Iqrar and Habeeb: two different paths to jail

Unheard & Unspoken: Terror stories from Madhya Pradesh: Part 5

By Mohd. Ismail Khan,

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“My brother can never take part in robberies, he was a religious man”, claimed Razzaq Sheik elder brother of Iqrar sheikh one of the SIMI member accused in many dacoity cases across MP. Iqrar sheikh is a resident of Ujjain and was an active member of SIMI. Police claimed to have arrested him from Habibgunj Railway Station of Bhopal with other three SIMI or IM members on June 6, 2011.

Police at the time of arrest claimed, by giving statement in the media, that ‘the arrested ‘militants’ used to circulate jihadi literature and video CDs among children in the age group of 15 to 18 years. The police also claimed to have recovered huge quantity of CDs, pen drives and jihadi literature from the arrested men. Not only that, police further claimed that the arrested youth also used ‘jihadi’ blogs to influence the young minds. Police also asserted that those arrested have confessed that they had recruited several young men from Indore, Ujjain and Bhopal into their army to fulfill their ‘nefarious aims’, they targeted young men coming to mosques in various cities of the state’. And Iqrar was termed as prominent office-bearer of the SIMI who was trying to reactivate the proscribed students’ organization in MP and other states.

Few days after his arrest, his name started coming up in the news headlines as the master mind of Ahmedabad bomb blasts. Media claimed that Iqrar is a chemical engineer who is well versed in assembling bombs with inflammable material. Media also claimed by quoting their ‘highly placed sources’ from police that Iqrar gave training to other SIMI members to assemble bombs and even funded Ahmedabad terror strike.

A week after his arrest Iqrar ended up getting booked in four dacoity cases- Rs 65,000 dacoity in August 2009 and Rs six lakh in December 2009 both in Dewas, Rs 1.10 lakh dacoity in Canara Bank Itarsi in March 2010, another bank in Piplia Mandi in June 2010 in Mandsaur district and the last but the famous and target of many controversies the Mannapuram Gold Dacoity case.

Police claimed that Iqrar was absconding from his home town Ujjain from 2009 and since that period he started taking part in the robberies. The family confirms that Iqrar was absconding but they gave different reason for Iqrar running away from his home town. According to his brother Razzaq Sheikh, Iqrar pasted some posters of SIMI in 2001, and was booked in that case. But police arrested him in 2007 for that case he spent 1 year in jail and got the bail in 2008. His brother claimed “After getting bail police started calling him for questioning on different issues, he feared another arrest from Ujjain police then he told the family that he will leave Ujjain and will come back after the trial of his case is over. Since then we had no idea about his whereabouts. On June 2011 by the means of newspapers we got to know that he was arrested from Bhopal.”

Razzaq sheikh also claimed that his brother’s life was ruined due to the continuous police harassment when his brother was booked in the poster case he said, “My brother had completed M.A from literature he was not a chemical engineer as claimed by different newspapers. But he was unable to find a decent job because of continuous police surveillance. He got arrested in 2007 just one month after his marriage, his wife divorced him even before he got out on bail. And we even got to know that he got married second time four months before his arrest in Bhopal to a girl from Khandwa.”

Iqrar got married to Rafia Hafiz who along with her sister Aasia Hafiz was arrested in 2006 when police accused them of forming Shaheen, a women wing of SIMI. Khandwa sisters were later absolved of all charges.

21 year old Mohammad Habeeb is another accused in the bank dacoity case. He was shown arrested by the police from a rented place in a building in Ahmednagar Mohalla near Raja Chowk in Jabalpur, along with Mohammad Sajid, his neighbor and other two SIMI or IM members (as claimed by the police). But his family claim that he went along with Sajid to Bhopal to find some employment there and was arrested from the old city of Bhopal.

When Habeeb was presented to magistrate in Jabalpur the theory was made by the police that Habeeb along with sajjid and other two SIMI members were propagating its ideology among youngsters. But after one week just like Sajid, Habeeb also ended up getting booked in bank robbery cases. He is charged with robbing Punjab National Bank in Ratlam district.

His mother Zareena Bi told us that her son was an embroidery worker; he went along with Sajid to Bhopal to find some decent job their but ended in the custody of ATS. She told that his son was a decent religious man use to be focused on his own work, had no links with SIMI or IM he never took part in their activities. She said “we are facing huge difficulties even to meet him in jail; his condition is not good in jail he always complains of beatings and mental torture from the jail staff. We travel from Ujjain to Jabalpur just to meet him but the jail staff doesn’t allow us to meet him for more than 10 minutes.”

Zareena Bi also complained about the slow progress of the trial, she said “In this whole year there was only one single hearing in his case, he always told me in jail that he will complain to the judge about difficulties they are facing in jail, but there are no proceedings at all then whom should we complain. My son is innocent he deserve a fast trial. “

Mohd Ishteaar father of Habeeb alleged that ATS tortured his son in their custody. He said, “When I went to meet my son in Jabalpur jail he told me that ATS pissed on his face, and tortured, both physically and mentally. In jail their situation is no better, he always complains about harassment and mental torture from the jail staff.”

He even said that they are facing difficulties in meeting his son in jail. He said, “Jail staff click photographs of our meeting, they don’t allow him to speak freely with us, police officers will always stand by to listen what he is saying to us. They don’t allow us to give them any material from home, and we can meet them only for just ten minutes. They are for sure are not treated as general prisoners, jail staff is really biased against us.”

Mr Ishteaar also said that he and his family suffered both emotionally and economically after his son’s arrest. He said, “The whole condition of the family is changed now, my father passed away due to the mental depression from his grandson’s arrest, my wife always keep on crying thinking about him. I am a small tailor, earlier we both used to earn together, and he was my only son now I am left alone to take care of the whole family.”

Both father and mother appealed to their community leaders to speak for their son with the government. If they can’t fight for their son at least pressurize the government for a speedy trail, where they themselves will fight to prove innocence of their son by their own limited means.