“Who will wash off the blot of terrorism conferred upon me by the investigative agencies and the media?” questioned Gulab Khan, as he walked out of Bareilly Central Jail on Saturday as a free man.
“I have been kept in the jail for nearly 12 years—the term being equivalent to the sentence of a murder convict. Will the court or those who destroyed not only me but my whole family help me now? Will the media make sure that people know I’m innocent?” he asked.
Khan, a native of Baheri town in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh, was arrested for his alleged involvement in a terror attack in 2008. The 48-year-old is one of the two persons acquitted by a Rampur court.
“I had no connection with the terror attack but I was still framed. When I stepped outside of the jail after 12 years, I thanked the Almighty. It feels good to breathe in the open air and to see my own people. But how will I start my life when my shop—price of which would have been in crores today—has been sold due to the case. Six bighas of my land have been sold too. I have nothing at the age of 48,” said Khan while speaking to NewsClick.
Khan used to run a welding shop in Baheri. He was arrested in February 2008 on the charges of involvement in a terror attack and possession of weapons. His brother-in-law, Mohammed Sharif, a native of Rampur, is one of the four convicts who was given death sentence in the case on Saturday.
Meanwhile, another man acquitted in the case, Muhammad Kausar, who also hails from Pratapgarh in Uttar Prades, was also released from Bareilly Central Jail on the same day. He, along with his brother, left for his hometown.
Kamal Khan, brother of Gulab Khan, while speaking to NewsClick said, “Gulab Khan and Mohammad Kausar spent nearly 12 years in the jail for a crime they didn’t commit. They sold their shops and spent their life savings on the case. The court has acquitted them, but nothing will bring back the decade that they have lost behind bars.”
“It was the early morning of February 10, 2008 when I was arrested from my bedroom as I was getting ready to go to my welding shop. I was told that an FIR had been lodged against me for a minor scuffle in Bareilly jail, which is around 50 km away from my hometown Baheri. I told them I had not been to Bareilly in three-four months before that. But they did not listen to me and forced me to sit into the car. First, they kept me in a closed sugar mill, then in a hotel, and then took me to Rampur. The very next day, after medical examination, I was sent to Rampur jail giving citing my ‘invovement’ in a terror attack,” Gulab told Newslick.
Khan said that his family faced grave financial problems and his children had to discontinue their education. “I lost my mother and my aunt, and I could not even attend their funeral. Owing to the severe financial crunch, the electricity connection at my home has been disconnected. We use a lamp now,” said Kamal Khan.
The Media Trial
The acquitted men are angry with a few news outlets for “acting as mouthpieces of the police” and spreading “blatant lies” against them. “Media made our lives miserable by publishing unsubstantiated and imaginative stories,” said Gulab.
Ironically, this is not the first case where Muslims have been proved innocent after having languished for several years in jail. In a similar case, four Muslim youths from Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh along with one Pakistani national were acquitted by the Allahabad High Court in a fake terror case on August 5. Two others, who had been languishing in the jail for the past 19 years in the same case, were also acquitted.
In 2008, terrorists had attacked the Rampur-based Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) group centre, in which seven CRPF jawans and one civilian were killed, while some jawans and citizens had sustained serious injuries.
Also read: Despite Acquittals and Lack of Evidence, Minorities Portrayed as Terrorists