“Justice has prevailed.”
These were probably the first words that Dr Farogh Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi uttered after he and seven others were acquitted in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case on Monday. A ninth accused, Shabbir Ahmed, died in an accident a few months ago.
All the eight have alleged that anti-terrorism squad personnel consciously implicated them in the case because they were under pressure.
Raees Ahmad, who was termed a SIMI agent and a co-conspirator in the blast, said: “I was having dinner with my family late at night when a group of police officers came to my residence and asked me to come along. I went with them just because they asked me to cooperate. I realised that they had arrested me in the case only when I was taken to court later in the day.”
Farogh said the police would, at times, admit that they had arrested innocent people. “They said they arrested us after being tipped off by local informers. We knew that we were innocent; we were just waiting for the court to tell everyone else. I am very happy because this is exactly what happened,” he added.
Noorul Huda, who was also arrested by police for his alleged involvement in the blasts, put his jail time of five-and-a-half years to good use. While behind bars, he appeared for his HSC examinations and studied all the way till post-graduation. “I was working as a labourer in Malegaon, and had got married only three months ago. Though I was falsely arrested, my wife supported me through it all. She trusted me even though we spent very little time together… and today, we received justice,” he said.
The eight alleged that the police would torture and deny them sleep for days. “They gave us the third degree – stripping us naked and then hitting us on the hands, feet and even our private parts. I shudder to think of it even today,” said Huda.
Farogh sees divine intervention behind their survival, and eventual acquittal. “I think we survived the torture only because God knew that we were innocent; we would have died otherwise. They would first beat us very harshly, and then provide proper medical treatment to hide the assault marks on our bodies. They didn’t want us to raise allegations of torture in court,” he said.
Ahmad said the 2008 blasts wouldn’t have occurred if police had arrested the actual culprits. “I beg them not to arrest any more innocent people after this. We have lost five-and-a-half years of our lives.”