lodge when police picked me. They showed me a sketch and sought my help in locating the suspect who was wanted in a rape case. They told me that they will keep me with them for 10 days. Later, when we reached Chandigarh, they brought a barber who shaved my beard and changed my hairstyle to match with the sketch that the police already had in their hands. I was made to go through a test identification parade. Later, I was told that victim had identified me and thus I was arrested on charges of rape. I was left shocked. I kept on pleading innocence, but to no avail,” Wasim told Newsline.
“What if police had not found Mohammad Irfan and Kamal Hassan who are now arrested in this case? I would have been lying in jail even today. During these 16 months, I applied for bail twice but both the times my application was rejected. Finally, I got the bail on April 9 only after the police had arrested real culprits in the case. Now I have learnt that they [police] have initiated a move to withdraw case against me,” Wasim added.
Wasim’s family says that to bear the legal expenses, they had to sell his mini-truck, mortgage their jewellery and also take loan from a money-lender. “We had to sell Wasim’s mini-truck for Rs 80,000, which we had bought for Rs 2 lakh. The jewellery that we had kept for my sister’s marriage was also mortgaged for a loan of Rs 1 lakh. We took all our savings and took loan from a money-lender to bear the legal expenses. There is a debt of around Rs 5 lakh on us now. This incident has ruined our lives,” said Nazim Malik, Wasim’s elder brother.
“While Wasim was in jail, my two other sons who are married and living nearby with their families supported us financially. I hope police complete their legal formalities soon so that Wasim can walk free and start his life afresh,” said Mohammad Asgar, Malik’s father.
The Chandigarh Police’s senior officers say they arrested Wasim because the victim had identified him in the test identification parade and stood by her statement even before the magistrate. However, while the victim had also alleged that she was taken to a secluded spot in an autorickshaw, raped at knifepoint in the jungle area and the accused even filmed the crime on a mobile phone, the police could neither recover the autorickshaw nor any mobile phone or knife from Malik’s possession. The swabs that the police took from the victim’s clothes also did not match with Wasim’s DNA samples. But he continued to remain in judicial custody till the police arrested two other men last month who allegedly confessed raping the call-centre employee.
“We were bound to act when the victim had identified Wasim Malik as the culprit. But now since she has identified two other accused, we arrested them. It’s now up to the court to further act in Wasim Malik’s case,” said Inspector Z P Khan, Station House Officer, Industrial Area police station.