Following the footsteps of Gujarat's Mufti Abdul Qayyum Ahmed Husain Mansuri, another person being acquitted of terror charges, Abdul Wahid Shaikh of Mumbai, has published a book in Urdu, “Begunah Quaidi”, detailing his days in jail, pointing to how he would be subjected to verbal and physical abuse, threats and stripping of clothes during interrogation, though he was innocent.
Mansuri spent 11 years for being a prime conspirator in the September 2002 attack on Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar. He was acquitted by the Supreme Court. In 2015, he released his book “I am a Mufti, and I am not a Terrorist. 11 Years Behind the Bars”, which contains controversial names of well-known “encounter specialists”, who had allegedly tortured him.
Shaikh points to how second degree is used to get information, including use of belts, forcing one into hunger or solitary confinement, tying up and forcing one to stand for days, adding, using third degree involved extreme physical torture including waterboarding, electric shocks or chemicals on private parts, or forcing the prisoner’s legs into 180-degree splits.
“They also make rape threats towards the wives and sisters of the accused, or molest female relatives in front of you,” Shaikh is quoted as saying in a recent report, which adds, he “claims that one of his co-accused was forced to watch police officers molest his sister-in-law. Through these means, the police managed to get false confessional statements from everyone.”
Shaikh, who completed a master’s in English, a course in journalism and the first year of a law degree during the days in jail, including writing a 400-page book about his experiences “to serve as a guide for anyone who gets falsely implicated in a terrorist attack”, says, the report.
In 2006, Shaikh was one of the 13 men arrested by the Maharashtra police for allegedly carrying out the July 11 Mumbai train bomb blasts, which killed 188 people and injured more than 800. Shaikh was specifically accused of using his house to harbour Pakistani terrorists, who then went on to plant bombs in the city’s local trains along with 13 Indian conspirators.
Nine years later, in September 2015, 12 of the accused were convicted by a special court in Mumbai. Shaikh alone was acquitted, after the court found no merit in the accusations against him. Jamiat-ul Ulema helped him legally. The book contains chapters on wrongful arrests, fabricated evidence, police atrocities, and forced confessions, calling all of it “state terror.”
“After his release, 38-year-old Shaikh slowly began to pick up the threads of his life once again – a life with his wife, his now-teenaged son and daughter and his former job as a science teacher at an Anjuman-e-Islam school. But the trauma of the custodial torture he was put through has not yet left him”, the report by Aarefa Johari says.
Officially released as innocent prisoner from Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, the book which is Urdu, says the report, “Contain Shaikh’s gut-wrenching accounts of the kind of torture that he and his co-accused were put through for the first three months after their arrest.”
“Shaikh was the only accused at the time who did not end up signing a confessional statement, which he claims was a deliberate 'strategy' on the part of the police’s anti-terrorism squad to prove in court that no torture had been involved in the interrogations”, the report says.
“However, in the jail cells of various prisons in Maharashtra, Shaikh continued to face intermittent bouts of mental and physical torture till 2008”, the report says, quoting him to say, “At one point they fractured my arm and left me without medication for 15 days.”