Nine years in jail for a crime he did not commit, Abdul Wahid Shaikh – the only accused to walk out a free man in the 11/7 blasts trial. During his detention he completed Master’s degree in English, a course in journalism and the first year of a law degree. But his biggest accomplishment, he believes is writing a 400-page book about his experiences, to serve as a guide for anyone who gets falsely implicated in a terrorist attack.
In 2006, Abdul Wahid 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. Nine years later, in September 2015, 12 of the accused were convicted by a special court in Mumbai. Abdul Wahid alone was acquitted, after the court found no merit in the accusations against him.
Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s new book, titled ‘Begunah Qaidi’ (Innocent Prisoner) initially written in Urdu, is based on his life after his arrest and subsequent acquittal. The book covers his nine years in prison and he has described the torture, maddening loneliness and systematic abuse of the system that make young men like him fodder for security agencies eager to show quick success.
After his release, 38-year-old Abdul Wahid slowly began to pick up the threads of his life once again – a life with his wife, his now-teenage son and daughter and his former job as a science teacher at Anjuman-e-Islam school. But the trauma of the custodial torture he was put through still haunts him.
He spent ten months in writing the Urdu book when he was in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail. Abdul Wahid clears that this book is less of an autobiography and more of a guidebook for other innocent prisoners fighting the false implication.
Nonetheless, the early chapters of the book contain Abdul Wahid’s account of horrific torture that he and his co-accused were put through during their initial days of arrest.
Abdul Wahid mentions the “torture cells” inside the offices of the anti-terrorist squad, the sound-proof, air-conditioned dark rooms. He writes about how prisoners are left naked with the AC on in full blast, given electric shocks in their nipples and private parts.
“They also make rape threats towards the wives and sisters of the accused, or molest female relatives in front of you,” said Abdul Wahid. He also said, “Through these means, the police managed to get false confessional statements from everyone.”
Who can be framed?
In his book, Abdul Wahid writes about what he believes are the typical characteristics that the police in India look for while making arrests in terror attack charges. “First, of course, he has to be a Muslim. They almost never bother to arrest Hindus,” he said.
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Also police allegedly look to arrest men who already have some small previous criminal record in their name. In 2001, Shaikh claims he was framed and falsely accused of being a member of the banned extremist outfit, Students Islamic Movement of India. As a result, he was repeatedly questioned by the police in multiple terror attack cases in Mumbai. “I was eventually acquitted in that case in 2012,” he said.
Innocence Network, India
On the occasion of 1st anniversary of his acquittal, Abdul Wahid Shaikh founded an organization Innocence Network in July 2016 along with prominent lawyers, social activists to start a movement in the society and to fight against the false arrest. Innocence Network holds talks, symposiums, seminars and debates etc. to spread awareness among masses about the ways in which innocent Muslims often get implicated with false charges.
The Hindi version of Begunah Qaidi was launched in presence of many social and political people at the hands of Manoj bhai Sansare (Swabhimani Republican Party) and S M Mushrif (Retd. IG, Maharashtra), Adv. Abdul Wahab (Mumbai), Haji Abdul Hamid (Social worker, Mumbai), Rahul Dambade, Milind Ahire, Adv. Abdul Gafoor Pathan etc. were among them.
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With an aim to reach out to more number of readers, Abdul Wahid Shaikh came with Hindi version of the book and English version will also be coming very soon. While speaking to theshahab.com, Abdul Wahid said, “I want to send out four messages through my book. First, all convictions are false and they should be released as soon as possible. Second, ATS officers who are involved in framing innocent people should be prosecuted as per law. Third, All innocents should be given appropriate compensation, a home, a job or help in setting up business. And Fourth, Government should publicly say sorry for false implications and in future should refrain from framing Muslims in false cases.”
Book launch of Begunah Qaidi Hindi version is organized by Mul-Niwasi Muslim Manch, Pune. Anjum Inamdar, President Mul-Niwasi Muslim Manch when asked about the reason to host this program said, “Abdul Wahid Shaikh is a lone acquittal who dared to raise voice against the false implications and he lauded the role of Abdul Wahid who did not sit silently and taken stand after serving nine long years jail term for the crime he did not commit.” People should come forward to encourage such people, he added. Inamdar also demanded re-investigation of all bomb blasts happened after 2001.