Rampur CRPF camp attack case

Rampur CRPF camp attack case: Acquittal and after

Print edition : November 06, 2019

Sabauddin, who has been awarded the death sentence, and Fahim Ansari (behind), who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. Photo: PTI

Four persons are sentenced to death, one gets life term and two are acquitted in the Rampur CRPF camp attack case. But delayed justice is posing challenges for the acquitted in starting life afresh.

ON November 1 and 2, television channels and newspapers played up the news of the conviction of six accused in the case relating to the terror attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. But they did not highlight the news of the acquittal of two other accused, Gulab Khan and Kausar Farooqi.

The pre-dawn attack on the CRPF camp on January 1, 2008, claimed the lives of seven CRPF personnel and a rickshaw-puller. Eight people, including three CRPF constables, were injured in the attack. Cases were registered against the eight accused—Mohammed Sharif, Jung Bahadur, Mohammed Farooq, Imran Shahzad, Sabauddin, Gulab Khan, Kausar Farooqi and Fahim Ansari—under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Arms Act, the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). It was felt that there was possible involvement of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the attack. This allegation was rejected by the judge while awarding the sentences on November 1.

The Additional District and Session judge, Sanjay Kumar Singh, rejected the contention of the accused that weapons had been planted on them, stating that a rifle like AK-47 could not have been planted on any accused by the police. It was felt that Imran Shahzad, Mohammed Farooq, Mohammed Sharif and Sabauddin had teamed up with Jung Bahadur to attack the CRPF camp with AK-47 rifles, hand grenades and bombs. The judge handed death sentences to Imran Shahzad and Mohammed Farooq, both Pakistani nationals, and Mohammed Sharif of Rampur and Sabauddin of Madhubani in Bihar for their acts of terrorism. Jung Bahadur, a resident of Moradabad, was handed a life term. They were all held guilty under various provisions of Sections 16 and 20 (punishment for terrorist act and punishment for being a member of a terrorist gang, respectively) of the UAPA. It was stated that the Pakistani nationals had entered India through Nepal a few days before the terror attack. They had received training in Pakistan and planned for the attack in Nepal along with Sabauddin.

The accused alleged that they had been falsely implicated in the incident; that on the night of the incident, many CRPF officers were celebrating the New Year and, under the influence of alcohol, they had opened fire; and that they were made convenient scapegoats to protect the reputation of the CRPF. The judge rubbished these contentions by saying that the fingerprints of the Pakistani nationals matched with those found at the site of the crime.

The sixth accused, Fahim Ansari, was held guilty in a fake passport and fake driving licence case and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The judge felt that Fahim Ansari could not be convicted under Sections 121 and 121A of the IPC for waging war against the state but was a “man of suspicious conduct” and such a person should be under “constant vigilance”. He was convicted for offences under Sections 420 (cheating) and 467 (forgery) of the IPC and provisions of the Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act, 1908. Incidentally, Fahim Ansari had been cleared earlier by both the High Court and the Supreme Court of involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The lawyers of those convicted plan to appeal in the High Court.

Battle to win people’s trust

Gulab Khan of Bareilly and Kausar Farooqi of Pratapgarh were acquitted because the charges against them of harbouring weapons could not be proved in court. Television channels and newspapers, largely Hindi, called them terrorists and splashed their photographs without qualifying them as “alleged terrorists” or “persons facing charges of terrorism”, as may be deemed ethical. The general public regarded the two men as terrorists who waged war against the state. Their acquittal, some 11 years after their arrest, provides them belated justice. After spending all these years in the Bareilly jail, it will not be easy for them to start life afresh. They might have won the courtroom battle, but the battle to win the trust of the larger society and find a dignified living awaits them.

Speaking from his residence in Kunda in Pratapgarh, Kausar Farooqi said he was scared of social interaction. He said: “I am relieved to be acquitted. Now I can walk free. I am with my wife and children. But I am scared of going out. I do not know how people will react. Will they shake hands with me on the road or respond to my greetings? People do not easily believe a man accused of terrorism or one who has spent more than a decade in jail. In the inner chambers of their minds, he stays an accused or guilty.”

Kausar Farooqi’s family and neighbours, however, displayed complete faith in him. He had worked in Saudi Arabia for about a decade. He set up an electronics showroom on returning, hoping to gain from the experience gained in the Gulf. It was his association with the Gulf that proved his undoing.

“A constable came to my shop and he told me to accompany him, saying ‘Sahab wants to meet you for a few minutes’. He had no warrant. I went with him to the police station. The police did not ask me anything about the CRPF attack, which had happened more than a month earlier. I lived nearly 500 kilometres away from the place of attack. I had no inkling why I had been called. They did not ask me anything about Rampur or about the people who visited my house, or keeping weapons at home. The police only asked me what I did in Saudi Arabia and how much money I made there. Nothing to do with the terror attack. I was not allowed to meet my family. Two days later, they produced me in a court. In a brief interaction, I said I was innocent, but I was sent to jail.”

Kausar Farooqi was able to meet his family for the first time after three months. By then a charge sheet had been prepared and he was accused of harbouring terrorists.

His family ran from pillar to post to prove his innocence. His wife could not run the electronics showroom. She took to sewing to make both ends meet and continued the fight for justice with some crucial help from his brothers. She met representatives of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind seeking help.

Kausar Farooqi recalls: “Inside the jail, I must admit, there was no third-degree treatment. I was in a high-security jail. I was kept locked throughout the day. But I did have provisions for prayers. I used to say azaan. We used to have a congregation or prayer by jamaat. I used to be told every now and then that I would be out in a few days. It took 11 years.”

Today, despite his neighbours visiting him, Kausar Farooqi does not feel confident enough to go out. “It seems strange. People who come here are nice. But I am not sure how they will react when they see me in the market.”

In the absence of any compensation from the state, he says he has to start from scratch. “My family has been ruined because I was in jail. My elder son’s and daughter’s education was cut short. The shop was sold. And my wife could barely provide the children with two meals. It was tough. Now I have to resume with almost zero finance. One of my sons is helping my brother at his shoe shop. I think I will also try to open a shoe shop now. It will not have the same clientele as the electronics showroom.”

Gulab Khan faces a different challenge. Accused of harbouring terrorists, he was picked up from his welding shop in Bareilly in February 2008. When he was in jail, his wife did sewing to run the family. His children dropped out of school; the electricity connection to his house was cut off. “The children could study in name only. The family’s source of earning had dried up. My wife could not do welding. The shop was taken on rent so we had to vacate it soon after my arrest. But my wife kept faith in me. I am told she used to pray for my release.”

“Every time there is a bomb blast, the police arrest a Muslim man. They suspect Muslims all the time. Look at the Malegaon blasts or the Ajmer dargah blasts. Muslims were killed or injured in those blasts, yet Muslims were arrested. In the Malegaon case, too, it took about nine years for the accused to come out of jail. After being jailed for such a long time how does one catch up with life?” he says.

Gulab Khan completed his graduation while in jail. The degree may not be sufficient to get him a job. “I am 48. Wherever I go for a job, they will ask for job experience. They will ask where I was all these years. What can I say? I was in jail? I do not know what lies ahead.”

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