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Amir Khan: 14 years in jail, acquitted but still scared of police witch-hunt

By Md. Ali, TwoCircles.net,
This is the second part of the three part series on the case of Md. Amir Khan who spent 14 years in jail in 20 fabricated cases of bomb blasts.

New Delhi: This was not how Maimuna Bi had thought she would meet her son Amir after fourteen years of endless wait when Delhi police allegedly picked him illegally on February 20, 1998. When she finally met him on January 9, 2012, she was unable to speak because of the brain haemorrhage and paralysis she suffered. Only broken words were coming out after her continuous efforts to express her happiness.

Md. Amir Khan, a resident of Azad Market in Old Delhi, was charged in 20 cases of bomb blasts in and around Delhi. He had already been acquitted by the trial court in 17 out of 20 cases. He walked out of jail free only this month. Of the three remaining cases the Delhi High Court had overturned his conviction for life in one case. The remaining two are scheduled to come up for appeal.

He had not seen stars since 1998
The first thing Amir did after his release on January 9, 2012, was to go to the roof top and see the stars in an open sky.

“I hadn’t seen stars in the sky since last fourteen years because I was in the high security cell where prisoners were locked before the advent of nights. So I wanted to see stars and feel my freedom,” said Amir who was picked up by police when he was 18.

Amir showing court acquittal papers

After the third degree torture in jail and after spending 14 long years of his life in high security solitary prison cell, Amir is a changed man now, but it will take several months or maybe years to become normal.

Recalling the tragic 14 years
He is yet to reconcile with the fact that he is finally out of jail, free in most cases, of terror charges. Thanks to the number of cases which were put on him and on top of that, the slow judicial process, he had almost lost hope that he will ever be free.

“The fact that police put one by one, more than 20 odd cases on me, a tragedy which was all the more heightened because of slow judicial process,” said Amir who forgets thing while talking about his past probably due to the trauma he sustained.

“What adds to my mental anxiety is the fact that in the last 14 years the world has changed upside down. I don’t have any idea how to use the mobile which I saw first time in my life when I was out,” adds Amir who did Bachelor Preparatory Program, a course for those who have not done higher secondary, and then he got enrolled in B.A. at IGNOU while he was in Tihar jail.

Ironically the “terrorist” who was portrayed as the dreaded mastermind of 20 blasts won in 2011 the Best Essay Award on Mahatma Gandhi and Non-Violence Movement in “Karagaar Bandi Jeevan” a national prison magazine.

Relatives, community deserted family of “terrorist”
Amir broke down while talking about how nearly all of his relatives abandoned and boycotted the family of a “terrorist.” What had hurt him most, was the attitude of Muslim leaders and groups. He claimed that during this period of hardship, no community leader approached his parents for the sake of extending their support, let alone financial or legal help.

“There was just no body on our side. Right from our neighbors to relatives, everyone thought that I am a terrorist. I was quite hurt when my parents informed me in jail that even my own community and my relatives had deserted us when we needed them most,” added Amir who didn’t have even sufficient money to give to the lawyers who took up his case on humanitarian grounds.

Without any support from the community, relatives or the larger civil society, the old and ailing parents of this terror accused had to fight the tough legal battle with the Indian state, completely on their own. But even that pillar of strength collapsed when his father died of heart attack in August 2001. After that it was his sister, mother and a distant cousin who showed faith in his innocence and continued to fight for him. He is happy that now after his release his relatives are coming back one by one.

He is alive but family destroyed
Amir says that even though he is alive today but his life, family have been destroyed. After his continued fight against police for the wrongful arrest of his son, Hashim Khan died of heart attack.

The family invested whatever it had to get the only son out and at present, just the ailing and paralytic mother is left in the family. With nobody left to earn, the erstwhile lower middle class family is literally on the road.

At present he is quite scared of talking to people or media and it took lots of pursuance and convincing before he talked to TwoCircles.net.

Challenges before him – Safety and Rehabilitation
The two big challenges for Amir now are his safety and rehabilitation. Amir is quite scared of the fact that Delhi police might harass him all the more now because he is out, defeating their attempts to prove him a terrorist, and is talking to media about what had happened to him.

Out of this fear only he hasn’t gone out of his house since he has been released early this month, “What am I going to do if they (police) again decide to harass me and put me behind bars?” asks Amir.

The other problem is that of his rehabilitation. At present he is so much traumatised that he has no idea about what he wants to do and what are the potential areas he can work.
Amir only hopes that Muslim civil society groups will help him in his fight for a normal life.

At present his two appeals are pending in Delhi HC but he doesn’t have even the money to make two ends meet, let alone paying lawyers for their minimal charges.

Even at the risk of making generalizations, one can say that Amir’s tragedy is not his alone. At various levels, it’s the tragedy of all those who dreamt of the idea of India, an equitable India where every marginalised and minority has equal place.

TCN series on Mohammad Aamir Khan:

War on terror: If you can’t find the terrorist, make one : Part 1

Amir Khan: 14 years in jail, acquitted but still scared of police witch-hunt: Part 2

Media celebrates arrest of ‘terrorists’, but ignores their acquittals: Part 3