Unheard & Unspoken: Terror stories from Madhya Pradesh

By Mohd. Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net

Madhya Pradesh is one of the biggest states in India, also known as the heart of India. In recent years every major bomb blast linked to the Hindutva groups whether it is Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid or Malegaon, all of them have been traced back to the Malwa region (western part) of the state. But in spite of M.P. being the capital of Hindutva terrorism, state police and intelligence focus seem to be on Muslims. In this series we trace the lives of several Muslims youth and their families and how they have been made to suffer in the heartland of India- their stories largely unheard and unspoken, until now.

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Part 1: SIMI, an excuse to harass Muslims of Madhya Pradesh

Arresting Muslims by showing them as members of banned organization like Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) is common especially in the Malwa region. M.P. had a strong SIMI presence before it got banned in 2001. SIMI grew in M.P. because other Muslim organization has always had a weak presence here. It is a breeding place of Hindu right wing extremism, when RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP started targeting Muslims in their public meetings on Babri masjid issue or demanding changes in Quran, the 6% Muslims of M.P. found SIMI a good counter to right wing Hindu forces. SIMI was as blatant as RSS; they attacked the beliefs of Hindus giving rise to polarization and religious extremism on both sides.

Extremist groups among Hindus always enjoyed political clout and remained untouched, however the cadre of SIMI without any political support was an easy target. The police harassment of SIMI members was frequent but it got worse after the 2001 ban. Now there was complete impunity for the police to target any Muslim youth directly or indirectly linked to SIMI or even with no links. An environment of fear was created among Muslims of MP to crush the popularity of SIMI, and a decade later the fear psychosis is so strong that now Muslims are afraid even to take the name of SIMI.

According to the former members of SIMI the police harassment and tight surveillance began when Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) distanced itself from SIMI as their student wing in 1981. In mid-1990’s police started slamming cases on its members, attendees of their meetings and former members, before the 2001 ban, cases used to be petty in nature like distribution of inflammatory pamphlets, sticking inflammatory posters under sec 153 of I.P.C.

Mohammad Iqbal Nagori is a middle-aged man with affable smile and a receded hair line. He was the member of SIMI from 1980-92, and President of SIMI Indore in 1984. He attributes his receded hair line to the torture by MP Police. In 1997, five years after his retirement from SIMI he was arrested by MP police along with other former members. He alleged that they were put in three days illegal detention during which he along with other former members were tortured severely by ASP of that time. A fake case was made against all of them of distributing inflammatory pamphlets. He was acquitted by the court in 2006.

Recounting his story Iqbal told TwoCircles.net, “I was hardly in touch with any SIMI members and barely had knowledge of any of its activities, but police still rounded and booked not only me but many other former members. I was tortured; they wanted to show us they could do anything no one is going to be spared.”

They did not even spare old men, Nagori adds, “Police had even booked cases on people in the age group of 60-80; many of them don’t even have any association with SIMI. According to the rules of SIMI after 30 year of age members has to retire but for police even a 70 year old man was SIMI member.”

He said life is still hard even after acquittal, “Police is still keeping us under high surveillance, whenever any VIP or any Hindutva leader visit Indore we are taken under preventive custody. Police have created such a fear among general public about SIMI that people are scared even to talk to us.”

Another former president of SIMI Indore Sajid Pasha, have his own tale to tell. He too was arrested in the first round of arresting in 1997 in alleged inflammatory pamphlets distribution case, he was again arrested in 2000 in the case of a conference “Naved-e-Sehar” organized by his organization, which according to the police has propagated hatred among communities. But unfortunately for police he was acquitted in 2006 for the 1997 case, and in 2009 in the conference case. But it was not a cake walk for him in fighting the legal trial and cooked cases of the police. He told us his service in a reputed hospital in the city was terminated due to the frequent police inspections.

He also said, “Whenever there is unfortunate incident anywhere in M.P or in country, police quickly rush to my house for inspection. There was even a time when nearly 30 police officials use to raid my house.”

Due to continuous police harassment he left Indore and went to Maharashtra, from Maharashtra he uses to visit Indore two times a month for hearing. He said, “In case of general criminals even if they missed their hearings is no big deal, but if a Muslim arrested in cases of SIMI he can’t miss a single hearing, if he missed it then he will become absconding. For four continuous years I travelled from Maharashtra to Indore twice a month to evade being branded absconding.”

Even after acquittal his life and difficulties remain same, he said, “My whole family is still harassed because of my relation with SIMI, no member of my family have been allowed to make their passports, my parents are unable to perform Hajj due to that. Even our relatives and family friends are scared to associate with us, I feel socially boycotted”.

Though Iqbal and Sajid had to face many difficulties during their long trials, but they were lucky enough in a sense that their cases were booked before SIMI was banned. There are many youths in M.P. especially in Ujjain and Indore who were booked in same type of cases after SIMI was banned, their cases are still going on and some even got convicted without any concrete evidence, this time due to extra sections from Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

Series homepage: http://twocircles.net/Special_Reports/mp_terror_stories.html