Storms in their lives
The latest documentary of New Delhi-based film-maker Shubhradeep Chakravorty, aptly titled, After the Storm, focuses on the stories of seven former terror accused set free by various law courts across India. They are Mukhtar Ahmed, Md Fassiuddin Ahmed, Umar Farooque, Moutasim Billah, Harith Ansari, Md Musarrat Hussain ‘Bobby’ and Shaik Abdul Kaleem. Forty-nine years old Mukhtar Ahmed from Bangalore was in the retail business of readymade garments when he was picked up by the Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] on 3 September 1993 under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities [Prevention] Act and then framed in the Chennai RSS regional headquarters blast case. He was acquitted, and the final judgement came from the Supreme Court on 6 December 2010. In all, he spent six years in jail and remained in Chennai on conditional bail for eight years, away from his family and business. Md Fassiuddin Ahmed from Hyderabad was doing his graduation when he was picked on 1 September 2007 by the Hyderabad police as a suspect in the blast at Gokul Chat and Lumbini Park. Ironically, his cousin died in one of the blasts. He was shown arrested on 5 September 2007. He spent six months in jail and finally secured his acquittal in February 2008. Twenty-eight years old Umar Farooque was picked by Ahmedabad police on 11 May, 2006 in the conspiracy case to kill Hindutva leaders. He was shown arrested on 9 June 2006 along with five others and, after spending four and half years in jail, he finally secured the acquittal on 29 July 2010. On 5 March 2008, engineering student Moutasim Billah was sitting in front of his house in old Hyderabad when he was picked by the police and then, along with 20 others, he was framed in the Hyderabad conspiracy case. He spent six months in jail and then got the acquittal on 31 December 2008. Harith Ansari, son of Shakeel Ahmed, a prominent Ahmedabad based social activist and politician, was in the profession of medical transcription. He was picked on 7 December 2003 from his home and his arrest was shown 11 December 2003. Harith, along with five others, were framed in conspiracy to conduct bomb blast in prominent buildings of Ahmedabad. After remaining six years in jail he was finally acquitted on 12 December 2009. Thirty-five years old Md Musarrat Hussain ‘Bobby’ was working in a printing press when he was picked on 5 March 2002. His arrest was shown as on 7 March 2002. He was charged as a conspirator in the firing and killing of policemen at the American Centre, Kolkata. He spent eight years in jail and remained on the death row for five years. Finally, the Kolkata High Court acquitted him on 7 February 2010. Shaik Abdul Kaleem was a paramedical student when he was picked up by the police on 1 June 2007. His arrest was shown as on 7 June 2007. He was framed in the Macca Masjid blast case and fake SIM cards case. After spending one and half years in jail he secured an acquittal on 20 Sep 2008 in the SIM cards case and 22 Jan 2009 in the RDX case.
When I asked Chakravorty why he decided to make this particular documentary and also his other documentaries, he said, ‘This could be because I’d witnessed the demolition of the Babri Masjid.In fact, those years I was residing with my family in Faizabad.Though I was young but could see and sense the hand-in-glove role played by the police with the right wing brigades present there. All these years what I have been seeing is not just communalism but fascism which is destroying the very fabric of our land, our lives. Through my documentaries I want to project what’s been going on at the ground – My earlier made documentary film, Encountered on Saffron Agenda? is based on the investigative documentation of encounters of Sameer Khan Pathan, Sadik Jamal, Ishrat Jahan-Javed Seikh and Shorabuddin Seikh that took place in Gujarat. And in another documentary film, Out of Court Settlement, I have focused on the intimidation of several defence lawyers across the country who were appearing in terror related cases. And in this latest one, After the Storm, I have focused on former terror accused who secured acquittal through various law courts in the past few years and are now somehow surviving against all possible odds.
As Shubhradeep details the backgrounds of those arrested along with the aftermath, the sheer tragedy lies spread out. These men and their families have suffered with the stigma of terror charges on their heads and, with that, not just ruin on the emotional and financial fronts but also socially. On a couple of occasions I broke down whilst hearing the trauma they are still facing. Md Fassiuddin Ahmed finished his graduation somehow but the mental trauma and fear still continues to haunt him.Umer Farooque’s life seems ruined today, as he is unemployed and his family is debt ridden.
And Harith Ansari also sits unemployed. So why don’t these young men get compensation and an apology from our government? Sadly no one’s coming forward to help them or give them some sort of assistance so that their families can survive and make two ends meet.