He was 23, had just qualified to become a doctor, and was the pride of his doting parents. Then, at around 4 pm on February 6, 2008, a knock on the door changed everything.
“I spent seven years in hell. They stole the best years of life. I want to live now, I want my life back,” Allah Baksh Yadwad told The Sunday Express.
On April 30, Yadwad was acquitted by a Hubli court of all charges levelled by the Karnataka Police which claimed he was a member of a “SIMI module” and had participated “in conspiracy meetings aimed at… establishing (an) Islamic government in India”.
- Ireland pick Mohali’s Simi Singh to take on India in T20s
- Jodhpur man held for killing four-year-old daughter ‘to please Allah’
- SIMI suspect’s kin: ‘This is our country too, that’s why I am expecting justice’
- From dodgy ID to narco mess, how SIMI terror case fell
- Acquittal after seven years, but only 3 of 17 ‘SIMI men’ to be free
- Seven years later, 17 ‘SIMI men’ acquitted
But a copy of the judgment said it all: the prosecution, relying on Investigating Officer S S Khote, lined up 45 witnesses — including 24 medical students — to prove Yadwad’s guilt, but none of them supported the police version.
In the end, the judgment devoted 39 paragraphs to illustrate Yadwad’s innocence.
‘There was not a shred of evidence with police, they framed my son,” said Yadwad’s 57-year-old father Waliullah who had to undergo bypass surgery following a heart attack four months after the eldest of his six children was picked up that February afternoon.
As in the story of Bangalore-based software engineer Yahya Kammukutty, whose acquittal in the same case was reported by The Indian Express on Wednesday, Yadwad’s arrest was the result of a sequence of events that started with the confiscation of a motorcycle without papers from two youths in Honnali.
One of the two, Mohammad Asif, was a student at Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) in Hubli. At the time, Yadwad was half-way through his one-year house-surgeoncy, following his MBBS degree, at KIMS.
Police went on to link Yadwad to Asif, who they alleged had conducted mass prayers, violating rules, at the KIMS hostel.
Yadwad alleges that after he was picked up from his home in Hubli, he was threatened, slapped and made to sign on eight blank sheets of paper by police.
Police claimed Yadwad, Accused No. 6, rented a number of properties in Hubli “for conducting secret meetings of SIMI”. They alleged he had “participated in mass namaz with other 15 Muslim MBBS students” in KIMS where Asif would exhort them to “get ready for jihad”.
Police also claimed to have recovered “incriminating material” from Yadwad’s home and the KIMS hostel, and identified places that he had rented to hold meetings.
But the charges against Yadwad crumbled over the next seven years – he was not even a resident of the hostel at the time, and the owners, tenants and a broker linked to properties that Yadwad allegedly rented denied the police version.
One witness said police took him to a shop and a house in Hubli, did not tell him who they belonged to, and then made him sign on some papers.
Another said he was a “hawker in Hubli” and that police took him to a hospital, didn’t tell him why, then obtained his signatures on documents.
The list goes on: a farmer denied having spotted Yadwad attending meetings in a dargah nearby; a houseowner denied having rented his property to the “sixth accused”; a chicken shop owner denied having seen Yadwad in the building; another houseowner denied renting his property to Yadwad to hold “secret meetings”.
As for the “incriminating material” recovered, Yadwad’s father said policemen came to their home at Gouligalli asked whether “we had any books”.
“They saw only medical books in Allah Baksh’s cupboard. Then they asked where we kept our Quran. They took two books: Minhajul Arabia, a guide to basic Arabic, and a book called ‘Towards Understanding Islam’,’” he said.
Today, Yadwad says he wants to move on. “I don’t hold any grudges. I want to see it as a test of God, that is the only way I can move on. Otherwise, life will stop,” he said.