Noorul Huda still has stinging headaches, “the effect of the frequent narco tests” he was put through during his incarceration due to his alleged involvement in the Malegaon blast case of 2006.
“The potent chemicals they pushed inside me during the test have left their effects behind,” says 31-year-old Huda who was arrested in 2006 for allegedly planting a bomb at the Hamidiya mosque in Malegaon on September 8 that year and killing 31 people.
Named by both the Anti-Terrorism Squad and the CBI for planning the bomb along with six other Muslim residents of Malegaon, Huda spent five years in prison before being let off on bail in 2011 after the NIA said Hindu extremists were behind the blasts. (Some of the same Hindu extremists were later found to be involved in the Malegaon blasts of 2008 too).
Huda, then 23, used to work at a battery workshop run by the late Shabbir Masiullah, who was also arrested for his alleged role in the Malegaon blasts of 2006 and was similarly let off in 2011.
Today, Hooda makes a little over Rs 100 per day folding cloth in a textile unit. “People do avoid interacting with you after you’ve spent time in prison. But it’s also true that they’ve stood behind us too in the case,” he says.
Masiullah, who had to shut his battery shop “as no one wanted to do business with a terror accused”, started an acupressure healing unit where he’d charge Rs 50 per session. Masiullah, says his brother Jameel, learned acupressure to relieve “the pain he suffered due to police beatings”.
Masiullah died earlier this year at the age of 44 after the wall of his house collapsed on him. “He was a helpful person. He died while protecting young members of our family from the wall,” says his brother Jameel Masiullah.
After Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian’s claim that the NIA told her to go “soft” on Hindu extremists involved in the Malegaon blasts of 2006 and 2008, residents of the city fear that the state is now looking at targeting Muslims arrested earlier.
“The state is doing everything that it can to save the present accused. There is a possibility that the investigating agencies may end up targeting the Muslims who were picked up earlier,” says Irfana Hamdani who had represented the 2006 Malegaon blast accused.
Huda’s uncle Salman Farsi, also among the seven arrested in the case previously, wants the government to take back the charges brought against all. “We are not seeking a discharge from the case because tomorrow any government can decided to revive the charges. What we want is for the government to take back the charges that it had framed against us,” says the 43-year-old Unani doctor.
Masiullah’s brother-in-law, 38-year-old Rais Ahmed Mansuri, who sells imitation jewellery and cosmetics for a living and was among the seven arrested, was at first “rattled” by Salian’s revelations but is now hopeful that “secular ethos of the country will ensure I am not victimised twice over”.
Huda, though, has lost all fear. “Over the last 10 years, we and our families have suffered a lot. Fear has a limit and beyond a point it doesn’t affect you. We have reached that point,” he says.