Naushad Pakiza, a 40-year-old businessman-cum social activist, was served an externment notice by the Indore District Court on September 3 on charges of holding up traffic and raising slogans in support of Tasleem Ali, who was beaten up at New Govind Nagar on August 22 for ‘concealing his identity’ while selling bangles, outside the Central Kotwali on the intervening night of August 22-23.
In a viral video, 25-year-old Ali is shown being thrashed by some men who accused him of harassing women on the pretext of selling bangles on Rakhi.
The notice, served under Section 5(A)(B) of MP State Security Act, 1990, terms Pakiza as a “notorious criminal” who was involved in unlawful activities. On the midnight of August 22-23, he and other men gathered outside the Central Kotwali police station and tried to disturb the communal harmony, stopped traffic and raised slogans that can disrupt peace, the notice says.
The police had registered an FIR against three known and 25 unknown persons for unlawfully gathering outside the Central Kotwali under Sections 147, 341, 294 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The crowd was demanding justice for Ali, who had been arrested under IPC Sections 354, 467, 468 and the POSCO Act, 2012.
Strangely, Pakiza’s name was added later to the FIR. The businessman claims he was 10 km away from the police station attending a feast with his family. “Neither I was at the police station nor do I have anything to do with the case. I came to know about the incident the next morning,” he said, adding, “I had left for Mumbai along with my sister, who has cancer. Almost 10 days after the incident, when I returned to Indore last Friday (September 3), I was shocked to receive the externment notice.” The court has sought his reply by September 13.
Pakiza is among nine people who were served the externment notices under the MP State Security Act and termed as “notorious criminal” by the court last week for gathering outside the police station and raising slogans in support of Ali.
Pakiza turned to social activism during the pandemic after “seeing the ordeal of common people and fed hundreds of them everyday in both the lockdowns”. “I have no criminal record, but still the police have booked me for the alleged crime which I haven’t committed,” he says.
Besides Pakiza, the externment notices were served to three Congress leaders, two Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) members, two social activists and two other persons.
The Congressmen who were booked are Aminul Khan Suri, a spokesperson of the state unit; Irfan Shaikh, a district president of Indore Congress Minority Cell; and Amjad Mansuri, whose elder brother is a corporator. The SDPI members, Rauf Belium and Mumtaz Qurashi, are vocal about minority issues. While Zaid Pathan, Azim Bilal and Pakiza are the others.
Seven of the nine externment notices, almost having the same content, accessed by Newsclick reveal that six of the accused have no criminal background with only Belium having three cases registered against him. “Out of three cases, he was acquitted in the first case, which had serious charges. Only the Case under Section 188 (disobeying government officials) of the IPC is under investigation,” his son Azeem Bilal told Newsclick.
According to Suri, the “BJP government is acting so vindictively against the Muslim community that demanding justice has become a crime”. He told Newsclick that the “people who had gathered to demand justice for Ali after the video of the incident went viral were not only booked but externment notices were also served to them”.
“The Indore police booked Naushad, who wasn’t present there, and four of the accused who were with Tasleem inside the police station that night,” Suri added.
Section 5(A) of MP State Security Act authorises the district magistrate to extern a person who causes danger or harm to person or property while clause B of the Section says “such person who is engaged or is about to be engaged in the commission of an offence punishable under Chapter XII, XVI or XVII or under Section 506 or 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 can be externed by the magistrate”.
“Collectors have the right to pass the order under Section 5 of the MPSS Act,” said Ravindra Chabra, former additional advocate general of Madhya Pradesh High Court, Indore Bench. “But the provisions of Section 7 of the Act say the collector should consider and examine the facts and evidence submitted by the accused before passing the order,” he added.
Congress leader Shaikh told Newsclick that the police refused to register an FIR against the culprits when Ali approached. “But when a crowd gathered outside the police station after seeing the brutality and religious slurs in the video and demanded justice for Ali, the police framed them for disturbing communal harmony and externment notices were served to nine people. This is nothing but injustice.”
Shaikh said that “several rallies were organised by right-wing groups in support of the accused who assaulted Tasleem and provocative slogans were also raised outside the DIG office, but neither they were booked under stringent laws nor any of them served externment notices”.
On August 27, a delegation led by BJP minority cell president Rafat Warsi and vice-president Nasir Shah met chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and state home minister Narottam Mishra urging a fair inquiry and pointed out how the district administration and the police are vindictively targeting Muslims while giving free hand to others. Chouhan assured them of speaking with the Indore collector and the IG; instead, the court served the externment notices.
Despite repeated attempts, Indore collector Manish Singh wasn't available for comment.