Tuesday, November 01, 2016

System’s victim of wrongful confinement

Reviewed by Asif Anwar Alig

Framed as a Terrorist: My 14-Year Struggle to Prove My Innocence, by Mohammad Aamir Khan with Nandita Haskar, Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt., Ltd., New Delhi, Year 2016, 240pp, Indian Rupees 250, Soft. 

ow that BJP is at the helm of power at Center, minority bashing is commonplace. But the agonies of unlawful confinement of Mohammad Aamir Khan for 14 years indicate system’s deliberate biasness for minority communities particularly Muslims, whether secular or non-secular parties rule India. The book Framed as a Terrorist: My 14-Year Struggle to Prove My Innocence by Mohammad Aamir Khan is contextual memoire—a narration of a novice—that raises big question on country’s national integrity. 

Aamir’s nearly 15 years of incarceration in several jails until getting acquitted from the terrorism cases have been painstakingly debated in the media. Political parties and non-governmental organizations came forward to support him to start life afresh. 

This firsthand narration aptly defines how justice was buried with fabricated framing of an ordinary Muslim youth. He bore the brunt for ‘failing to collect some stealthy information for Indian intelligence agencies during a personal visit to Pakistan’ to meet his sister in Karachi. 

Repeated physical and mental tortures as brutalities crushed him and shattered the family. He recalls the sufferings of other Muslim youths as deliberate victims and questions government prejudices against this community. Many Muslim youths have been wrongfully confined. Their cases are still unsolved and they linger in different jails. Brutally tortured they have least chance for justice. Luckily, Aamir was acquitted unlike many other sufferers. 

This autobiographical sketch of an ordinary Muslim youth narrates his deliberate victimization to punishment for not fulfilling a sinister ‘mission’ of intelligence agencies against Pakistan. Aamir became scapegoat of their modus operandi. 

An encouraged author, Aamir narrates a story as if profiles countless others languishing in various jails on false charges. He met many of ‘framed terrorists’ lodged in different jails with least or no hope for acquittal. 

This book daringly exposes such brutalities. Optimism overpowered his nightmarish tortures but his home already shattered in one and half decades. Thus, his story speaks of sufferings of countless others. Luckily he had honest supporters in judiciary to other departments that rescued him. With precious days of life lost by the time proved innocence, no action was taken against those yet who framed him unlawfully.    

He was one of the many Muslim youths facing the fate of system’s whim. Percentage of Muslim inmates in the Indian jails is much higher than overall population percentage? This book advocates through an ordinary sufferer’s argument and augur Muslim community for their timely introspection. Intelligence officials deliberately scripted story in the wake of Delhi serial blasts to declare him terrorist. The claims were proved wrong but they ate up 14 years of an innocent’s life.   

This memoire of an ordinary Muslim youth describes the fabrications and framing of innocents as “terrorists.” He was falsely accused in 18 bomb blast cases but got acquitted from all. Finally released from Rohtak Jail on January 12, 2012 after spending wasteful years in different jails, the “free man” would have seen his pain healed if the government had at least issued symbolic apology. Even media played nefarious role by literally declaring him terrorist during this period.

He thanked a section of media and honest journalists for taking his story into true spirit. They supported in his struggle to prove innocence. Non-governmental organizations and human rights activists too supported him besides impartial judiciary paving the way for acquittal from the so called “covert terror investigation.” His story raises finger on the Indian media whether it plays the role of social watchdog in the matters of tackling cases of Muslims arrested in connection with terror. Often media declares Muslim youths guilty by turning police investigation factious loops into facts. By airing falsehoods, they make the common masses believe falsehoods. 

This book is an eye-opener for Indian Muslims to introspect what leads to their doom. It is also caveat on country’s intelligence agencies, police, judiciary and media why innocents are framed and how that would further reinforce terrorism. Everybody won’t have spirit of “willing to serve nation in nationalist spirit” which Aamir did but got framed as a terrorist.   

He couldn’t do a clandestine “service” assigned to him as he was not a trained spy. That didn’t justify him to be declared terrorist. His abduction and illegal custody after failing to accomplish that modus operandi until being framed terrorist to spend fourteen years in jails was irrefutable loss. He was forced to sign blank papers, write letters to his parents to willingly send his passport through officers to smoothen way for him being framed as terrorist are all anti-Muslim slurs. 

The sufferings of Mohammad Aamir Khan are known to all through this book. This couldn’t be possible without unconditional support from the Human Rights Activist Nandita Haksar and his lawyers who took his case on humanitarian grounds to prove his innocence. Besides explaining bitterness and tough times he spent in the jails that shiver readers’ spines he meticulously describes the city of his birth—Old Delhi—after donning into an author’s role.  

It is high time Muslim intelligentsia thinks to act to prevent many such innocent lives from getting perished. All of them won’t have the courage to come out of their sufferings to write a book on brutalities they encounter.  
This book concludes with happy note that he has now begun to lead life afresh with wife Alia and daughter born from their wedlock. She offered moral support to his beleaguered parents in his absence. His stigma has not gone yet although he has a family for moral support. His nightmarish fourteen years still haunt him though he is more optimistic for a bright future.  

This review article was first published in Radiance Viewsweekly on November 01, 2016. 

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