He showed us the cd on a laptop
In the evening of the 24th, June, I visited the home of Akhtar Mujahid along with members of the CPI(M) in Jaunpur District. Akhtar’s home is in Madiyaun, a kasba of Jaunpur, UP. We arrived in the evening, following a darkening sky. Just as we entered his mohalla, the rain came pouring down and we had to run into the narrow lane that led to his house. Many of his neighbours had collected to welcome us and all of us sat in the small room in the front of the home that he and his widowed mother shared with his Taya (father’s elder brother), Tayi, their son, Shahid, his wife and their two children.
Khalid’s uncle is an extremely dignified man who seems to have aged because of the burden of grief and despair that he has carried since December, 2007 when his nephew was suddenly picked up by an unknown group of people in an unmarked jeep. This occurred just fourteen days after Khalid’s marriage.
As we sat in the small room, Khalid’s uncle told us about the day when life as they had known it came to a standstill for him and his extended family. He manages a madarsa and library in the neighbourhood and Akhtar taught there. It is on record that he attended to his duties on the 16th December, 2007 and was then picked up and whisked away by unknown persons to an unknown place. His cousin, Shahid, accompanied by a large number of people, went to the police station immediately but his FIR was not accepted. This was reported in several newspapers the next day and Akhtar’s uncle and others sent faxes to the Chief Minister and others. On the 18th, the police visited Akhtar’s house and took away some books and papers including a copy of the Koran. Finally, on the 22nd evening, the police station in charge informed his uncle that he had been arrested that morning from Bara Banki.
Akhtar’s uncle said that a living nightmare for the family had begun. When he visited his nephew in the Bara Banki jail, there was little said between them but Akhtar managed to give him a small, folded piece of paper. When he returned home, he read the letter which spoke of indescribably torture and abuse. The fond uncle could not sleep that night or many nights that followed.
Within a fortnight of Akhtar’s arrest, his wife’s family came to take her away. His uncle said that the whole family wept as they saw the same vehicle being loaded with all the belongings that the young bride had brought them in to their house just a month earlier. She left never to return.
The long battle for justice was joined. Another young man, Tariq Qasmi from Azamgarh, had also been picked up on the 16th of December and then shown to have been arrested with Akhtar in Bara Banki. After his abduction, members of a local political group had sat on a dharna in Lucknow and, on the 22nd, the Bara Banki story was made public by the police. Since there were so many who had witnessed what had actually happened on the 16th, there was an uproar and, finally, the Mayawati Government appointed the Nimesh Commission to enquire into the matter. R.D. Nimesh, a retired judge, submitted his report to the Akhilesh Yadav Government in August, 2012 but it has not been made public since.
Akhtar’s uncles travails, therefore, yielded nothing but took a toll on his health. He suffered a major heart attack a year ago and was not able to meet his nephew in jail for many months. He remembers the last time that he met him about 4 months ago. Akhtar had given up hope on that occasion.
On the 18th of June, 2013, Akhtar was taken to the Faizabad district court from Lucknow. On the way back, he felt unwell and the police escort with him took him to the district hospital at Bara Banki. Tariq Qasmi was in the police van. Within half an hour he was given the news that Akhtar was dead.
Akhtar’s uncle told us that he reached Bara Banki in a matter of a couple of hours and was able to shoot a video of his nephew’s body before the post mortem. He showed us the cd on a laptop. Akhtar’s face was swollen and there was dry blood near his nose and ear. His fingernails were blackish. His back showed marks of severe beating and there was a large bruise on one side. After seeing the video, it did not seem credible that he died a natural death. His post mortem report says – Cause of death, uncertain.
We could not but agree with Akhtar’s uncle that an inhumane State was responsible for the young man’s death in custody. Had it responded to the Nimesh Commissions’s recommendations, Akhtar would have been released or at least granted bail and would have been alive today.
Akhtar’s uncle then took me to meet Akhtar’s wife and mother. How can one describe a his mother’s inconsolable grief and unending sorrow. But her quiet dignity in the midst of such tragedy was heart-rending. She told me that she had gone to visit her son once in the jail with her sister-in-law and he had told her that while the world was very cruel, he hoped that in the Next world he would find happiness and justice. --Subhashini Ali