Nine years and counting: Zakkariya, injustice and jails of the ‘Agrahara’

Photo credit: Maktoob Media

By Fayiza CA for

It’s been a decade of fights and tears for Beeyumma, a mother from Parappanangadi in the Malappuram district of Kerala. About ten Kilometres from Bangalore, in the Parappana Agrahara jail, is her son, Zakkariya, held a prisoner for the past nine years. Zakkariya is accused of providing technical support for the Bengaluru blast that happened on July 25, 2008. Meanwhile, for the past one decade, Beeyumma has been crying out to the world that her son is innocent and there is some conspiracy involved.

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The abduction: February 2009

Zakkariya was arrested on Feb 5, 2009, from a mobile shop in Tirur, Malappuram, where he had been working. It was more of an abduction than an arrest. Legally, the arrest in such cases should happen only after informing the local police station. The family of the accused should also be made aware of the arrest. In the case of Zakkariya, neither of these formalities were followed. The family was unaware of the situation until on the 3rd day after the arrest when Zakkariya called home to say that he had been arrested and taken to Bangalore for some reason he did not know.

Photo credit: Maktoob Media



The unsound accusations

Zakkariya lost his father when he was ten. The family was then at the mercy of Beeyumma’s brothers. Zakkariya had a very disciplined childhood, under the care of his uncles. He chose to study B-Com after his twelfth grade but had to drop the course as he had to support the family. He then joined for a one-year electronics course after which he got employed in the Mobile shop at Tirur. Four months after he joined the shop, the arrest happened. Zakkariya is accused of providing help in the making of trimmers and microchips for the blast. For someone who has zero experience in the field, it is nearly impossible to deal with such equipment which needs professional skills. The two witnesses produced by the Karnataka police were Nizamuddin and Haridas, both illiterate in the Kannada language. Nizamuddin later explained how he was forced by the police to sign a statement written in Kannada. Both of them later claimed of being deceived by the police and having no connection with Zakkariya. When there is so much to prove his innocence why are the media and the public still not interested in Zakkariya? What is this double standard?

The mother, Beeyumma

Beeyumma ran around demanding justice for her son. Finally heartbroken she said “God is there above all the sarkars and his court stands above all the courts. My son will be given justice there.” Beeyumma was turned away by the Left government, still busy establishing it’s secular stands against fascism. The same government’s police haunted Beeyumma and her family that she had to leave her home. Neighbours and relatives stopped talking to the terrorist’s mother. But Beeyumma stood strong. She did not lose hope when she read from the newspapers about the chronic headaches and serious physical and mental conditions that was eating up his son. She let the tears flow but never let the rage settle. In the past nine years, Zakkariya was allowed parole only twice. She wouldn’t have seen enough of her son before she had to send him back to prison. Beeyumma still believes that her son will be set free. The faith keeps her going. When the truth began to sprout out, Beeyumma got support from the natives and some social activists and other organisations. They formed ‘The Justice For Zakkariya Action Forum’, which is still fighting for justice. It’s been nine years and Beeyumma is still waiting for the judiciary to finally find out the truth and bring her son back.

Zakkariya isn’t alone.

The word ‘Agrahara’ means ‘Brahminical Village’. (Just moved by the irony of such a name in the present political condition of India). The Bengaluru Parappana Agrahara jail is the largest in the country spreading over 40 acres of land. It has thousands of such innocent ‘terrorists’ like Zakkariya, curbed in its darkness, all waiting for trial. Sometimes the undertrials will have to spend a lifetime in the prison, before being proven innocent in the judgement. Or else, they die never being able to prove their innocence to the world.

The country is witnessing the cruelest violations of the constitution. According to an estimate in 2014, more than 55% of the undertrials in various jails across the country are Muslims, Dalits, and Tribals. Over 82,190 Muslim youths in the country are behind the bars. How many of them would be innocent like Zakkariya? Won’t they have mother’s waiting for their return in some or the other part of this country? Are those mother’s being aware of their country itself being turned into another Agrahara? Like the Rohingyas are thrown out of Myanmar, and like Palestinians are attacked in their land they are putting a whole community behind the bars. The world’s largest democracy is stinking. Stinking of mother’s tears. Mothers of Rohit, Najeeb, Junaid, Zakkariya and how many more?

The author is a student of B.A Functional English at Farook College, Calicut and a native of Thrissur