MP Police’s SIMI fables-I: plotting a bomb blast over lunch in police custody

Shazia Nigar

Shazia Nigar is a journalist. She can be reached at [email protected]

Madhya Pradesh, with 185 cases has the maximum number of terror related arrests (937) connected to Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Even a cursory glance at these cases reveal several loopholes in the prosecution story, widespread violation of the law and a systemic discrimination against the minority Muslims. Despite the high number of cases registered in the state, reporting on the issue has been negligible. In 2013, Shazia Nigar travelled across Madhya Pradesh collecting data, meeting the accused and their family. IndiaResists.com will post a series of her reportage over the next few days.

The corner house of a Muslim dominated locality in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, is teeming with children. I enter to be greeted with large bright eyes gazing up at me and shy giggles being muffled under the scarves of young girls. They have all gathered here for their tuition classes. Their teacher, Imran Ansari, 39, greets me with a ‘Salam Waleikum’ and the children are requested to move into the inner room.

Imran didn’t always dream of becoming a tuition teacher. He was studying to become an engineer – the first in his family – from a government college in Indore. In the fourth year of his Engineering course, he was forced to abandon the classroom for a cell in Kanpur Central Jail. He was arrested on 25th September 2001 for allegedly giving provocative speeches in Kanpur as a member of SIMI. The organization had just then been banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He was released in September 2002. That case is still under trial.

In December 2001,whilst Imran was still behind bars in Kanpur, the police slapped another case on him. This time he was accused of presiding over a SIMI convention in Surat. The police claim that when they raided the venue of the convention, rounded up and arrested 127 delegates participating in the programme, Imran escaped with a few others. How Imran could have been giving a speech in Surat while he was already lodged in jail in distant Kanpur is beyond comprehension. Moreover, the organizer of the event was not the banned SIMI but Tahreek-e-Ehyaa-e-Ummah, which was holding an educational convention for Muslim youths when the police broke it up with their raid.

And yet, despite being in jail at the time of the said convention, he was charged under sections 3,10,13 and 15 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Twelve years later the case still drags on. The prosecutor in this case is Jagroop Singh Rajput a BJP MLA from Bapu Nagar, Ahmedabad. It is said about him that he was one of the mob that attacked Congress MLA Ehsan Jaffri’s house during the Gujarat riots. Imran asks: “What is the need to use an Ahmedabad-based public prosecutor for a case in Surat?”

In July 2006 the nation was stunned as local trains in Mumbai were bombed. The police needed to act. And it did. It rounded up several Muslim men from across MP for questioning. Imran was one of them. At the time he was in Bhopal looking for a job. The police interrogation proved futile in linking Imran to the Mumbai train blasts. So, though the police could not arrest him in connection with the Mumai train blasts, he was implicated in another case. Imran was arrested by the Khandwa police from Bhopal on charges of publishing and distributing Tehrik-e-Millat. The police claimed that the magazine is the SIMI mouthpiece even though it has not been banned, and is in fact registered with the Registrar of newspapers of India. The only basis for his arrest is a memorandum (or disclosure) of co-accused M.A. Naim from Kota, Rajasthan, naming Imran. Naim denies having signed any such memorandum. Further, the Supreme Court has ruled that a memorandum alleging involvement of an accused in a crime signed in police custody cannot be treated as evidence. Despite the lack of evidence Imran was charged under sections 153(a) of the IPC [Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony], 3 and 10 of UAPA and 124(a) [sedition]. Earlier this year, a Khandwa court acquitted Imran of all charges.

Imran was brought to Indore from Khandwa in November 2006 for a court hearing in relation to a case slapped on him in 2001.On their return after the hearing, the policemen and Imran stopped for lunch at an eatery called Wadi hotel. His friend and neighbour Abdul Razzak, who had attended the court hearing also came along. While at the hotel, the Indore police arrested Imran and Abdul Razzak. They were informed the next day that a case had been registered against them for plotting a bomb blast in Indore over lunch in Wadi hotel. Ten others have also been made co-accused.

How does one explain the fact that the policemen accompanying
Imran on that day have not even made witnesses in the case. No evidence has been offered to back up the theory that Imran and others were conspiring to bomb Indore. It of course also begs the question, if Imran Ansari is really the terrorist he is made out to be why would he be plotting a bomb blast in the company of two policemen? Yet, Imran faces charges of 3,10 and 13 under UAPA and 153 (a) of IPC.

In all, Imran has spent five years in jail. His father, Idris Ansari, was previously a railways employee. While Imran was in jail he struggled to keep the family afloat: running around for legal aid, ensuring medical attention for his second son who is mentally challenged, and continuing education for his youngest son. It is a struggle that the Ansari family has become only too familiar with. A friend of Imran’s remarked: “ Now we are not scared of anything, we have seen the worst. We are ready for any adversity that may strike us.”

As Imran recounted the cases against him, his mother sat next to him, silently, stoically. I asked him if he had faced any harassment or torture in custody. He denied any with a straight face. As she walked out of the room confided, “Actually they did hit me with leather belts and lathis. They even threatened to slap charges on my youngest brother. I just didn’t want my mother to have to relive the horror of those days again. Hence I didn’t want to mention it in front of her.” I ask Imran if I can talk to the rest of his family. He says “ Let the facts speak for themselves, why bring in emotions.”

JTSA’s report on illegal arrests of innocent muslim youth