April 28, 2016

Article on on 2006 Malegaon blasts: 'The truth speaks and asserts itself’ - The Hindu - 26 April 2016

The Hindu, 26 April 2016
‘The truth speaks and asserts itself’
by Mubasshir Mushtaq

Dr Farog Makhdoomi, a Unani doctor, was surprised when police officers came knocking on his door on October 19, 2006 in connection with the September 8, 2006 blasts which killed 37 and injured over a hundred. “The saviour,” he said, “became the perpetrator in the eyes of the Maharashtra ATS."

On that fateful Friday, Makhdoomi had offered Friday prayers at Ahle-Hadees mosque of Nayapura locality, 200 metres away from Mushawerat Chowk, one of the sites of the blasts, and had rushed to Faran Hospital to help the injured.

“It’s ironic that the man who was busy saving lives that day was later charged for their killings,” Dr Saeed Farani, proprietor and general surgeon at Faran Hospital said.

Makhdoomi, 43, is the eldest son of a well-known local retired mathematics teacher, Iqbal Makhdoomi. Almost all his family members have been educators in this textile town.

“It was a deeply painful ordeal," he told The Hindu , after being discharged in the blasts case on Monday. “Everyone in Malegaon knew I was falsely implicated.” In jail, he had become an RTI activist with over 700 applications filed on various subjects including like food in jails and reservation for Muslims. “The truth proved my innocence. It speaks and asserts itself,” Makhdoomi, who had defended himself in court, said.

“The government should form a commission or committee to investigate how innocents were falsely implicated in Malegaon 2006 case,” he said, adding that he was bitter towards the Maharashtra ATS officers who implicated him. When asked if he will petition the court for compensation, Makhdoomi said, “I am not a beggar."

Dr Salman Farsi, 44, another accused who did not file for discharge and insisted that it is the duty of the government to discharge innocents, said he will petition the higher courts for the compensation.

“I have been discharged, but there are more than 800 individuals languishing in jails in false terror cases. From today, helping them will be my life’s purpose,” Farsi said, adding he wants to start an NGO called Justice Legal Voice to work with innocents for their discharge.

Noor-ul-Huda, 34, the prime accused and alleged planter, said it was one of the happiest days of his life. He was picked up for questioning on October 10, 2006, “Today Allah has proved our innocence to the entire world,” he said.

“We thought he would be back in five minutes, but he returned home only after five years,” said Shamshud Zuha, Huda’s father. Huda, along with the other accused, was released on bail in November 2011 after NIA said the agency has not found any evidence against them.

Advocate Irfana Hamdani, defence lawyer, said the Malegaon 2006 case was built by the “concerted effort” of a few ATS officers who harboured ill-feeling against the accused. “It is a historic day; a day on which the idea of justice has been restored,” she said.

Documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, whose upcoming documentary is based on the Malegaon blasts, said the verdict provides only “partial justice” to the nine wrongly accused men. “It is not enough to discharge the innocents — they need to be compensated for the tortures they were subjected to by the ATS and Maharashtra police, as also for the five years they spent in jail,” he said.

Meanwhile, the mood in Malegaon was euphoric as news of the discharge broke with people bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets. Malegaon witnessed another terror attack on September 29, 2008 in which seven people were killed. The ATS had blamed Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur , Col Prasad Purohit and an organisation named Abhinav Bharat for the blast.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Malegaon