The Surat district court Friday gave conditional bail to three accused in a post-Babri Masjid demolition riots case, noting that no summons had been issued to them, just directly a warrant, and that the case had been pending for long. Ikbal Belim, 65, Rahim Rana alias Pratapsinh Rana, 72, and Shakil Ansari, 55, had been arrested separately by the Udhna police, Surat, almost a week ago. All are charged under TADA, apart from sections of the IPC. The other 23 accused in the 28-year-old case remain untraceable.
Giving them bail, the Surat District Principal Court also noted that most of the accused remain missing. The three have been told to submit their house documents, with photographs, to the trial court and Udhna police station, and to be present during hearings. They can’t leave Gujarat without court permission.
Ansari’s wife Salima, 50, said she had begged police not to arrest him. “I told them our son had just had an accident. I told them my husband is the only breadwinner of the family. I offered them Rs 2,000 as bribe, the only money I could afford, told them to wait a few days. But they took my husband away.”
Surat had seen the worst riots in Gujarat following the Babri demolition. Defence lawyer Yusuf Shaikh said the trial in the case had begun in 2016, but turned dormant soon after as most of the accused remained untraceable. “Recently, acting on a Gujarat High Court order, all dormant cases were reopened and non-bailable warrants were issued by the Surat court to the accused who did not come for hearings… Now the case has been sent to the Sessions Court and, in the coming days, the trial will begin.”
As per Shaikh, of the 26 accused, some are dead while a few have returned to their native places in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Denying the charges against Ansari, Samina recalled the day riots happened in their Muslim-dominated locality of Islampura. It was December 13, 1992, and he had left home in the afternoon with bakery items on a tempo to deliver to shops. “He returned at night, shaken, saying he had seen burnt vehicles and people being beaten up. We locked up our house and kept inside. Next day we came to know several houses and shops were burnt and looted in neighbouring Rajivna-gar. Curfew was imposed in our area. That evening, police came to our house looking for my him.”
While Ansari got out on bail after a few months, Samina said, his life was never the same with the TADA taint. Of Samina and Ansari’s seven children, two are married and the youngest is 12.
When the riots happened, Belim ran a small powerloom factory while Rana had a successful property business. Rana has since retired, and his sons run a real estate firm. Said a family member of Belim, “We believe in communal harmony and brotherhood. Belim’s business partners were Hindus. We used to go to each other’s houses on festivals. Police falsely named him in the case.”
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