Muslims form the largest minority in India as they constitute 14.2% of India’s 1.2 billion population. Currently, they are a victim of violence unleashed by right wing groups in the name of cow protection or love jihad. Apart from this, they are occasionally accused of plotting bombs and are framed in false cases of terrorism, either because of intense pressure mounted on the police to crack the cases of terrorism or due to deep-rooted bias and distrust in the security establishment for the Muslim community.
This bias is apparent in the personal narratives of the acquitted Muslims of terror charges. One such story is narrated by Mohammad Amir Khan, a young Muslim boy of Old Delhi who one fateful night left his home to buy medicines and on his way was picked up by the police.
In his moving memoir, “Framed As A Terrorist” Mohammad Amir Khan along with his co-author Nandita Haksar, a human rights lawyer and activist, dwelled upon the way he was kidnapped and framed by Indian security and intelligence authorities in 19 false cases of bomb blasts reported from Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR).
Mohammad Amir Khan was kidnapped by the Indian police in 1998 when he was 18 years old and was released after the fake cases fabricated against him could not stand judicial scrutiny and fell apart one by one. He was charged with crimes such as murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. Since his parents could not afford the lawyer’s hefty fees, they failed to manage his timely release or even a temporary bail. Subsequently, Khan’s release came in 2012 after 14 harrowing years in solitary confinement in various jails of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana where he was tortured.
Khan, in his book, also touched upon similar cases where Muslim youths were framed in cases they had no clue about. For instance, he referred to a case of Mr Shakeel, who hailed from Ghaziabad and was framed in many serious cases of terrorism and considered a member of the Tunda terror gang. The judiciary acquited him in several cases, but his growing frustration with the slow judicial process and growing age of his two marriageable daughters forced him to commit suicide.
In a similar case, the Delhi Police framed Liaqat Shah, a Kashmiri man and former member of Hizbul Mujahideen, accusing him of a conspiracy to carrying out terror strikes in Delhi. The National Investigation Agency of India, however, absolved Shah of all the charges and even recommended action against the erring Delhi police officials.
In yet another cooked up terrorism case, the Special Cell of Delhi Police picked up and framed two Muslims: Irshad Ali and Maurif Qamar, who were arrested for 2005 Delhi blast case and acquitted after eleven years. They were thought to be associated with Al-Badr Brigade (an Iraq-based terror group). The charges were dropped after the case was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which, in its closure report, vowed for the innocence of the accused and categorically stated that the police framed them. The CBI report even recommended action against the erring officials. This case prompted some media outlets to discuss the issue of compensation for such victims of terror falsehood.
Moreover, a string of similar cases has been reported in the last two decades putting the intelligence officials in the spotlight. Innocent Muslims who happen to be scapegoats or soft targets are picked up and framed in false cases and put behind iron bars to rot, till they are released by the judiciary after the prosecution case falls apart.
The slow judicial process and lack of availability of inexpensive lawyers add to the woes of terror accused. In a majority of cases, one finds it hard to arrange a lawyer as the latter is reluctant to take up the case of an accused terrorist because of hounding of state authorities and social stigma attached to it.
The role of a lawyer plays an extremely important part. As an article, published at Daily News & Analysis (DNA) states, “Only the most intrepid of lawyers would come forward without fear or favour. And most Muslim lawyers would be all the more intimidated due to the persecution and hounding they might face, for the simple reason that a majority of terror-accused (most of whom finally get acquitted) happen to profess Islam as their religion.”
India needs radical reforms in the police force and an overhaul of criminal justice system especially speedy trials in terror related offences. Adequate compensation for the victims of police persecution, along with severe action against those officials who deliberately frame Muslims in false terror cases either making them scapegoats or shielding the real perpetrators is something the system needs to consider. The system also then needs to ensure proper protection of the lawyers who take up the cases of these accused Muslim’s to be safe from hounding.