Every week, Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi arrives at the office of Delhi Police’s special cell to mark his “attendance”. This is a routine Kazmi has followed for the past three-and-half-years. He is a marked man, his passport cancelled and his phone calls tracked. For all practical purposes, the 52-year-old journalist is a prisoner though he is not in jail.
Kazmi is an accused in the high-profile terrorist attack on an Israeli diplomat in 2012, when an unidentified motorcycle-borne rider attached a ‘sticky bomb’ to the car of the wife of the Israeli defence attache to India. The woman, Tal Yehoshua Koren, sustained minor injuries along with her driver and two bystanders.
Kazmi says he is a prisoner of a flawed system that allegedly turned an innocent person into a terrorist. But recent developments have given him hope and the courage to continue his battle.
When a Mumbai court recently dropped charges against nine Muslim men accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case due to lack of evidence, Kazmi was following the developments minutely. He also remembers how nine men out of a dozen picked up Delhi Police on suspicion of being involved in terror activities were released in 2006.
All Kazmi wants now is a fair and quick trial.
“If I am guilty, punish me, if I am not then acquit me but don’t drag my case till several years. I have seen many cases where acquittal comes after 14 years of trail. What’s the point of acquittal after this long period when your entire life has been destroyed?” he says.
“They (the Delhi Police) don’t have any evidence against me so they are delaying the trial.”
Arvind Deep, the special commissioner of police’s special cell refused to comment on the allegations as the matter is sub-judice.
Kazmi, arrested soon after the incident, was granted bail in October, 2012. But his life changed dramatically.
Sitting in a small office at his Jorbagh residence, Kazmi says most of his time is now taken up by preparations for his case.
He is also writing a book about his experience in jail, how police allegedly frame innocent people and about what he calls the “whole business of terror”.
“They (police) planted all kind of stories against me in the media and I was labeled a highly-prized terrorist. Days after interrogation, I was sent to Tihar where I was kept with other criminals, some of them involved in heinous crimes,” he recalls.
However, he says, the stint in jail gave him an insight into “how criminals feel and are treated in the jail” by the authorities.
“Now, I know everything. I am writing a book in which I will expose the terror industry and how it functions,” Kazmi adds.
The terror attack had diplomatic ramifications after Israel accused its rival Iran of planning and executing it. The Indian government had to act and act fast.
At that time, Kazmi, an expert in foreign affairs, was a prominent face on TV shows related to Iran. Also, just a few days after the attack on February 13, he visited Teheran with a delegation of journalists. He was arrested on March 6, shortly after his return.
The label of “terrorist” has struck since then.
At family functions, he is often introduced as the “man who was involved in the Israel diplomat attack”.
He avoids going to religious events especially if it is related to Iran.
Four years after the incident, he got his first job in a TV news channel but was asked to leave few days later, allegedly due to pressure by police. He stopped anchoring a Doordarshan show after his arrest.
Last year, he started working for Iran Radio but only after getting clearance from the court and the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing a money laundering case against him.
He, however, says his family has stood by him through the most trying time of his life though many friends turned hostile and avoids meeting him.
“I hardly receive any call as everyone knows my phones are being tapped. My two sons are well settled and I have support of my wife. There are well wishers who now respect me all the more and there are few who do it as symbolism. I don’t blame anyone though it is painful,” he says.
For Kazmi, the battle he is waging is not just for himself but for many others who have been victimised by the system.
“I am aware of my rights so I have moved several petition sin different courts. There are (other) victims, who don’t have money to approach court,” he says.
But his biggest regret is his inability to write for mainstream journals and newspapers to share his views on terrorism and why organisations like the Islamic State are wrong.
“Because I am not writing, it has affected society…I am depressed because of lack of work, but I am not hopeless. I believe in Allah and I know one day, I will come out of this.”