HAVING spent more than three months in jail on charges under the National Security Act (NSA), Naushad can’t believe his luck. The 24-year-old was released on May 14 after the Union Home Ministry recommended that the NSA against the Meerut youth be revoked.
Naushad had been arrested by the Meerut police on February 20 after the local chief of the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), Sachin Sirohi, lodged an FIR on the basis of a viral video apparently showing him spitting on dough while making rotis at a wedding in Meerut on February 16. The HJM accused Naushad of “spreading coronavirus”.
Back at his home, Naushad says, “I have been working as a cook since I was 15 and I could never do such despicable thing. The case against me was fabricated and I was jailed for no fault of mine.”
While the video and subsequently the arrest had made much news, Naushad’s release was a quiet affair, with news that he was back home emerging nearly a month after he was let out.
The HJM had traced down Naushad following the video, and beaten him up badly before he was arrested. When the 24-year-old was produced before a magistrate on February 21, he was thrashed again, this time by lawyers. He was booked under the NSA on March 4.
On Saturday, Sirohi told The Sunday Express, “The video came at a time when the coronavirus was at its peak in the second wave as a large number of people were dying (Meerut, in fact, saw cases go down to almost none in February, with a fresh rise starting towards mid-March). His act (of spitting) infuriated us and I could not restrain HJM workers from thrashing Naushad.”
Confirming that the NSA charges against Naushad had been dropped, Meerut DM K Balaji said: “A man facing NSA charges can send a representation pleading innocence to three places — the advisory board, the state government and Centre. In Naushad’s case, the advisory board and the state rejected his plea but the Centre decided in his favour and ordered his release.”
Union Home Ministry sources confirmed the same.
B D Pandey, Superintendent, Chaudhary Charan Singh Karagaar (prison) in Meerut, said, “Naushad was brought to the jail on March 1.He was released after the NSA was revoked and we received an order of his release from the District Magistrate.”
Meerut SSP Ajay Sahni claimed they had invoked the NSA to maintain peace in the town.
“We got inputs from local intelligence unit that Naushad’s early release could cause a law and order problem in Meerut, which was home to a record number of deaths and corona cases during the second wave in March.”
Imtiyaz Alam, the owner of the catering outlet for which Naushad worked before he was arrested, said what happened was very unfortunate.
“Naushad is a good worker, but we cannot hire him for the time being because of the controversy involving him,” he told The Sunday Express.