Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Acquitted Imam Speaks

January 12, 2010: A special Prevention of Terrorist Activities court in Ahmedabad acquitted 13 men from Hyderabad, including Moulana Naseeruddin, a popular cleric, in a case pertaining to a Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence-backed terror conspiracy case to avenge post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat.
January 16, 2010: Haj House Imam Ghulam Yahya Baksh, accused of harbouring three militants and having links with terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba , is acquitted by a sessions court in Mumbai due to lack of evidence.
Naseeruddin and 13 other youth were arrested by the Gujarat police in 2003-2004 and lodged in the Sabarmati jail for almost six years, as the trial in POTA court dragged on. In Gulam Yahya Baksh's case, the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested him on charges of providing shelter to three alleged terrorists from Jammu and Kashmir on January 14, 2006.
Post-release, Yahya Baksh believes that there is a pattern involved in targeting some people in society. It is an attempt to spoil the brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims, he feels.In an interview with's Vicky Nanjappa, Baksh says that the case has ruined four years of his life. He adds that he will not buckle down, but continue to fight for innocent boys who continue to languish in jails.

Do you believe that you had been targeted?

Yes, I was targeted without doubt. There is a pattern behind this. I have noticed that people, who have respect in society, have been targeted in the past as well. I was just one among them.

Why do you think this is so?

We have been fighting for the rights of people and they think by targeting us, they will disillusion us in our fight. There are many Muslims in the country, who are looked up with respect, and the police think that they can finish us off by targeting us. The atmosphere in our society is getting spoilt due to this and this is what some people are aiming at.

What will the Indian police gain by targeting people? At the end of the day they too know that innocent people will be acquitted and they would lose face.It is not as simple as you think. They are not working independently.

There is pressure from the top as well as pressure from foreign countries. The Indian police know that they have a weak case on hand. The problem is that they too are acting under pressure. May be at the end of it people like us will be acquitted, but the fact remains that they manage to ruin a large part of our lives.

You talk about Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Do you think such arrests spoilt the relationship?Yes, we all believe in living in peace and do not want any sort of tension of violence. Come on tell me, who does not want a peaceful society? If arrests of this nature are carried out without any basis, then the relationship between the two communities is bound to be spoilt.I was an Imam of a respected institution and obviously the people were enraged when I was picked up. People knew I was innocent and I am grateful to them that not once did they think that I was involved in something of this sort. Throughout my trial, people have stood by me.

Did you have the support of only Muslims or was there a secular approach towards your case?This is not some communal issue. Yes, there were a lot of Muslims who supported me, but let me tell you that several non-Muslim NGOs too supported my cause.

Four years in jail and immense trauma. Do you plan on suing the cops?

Yes, I will seek compensation. I have undergone something for no fault of mine. Four years of my life has been ruined and I think I should be compensated. I will consult my legal advisors on this.

Will you raise your voice against the innocent youth? Or has this incident completely bogged you down?

I cannot be selfish regarding this. There are several innocent youths languishing in jail and someone has to raise their voice for them. Just because I am free today, that does not mean that I will stop fighting for the rest of the innocent people. Yes I have undergone a lot of trauma, but that does not mean that I am bogged down.

What did the police tell you when they first picked you up?

I asked them what my crime was. They just told me what they were picking me up for harbouring some Kashmiri terrorists. They also said that they had a lot of evidence against me. However, everything that was put in the chargesheet was completely wrong and the court too knew that. Hence, I was acquitted.

Did the police torture you? How did you spend your time in jail?

Yes, in the beginning, I had to undergo some torture. But later that stopped. The days in jail were very hard and only I know how I spent every second over there.

Is the Muslim community interested in joining the fight against terrorism?

Yes of course. Every Muslim wants to help in the fight against terror. We ourselves have a forum known as the Anti-Terrorism Forum. Why look at it with suspicion? We want to contribute our bit to the issue. We are ready to do anything and help fight this problem. But remember, we also need support and not suspicion

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