Prisoner of an Image-Abdul Nasser Madani #fabricated


26 January 2013

Why no one speaks for , the ailing politician who has been kept behind bars for years on evidence that is suspect, and how reporting on him made me a target of the Karnataka police
BY Shahina KK EMAIL AUTHOR(S), The Open Magazine
TAGGED UNDER | Karnataka | prisoner | Abdul Nasser Madani
FRAMED
BETWEEN ARRESTS Madani meets the media after his acquittal in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts case; with his sons (in white) on the same day

BETWEEN ARRESTS Madani meets the media after his acquittal in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts case; with his sons (in white) on the same day

Two years ago, I did a story in Tehelka titled ‘Why is this man still in prison?’ It is a question that has still not been answered. Abdul Nasser Madani, a political leader in Kerala and the thirty-first accused in the 2008 Bangalore blast case, remains in jail without bail even though he is a wheelchair-bound chronic diabetic and there are strong indications that the evidence against him is fabricated. Two of the prosecution witnesses, quoted by the police as having witnessed Madani conspiring with a Lashkar-e-Toiba commander to carry out the blast, had told me that they had not seen Madani ever.

It was towards the end of the 1980s that Madani became a dramatic figure in the public life of Kerala. He was a charismatic religious scholar with an extraordinary oratorial flair. He became a crowd puller at a very young age, and had a huge fan following among Muslims. In 1991, he formed the Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS) in response to the riots that took place in Bhagalpur and Kerala following LK Advani’s rathyathra. Among secularists, Madani had no legitimacy and was perceived as just a reactionary counterpoint to the RSS.

Listening to his speeches and spotting his images in newspapers was suffocating and scary to me in the early 1990s. He demanded women cover their bodies. As a Muslim woman, I found it intimidating though I had distanced myself from religion. In course of time, I witnessed Madani metamorphose into the role of a wise politician who called for the emancipation of marginalised and oppressed communities like Dalits and Other Back- ward Communities, besides Muslims. The ISS was banned in 1992. When the Babri Masjid was demolished and unrest spread, Madani did not wait for the ban to be lifted. He disbanded the organisation and formed a political party called the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was something new to the state, which had traditionally had the limited option of oscillating between the Left Demo- cratic Front and the United Democratic Front. In the November 1993 by-election to the Ottappalam Lok Sabha constituency (the seat had been vacated by KR Narayanan, who moved to become President of India), the PDP supported the Left. Madani’s public life came to a temporary end in 1998 with his arrest by the Tamil Nadu police for his alleged involvement in the Coimbatore bomb blasts the same year.

None of the charges against him were proved and he was acquitted in 2007. But spending nine-and-a-half years in jail as a trial prisoner changed him. The old Madani who delivered belligerent public speeches was gone and the new one turned out to be serenely democratic, non-violent and peaceful in his political discourse. Madani was embraced by the CPM, and a new alliance was born, which would later prove costly for both. Madani could never live down his image of a man who misguided Muslim youth through inflammatory speeches.

In 2009, the Malayalam media was flooded with stories about the complicity of Madani and his wife Soofiya in a few cases that allegedly had terror links. The stories had the typical characteristics of crime reporting with information based largely on ‘highly placed sources’ with no substantiating evidence. This display of antagonism by the media was later interpreted by Kerala’s Left intellectuals as an expression of discontent towards the CPM for allying with the PDP in the 2009 parliamentary polls. Their telling defeat in that election made the CPM believe that the PDP factor had been ruinous to the party. From then on, they kept a distance from Madani. When the Karnataka police arrested him in August 2011, the CPM was in power but it chose to maintain a strategic silence.

The charge against Madani was that he had conspired with T Naseer, reportedly LeT’s south Indian commander, to carry out the 2008 Bangalore blasts. Even before the arrest, Jose Verghese, one of the prosecution witnesses against Madani, had filed a complaint in the National Investigation Agency court claiming that his testimony was forged. He was the owner of the house in Ernakulam that Madani had got on rent after his return from Coimbatore jail. In an interview given to me in 2010, Verghese disclosed why he had gone to court disclaiming his testimony. The police arrived at his house in Kochi (the one rented to Madani, though he had moved out by then) and he was asked to be present. They had brought along a man whose eyes were covered with a piece of cloth. The police told Verghese that the man was LeT commander T Naseer. He was asked to sign a document written in Kannada and told that it was just a statement of their visit and examination of the place. Later, Verghese learnt from the media what the document said—that he had seen Madani and Naseer at that house ‘conspiring to carry out the blast’. Another witness, MM Majeed, a former PDP worker who had testified that he had seen Madani with Naseer, had terminal cancer and was on his death bed on the day the police claimed to have recorded his statement. Another witness was Madani’s brother, Jamal Ahmed, who also moved a complaint in court against the Karnataka police for cooking up a witness statement supposedly made by him.

Till recently, the media and political parties in Kerala had kept mum about these obvious holes in the police charges, and Madani remained a taboo topic for years. Public memory of the case was revived largely through the efforts of the few who continued to argue for the human rights of prisoners. According to his lawyers, his bail pleas have been rejected more than a couple of times on insufficient grounds. According to people who visited him in jail, Madani’s health deteriorates day by day. He moves in a wheelchair ever since he lost one of his legs in the 1993 bomb blast at a public meeting, carried out allegedly by the RSS. The accused in that case were acquitted in 2009 after Madani refused to identify them in court declaring that he did not believe in revenge.

Repeated pleas from his relatives and lawyers to facilitate his treatment had till recently got no result. A recent medical report said Madani has almost completely lost his eyesight. In an open letter to the media, sent from jail, Madani said the authorities had refused to take him to hospital even on producing a medical report that stated he was suffering from acute diabetic retinopathy. The doctors had advised continuous medication and weekly check-ups, but he was only taken to a doctor after a lag of seven months. “His health is critically bad. He has swellings on his legs and face, which is a typical symptom of kidney trouble. One surgery has been conducted on his nose, which has developed an acute infection due to high blood sugar. His nose is plastered. He told me that he has terrible pain in the amputated leg,” says MA Baby, CPM Politburo member and former minister of Kerala who recently visited Madani in jail.

Leaders of the Indian Union Muslim League—a party that had never offered any comment on the false witnesses in Madani’s case—visited him in jail and are now demanding that the government safeguard his human rights. Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker, a prominent Muslim community leader in Kerala, called on the Karnataka home minister and demanded justice in Madani’s case. The CPM too has finally broken its silence. Party leaders visited Madani in jail and expressed grave concern about his health. They demanded that he be shifted to a hospital at the earliest. “We suspect that the evidence against him is fabricated,” said MA Baby to the media while exiting Bangalore’s Parappana Agrahara prison. Even Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has expressed concern. In a meeting with his Karnataka counterpart, Jagadish Shettar, Chandy urged him to ensure medical treatment for Madani. Malayalam news channels have brought back the Madani case on their primetime bulletins, and such pressure has led to some results. Earlier this month, the trial court ordered that Madani be shifted to hospital and granted permission to his wife and son to stay with him. He was finally moved to a private hospital for treatment last week.

What Madani demonstrated in politics was never a model. As a political party, the PDP was a grand failure. It is a nondescript entity full of Madani followers rather than a party with a mass base. In the absence of Madani, the party had no way of surviving or exerting any influence. However, his case is unique: the media always treated him with suspicion; he was imprisoned for a decade, later found innocent, re-arrested and imprisoned.

My own story runs parallel to Madani’s. I recorded the conversation with the fake witnesses against Madani on a hidden camera. After the story was published, I was booked for ‘intimidating the witnesses’ despite the visuals showing them voluntarily telling me everything. For a long time, I travelled to Bangalore every 15 days to present myself before the investigating officer. This was the condition on which I had been granted anticipatory bail by the Karnataka High Court.

When I was framed by the Karnataka police, a couple of newspapers reported the police version as is, without even attributing it to a source, making it look like the charges against me were genuine. Many fellow journalists from my previous stint as a television reporter stopped calling me. Contrary to the conspicuous silence maintained by newspapers, Malayalam weekly magazines came up with cover stories, correctly identifying it as a violation of freedom of the press. A few days ago, a chargesheet was submitted in my case and phase two of the legal battle has begun. I am back to giving interviews to news channels, delivering speeches at public meetings, talking about how people are being framed and how bleak the prospects are for a truly free press in the country.

 

 

Kerala: Madani admitted to hospital for treatment


By PTI – BANGALORE

07th January 2013 05:27 PM

  • The Karnataka High Court had in November last year rejected Madani's bail plea but permitted him to avail treatment in a hospital of his choice under police escort. PTI file photo
    The Karnataka High Court had in November last year rejected Madani’s bail plea but permitted him to avail treatment in a hospital of his choice under police escort. PTI file photo

Jan 7,2013, IE

Kerala-based PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani, lodged in central prison here after his arrest in connection with the 2008 serial bomb blasts, has been admitted to a private hospital for treatment of diabetes.

Assistant Superintendent of Parappana Agrahara jail D S Hatti said Madani has been admitted to Soukhya hospital in Whitefield near here for the treatment of diabetes and related eye complication.

His wife and son would be allowed to attend him at the hospital, Hatti said.

The Karnataka High Court had in November last year rejected Madani’s bail plea but permitted him to avail treatment in a hospital of his choice under police escort.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had met his Karnataka counterpart Jagadish Shettar last week and urged him to provide medical treatment to Madani.

Ruling UDF and opposition LDF members had last month asked the Kerala government to intervene to ensure proper medical care for Madani. Chandy had said it was not just to keep a person in prison indefinitely “without trial”.

Madani was arrested on August 17, 2010 from his camp at Anwarassery in Kerala’s Kollam district. He remains lodged in the jail since then.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader is among 31 people charge sheeted in the case relating to the July 2008 bomb blasts that killed one person and left 20 others injured here.

Grant bail to Maudany and try him in fast-track court, says Rajya Sabha MP


By Tariq Abdul Muhaimin1/5/13, NEWZFIRST

Bangalore – After visiting Abdul Nasser Maudany, a terror accused who has been lodged in a Bangalore jail for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Bangalore serial blasts case, a delegation consisting of Rajya Sabha MP, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court and several human rights activists on Saturday demanded that he should be granted bail on humanitarian grounds.

“It is very sad to see his health condition. He is suffering from many ailments. The Govt. and police are not ready to settle his case. They should stop dragging it any longer”, said Mohammed Adeeb, Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh, while addressing reporters at a press conference here.

“If he is guilty, he should be punished. If he is not, then he should be released. This is not what a just society should be doing”, he added.

Describing the deteriorating heath of Maudany, Mohammed Adeeb also demanded that he be released on humanitarian grounds and that all terror related cases in India, including that of Maudany, should be transferred to fast-track courts and disposed off as quickly as possible.

“Even after 2 years, only 35 witnesses have been formally examined while more than 300 witnesses have to be examined. It will take years before the case is completed. The state has no proof against Maudany”, Mohammed Adeeb told Newzfirst.

Abdul Nasar Maudany was falsely accused for the 1998 Coimbatore serial bomb blasts that claimed 58 lives. Maudany was imprisoned for nine years as an under-trial. However, he was acquitted of all charges by the High Court in 2007.

Maudany charged that there was a hidden political agenda in connecting him with the Coimbatore blast case. On 17th August 2010, Maudany was arrested again for his alleged role in the Bangalore blasts of 2008 and is presently languishing in Parappana Agrahara Central Jail in Bangalore.

“What is sad to see is that after spending 9 years in jail in connection with the Coimbatore serial bomb blasts case and being honorably acquitted later, he was made accused in another blasts case”, said Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court.

“He made a very sad gesture when we went to visit him. He pointed to his leg and said ‘When I touch my leg, it feels like rubber’”, Gonsalves said in a tone of sadness.

Gonsalves said that Maudany has virtually no power in one eye and has lost 80% eyesight in the other one. He also has gangrene that continues to spread throughout his body.

In May this year, Human Rights Activist and columnist NM Sidheeq, who visited Maudany in jail, had said that he is suffering from various ailments like diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy, cervical spondylitis, urinary block, disc collapse, stomach ulcer, back bone ache, blood pressure and many other diseases which he developed during the last two imprisonments as he was denied basic medical assistance.

A ray of light in the darkness

Abdul Nasser Maudany’s bail application was rejected repeatedly by the trial court, High Court and Supreme Court in the last 2 years. However, the SC judge had directed the state government to make available all medical facilities required for his treatment.

But because Maudany asked the court to grant his wife and son permission to stay along with him during treatment, the trial court has ever since delayed his treatment by denying this request.

“When the matter went to High Court, the judge asked us to file an affidavit and clearly specify as to which hospitals we would be taking him for treatment. We did so. The High Court then directed the state government to grant permission for the same”, said P. Usman, Advocate of Abdul Nasser Maudany, while speaking to Newzfirst.

“This happened 3 months back. But the trial court granted permission for this today. It is saddening, but at least some good news in so much pain”, he added.

Maudany has been granted permission by the 34th Additional Sessions Judge H. S. Sreenivas to get himself admitted and treated immediately in Soukhya Ayurvedic hospital and Agarwal eye clinic. The Court has further directed that he shall be entitled to have his wife Sufia and son Omar Mukhtar as his attendants.

Maudany and politics

Following the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, Maudany had launched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with the stated objective of “Muslim-Dalit-backward caste” alliance.

In 1992, Maudany also became the target of an assassination attempt, allegedly by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist, in which he lost his right leg.