Ten years as an undertrial, but no justice in sight: The tragic fate of Zakariya

Beeyumma, Zakariya's mother (doolnews.com)

By Najiya O, TwoCircles.net  

On February 5, 2009, 19-year-old Zakariya left his home in Parappanangadi to head to the mobile shop located 20 kilometres away in Tirur, Malappuram, where he was working. He never returned home. The worried family searched for him but in vain. After some days, the family got a call from Zakariya himself informing them that he was under police custody in Bengaluru. Since then, he has been an undertrial toiling at the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison.

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Zakariya is the 8th accused in the Bangalore bomb blast case which took place on July 25, 2008, and has been charged under the draconian UAPA. He is accused of having provided technical assistance for the bomb blast. The Karnataka police reportedly caught him from Tirur and took him away to Bengaluru without informing the local police or the concerned family. The police are also understood to have frightened his mother Beeyumma to not to bring this news out and that her son’s release would be difficult if the media came to know of it.

The Karnataka police had two witnesses – Nizamudheen and Haridas – both of whom later spoke against the statement publicly, according to reports. The former confessed that he did not know Zakariya and the latter said he was tricked into signing a paper on which something was written in the Kannada language which he did not know.  However, the court has decided to ignore both and go forward with the police version.

‘A Documentary about disapearance’ is a docu-fiction about Zakariya, directed by Adv Hashir K Muhammed in 2017.  Hashir recollected his only encounter with Zakariya in a post on Facebook some time back – that was when the latter’s elder brother died. The young man, who has been toiling in one of the most notorious jails of the country for nearly 8 years then, confided in Hashir that he could have been released from the prison if he said a lie – a lie that he had helped in the bomb blast. A few persons caught in connection with the case had agreed to go with the police version and had been released after spending three years in jail.

During these 10 years, Zakariya has got bail only twice-two days each time – once for the wedding of his brother and the other when that brother died suddenly. “Bail can be denied to an accused only if he is politically strong and powerful enough to suppress facts and threaten witnesses”, said Adv Hashir to TwoCircles.net. “Even a powerful film star in the state like Dileep was given bail after 90 days in prison. But here, bail has been denied to Zakariya who is not politically or economically powerful and influential in the society, one who cannot suppress facts with power. The procedures in the case are going forward by denying the basic legal rights of a person.  Normally bail can be given once the investigation is completed. In this case, the investigation has been completed, the trial has begun and witnesses have been presented.”

Beeyumma’s husband Kunju Muhammed died when Zakariya was a young child. The four children then grew under the care of her brothers. Zakariya began to study B.Com after finishing Class 12 but soon gave it up to do a course in Electronics with the intention of getting a job soon. After completion, he joined a mobile shop in Kondotty and then in Tirur. And soon, he was caught in this case.

Being the mother of a ‘terrorist’ has not been an easy task. For nearly five years, family and local people hesitated to be with or cooperate with them and instead chose to believe the police version. Things were moving towards an unofficial boycott for Beeyumma and children. The innocence of Zakariya was first brought out by documentary film-maker KP Sasi and journalist Jisha Josh. They came to know of Zakariya from Abdulnaser Maudany, who is also accused and jailed in the same case when they met him at the prison. When the truth was brought out, it facilitated the family to knock all possible doors for help. The ‘Justice for Zakariya Action Council’ was formed with cooperation and support from social and political activists, some Muslim organisations and local people.

Zakariya was first taken to the prison at Belgaum where he was in solitary confinement and not given proper food or water etc. During summers, the jail, with a tin roof, would get severely hot while it would get bone-chillingly cold during winters as per reports. Having been mentally and physically worn out is the result of his decade-long prison life and solitude. Zakariya now suffers from severe headaches and many other illnesses.

The charge sheet was filed four years after the arrest. The trial is moving at a snail’s pace. Out of the nearly 100 witnesses, the prosecution has been reportedly been able to produce only a small number. As a result, a teenager has already spent a decade in prison and there seems to be no end in sight to his plight.