‘When the school asked children to draw their homes, my child drew the jail bars’
The Hindi version of the 400-page book narrating Wahid Shaikh’s story, titled Begunah Kaidi, was launched on August 6pune Updated: Aug 07, 2017 17:43 IST
The Bombay Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested 13 Muslim educated youth - including me - in the 2006 train bomb blast case. These 13 people were the ones who were raising their voice against the injustice meted out by the Mumbai police. They have nothing to do with the blast case, but Bombay ATS and the police falsely implicated them by establishing false panchanamas, false recovery and false confessions,” says a calm-looking Wahid Shaikh, before the Hindi version of a 400-page book narrating his story was launched on Sunday. The publishers who brought SM Kashif’s ‘Who Killed Karkare?’ have published the book titled ‘Begunah Kaidi’.
How did you manage to get acquitted?
This is the natural next question. For the sake of argument, to prove the authenticity of the case in the court, the police/ATS did not plant a false recovery or confession in my case. They did this only to be able to argue that the confessions were made and recorded willfully and were not forced. This is what enabled them to say that Wahid did not confess and there was no recovery from his house. They wanted to argue that if this was a false implication, we could have planted RDX in my house as well and made me sign a 50 page confession, similar to the other 12 people. Another thing that they established against me was the witness who is my relative. They thought this fake witness would earn them a conviction. Fortunately, when he came to the court to record his statement, he froze. That is when he told the court that the police had forced him to make a false statement and sign a false statement - pre-written by the police - against me. He told the court that there were no Pakistani nationals in Wahid's house. No confession, no recovery and the witness turned hostile as well; the court then had to acquit me. Had Mehmood Azeem Qureshi, my brother-in-law, given that false statement in the court, I would still be languishing in jail like the others.
What happened when the ATS officer who refused to file the chargesheet was reported dead?
Vinod Bhat was the ACP of ATS and he was the investigation officer of the 7/11 train bomb blast case. After going through all the documents and papers and after he investigated the case himself, ACP Bhat questioned the seniors' decision to build a chargesheet against us. He was under pressure. On one hand he was aware that a chargesheet would ensure conviction for all 13 of us and on the other hand his conscience was involved. He interrogated us and got into his car with his driver right in front of us. He directed the driver to stop along the railway track near Mahim railway station and gave him his watch, wallet and other belongings and sent him home saying he will follow him in some time before lying on the track and letting a train run him over. The next day, the police registered it as an accidental death and closed the file. You tell me, such a high-ranking ATS officer, who has his own car, why would he take the train? We tried hard to reopen that case and took it to court in order to get it registered as a case of suicide, but to no avail. We were in police custody when this happened and were being questioned. We learned about the incident through newspapers the next day. Had he been around, he could have made a great deal of difference in our case.
How did your arrest come about?
I was being questioned for three months. After the arrest, I was kept in police custody for 30 days and I was tortured by the police. While I was in police custody, the policemen used to say openly that we were not involved in the blast and that they could not solve that case. They freely spoke about how the case claimed the life of one of their officers who committed suicide. They told us time and again that we were made the fall guys and that we had to sign the confession papers written by the police in order to corroborate the story that they had narrated. We were asked to be government witnesses or approvers failing which, we were warned of torture. We went through all kind of torture after we refused.
What kind of torture were you subjected to?
There are three degrees of police torture - first, second and third degree. In first degree, the process is slow and the police do not touch you; they strip another person naked in front of you and hit him in all possible ways to set an example for you. They abuse in the name of religion, mothers, sisters and wives; they say horrible things about them while continuously hitting the person with hands and leather belts. When the person refuses to sign after first degree, they begin second degree where you sole and palms are assaulted with thick belts or a cane. There is a specific oil that they inject in your anus that leads to burning sensation throughout your body. The stretch your legs to an extend where you start urinating blood. You are sent to a dark room with your eyes closed for days on end where you can’t even hear anything - a sort of solitary confinement. Sometimes an inmate was not allowed to sleep for 10 days at a stretch. When even that does not break a person, he is subjected to third degree. The scariest form of it is waterboarding - a person is suspended upside down with a thick cloth on his face and water from hoses is sprayed with high pressure. Simultaneously, they passed electric shock through your private parts. I and the other 12 were subjected to all of this.
What effect did this have on your family life?
I was sent to jail when I was 28, survived by a housewife and two children. The court had allowed my children - one was six-months-old and one was 2-years-old - and wife to meet me for 10 minutes in the court. In jail, they would visit me and see me through a metal-net. My wife had to take up job while raising the children single-handedly, my father passed away, my mother developed a mental illness - the damage cannot be measured. When the school asked the children to make drawings of their homes, my child drew the jail bars, drew me behind it and made an arrow saying ‘Abba’.
What are your plans now?
The campaign that we are running right now, called Innocence Network, is for the 12 other men who are still languishing in jail. One is in Thane, two are in Yerawada, two in Nashik, three in Nagpur and four in Amravati. I’m their mouthpiece because there is no one else who can tell their story. They are also innocent and have not caused any blast. We are simply trying to bring this into public consciousness that the ATS has falsely implicated them and repeated the process in Malegaon bomb blast case as well.