Two of the three men, who were acquitted of terror charges by a special court in Akola last month after spending four years in jail, told The Indian Express that their lives have been shattered.
“I’m still wondering why they implicated me…,” says Salim Malik (29) after he was freed. Salim was an imam at the Jama Masjid in Pusad when he was arrested by the ATS in 2015.
“My wife Sumaiya and son Khabbab, just one and a half year old when I was arrested, thankfully were attending a marriage in Yavatmal and didn’t see me being dragged and beaten up,” he recalls.
“There was no evidence against me. Even some policemen knew the case was fit for acquittal. But I was assaulted in custody followed by jail and court hearings,” Salim says. Suffering from colitis, he had to be hospitalised for treatment several times during incarceration. “It got worst in the last four years.”
Shoeb Khan (29), the other acquitted youth, says his reputation has been sullied for life. “I have lost four years because of false charges labelled against men. I lost my accountant’s job. My elder brother died when I was in jail. I couldn’t attend his funeral. My sister got married in 2018. I couldn’t attend that too. Who will compensate me for all this,” he asks.
For Shoeb, the ordeal began much before 2015. According to him, on October 19, 2014, he and his friend Shah Muddassar from Umarkhed in Yavatmal were arrested by Central Intelligence Cell (CIC) officers at Secunderabad railway station. “They said we had been arrested for our alleged links with jihadis in Afghanistan,” he recalls.
According to him, Muddassar runs a shop in Umarkhed and often visited Hyderabad to buy stocks. “I often accompanied him,” he says.
“For three days, the CIC men kept us in a building where we were taken blindfolded. We were beaten mercilessly before being produced in a magistrate court on October 21… After that, an SIT team took us away and secured a 14-day police remand, further extended by six days,” he recalls.
While in custody, both men were brought to Pusad, where he says they were questioned by ATS officers. The two were then taken back to jail in Hyderabad. “When the SIT couldn’t file a chargesheet within 90 days we were granted bail. But we couldn’t manage a surety of Rs 50,000 each. So, we had to endure further imprisonment of seven months,” Shoeb says.
“I returned to my Akhada Balapur village in Hingoli tehsil on August 14, 2015. On September 25, Abdul attacked the policemen… It was totally wrong on his part. Police arrested him. They also came to my home, 60 km from Pusad. I wondered why they picked me up,” he says. “I didn’t even remotely know who Abdul was.”