The scapegoats

Print edition : May 27, 2016

Some of the men acquitted by the sessions court in April. (From left) Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari, who provided legal assistance to the accused men from Malegaon, Salman Farsi; Dr Farogh Magdumi, Noorulhuda and Raees Ahmed Mansuri celebrating the verdict outside the court. Photo: Deepak Salvi

FRONTLINE met two of the eight men acquitted in the Malegaon blasts case and briefly profiled the others through material gathered in Malegaon.

Dr Farogh Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi, 42

Magdumi has a popular unani medicine practice in Malegaon. Local residents say he works hard on his practice and often treats patients for free if they cannot afford his fees. He never turns anyone away and is always willing to help the poor. He is also deeply involved in spreading religious learning. But he has a fiery temper and does not gladly suffer fools. Magdumi, who fought his own case, filed 700 RTI (Right to Information) applications while he was in jail.

Following his acquittal, he spoke to Frontline about the blatant injustice and violations he has faced ever since the 2006 Malegaon blasts and his subsequent arrest.

“They targeted me. I was coming up in life and some people in the town could not handle my success, so they used the police, who came after me. This was a vendetta game. I used to help a lot of people and I also taught the Quran to people. In fact, I tried hard to make people aware of fake godmen and other such religious nonsense. I believe some people wanted to get rid of me and the police informers gave false information to the authorities. I also believe the police and investigative agencies are very corrupt. They make use of terror to increase their budgets and then siphon the funds.

“The five years I spent in jail ruined my life and my source of income came to an end. I spent all my money on the courts and in jail. At least,I had some finances; the others charged had absolutely none. I maintain my innocence and I am prepared to speak publicly about the wrong done to us and how our constitutional rights have been snatched. Anyone can check my background. It is completely clean.

“Even though I am bitter from the experience, I am prepared to work with anyone to serve my country. This will not affect the work I do.”

Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali Mansuri, 43

Mansuri’s connection to the case was just that he was the brother-in-law of Shabbir Masiullah. Masiullah, who died in an accident last year, was arrested in the case reportedly because of his links to Saudi Arabia. He had just returned from Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a tailor. Masiullah was held responsible for procuring the RDX to make the bombs and was called the chief conspirator. Mansuri, who had also lived in Saudi Arabia for a short period, came back to Malegaon in 2004 and started an imitation jewellery business. He lost his business when he was arrested and is trying hard now to reconstruct his life.

Noorulhuda Shamshodduha, 32

Noorulhuda Shamshodduha was a power loom worker and lived on daily wages. The police arrested him because they had been looking for one Noorulhuda who supposedly belonged to the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majid Ansari, 34

Ansari was in Yavatmal when the blasts took place. He was an imam and was once caught by the police for putting up religious posters and hence was on their radar. Ansari’s only income now comes through selling fodder in the morning and firewood in the evening. He could not afford the travel to Mumbai for the acquittal hearing.

Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed, 31

This is the most curious case of them all. Ahmed was once a police informer. He apparently told the police that he overheard some Hindu doctors say on the day of the blasts “It is our people who did this”. After this, he claims, the police “betrayed” him, moved him to different cities, told him that he had a bad name in Malegaon because he was connected to the blasts, and that any relatives he tried to contact would be shot. Ahmed also says he met Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Lt Col. Purohit along with police officers. They reportedly told him that he would be rewarded well if he kept his mouth shut. (See interview.)

Salman Farsi Abdul Latif Aimi, 44

Aimi is the uncle of Noorulhuda Shamshodduha. The ATS claimed he planted explosives at Mushawerat Chowk. After his arrest he lost his livelihood. He now lives in Nampur near Malegaon and works in a medical emergency unit. Aimi says he will fight for compensation for the 10 years that he lost.

However, he is relieved to be a free man now and cleared of charges of being a terrorist.

Asif Khan Bashir Khan, 43

The police claim he was a radical as he fought for the rights of the downtrodden in Jalgaon. They also claim he was a member of SIMI and brought Pakistani nationals to Malegaon with the objective of radicalising them.

He is acquitted in the Malegaon case, but is on the death row for the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts. He hopes that justice will prevail eventually, says a source who knows Khan’s story.

Shaikh Mohammed Ali, 45

Ali has also been accused of harbouring Pakistani nationals. He is serving life imprisonment for the train blasts. He is also booked for being a SIMI member.

Anupama Katakam

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