Muslim- Prejudice -‘Justice came to me only to make me realise that I was guilty until proven innocent’


Mohammad Aamir, Delhi
Age 32 | Years In Jail 14
Arrested February 1998 | Acquitted January 2012

Mohammad Aamir

Photo: Ishan Tankha

FOURTEEN YEARS is a long time. Wiping away the tears streaming down his cheeks, Mohammad Aamir recounts his experience of when he stepped out of the Rohtak Jail on 9 January 2012.

The world seemed different. The guards were gone. So was the feeling of iron always chaining his limbs. “That was real freedom. I tasted it. I wept and cried in happiness. After three hours of riding a bus, I was home hugging my mother,” he says. But the Delhi Aamir knew had changed. Mobile phones, the Metro rail, roads, flyovers, buildings and bazaars — everything was new. The only old thing was his crumbling house.

“After seeing my mother, I went to see my father’s grave. He died waiting for my release,” Aamir says.

Forgotten by the press during his 14-year incarceration in jails across three states, Mohammad Aamir of old Delhi became their favourite after being acquitted in 18 of 20 cases of terrorism (appeals made in two other cases are pending).

Now, as he sits quietly before a computer in the office of ANHAD, an NGO in central Delhi, Aamir, 32, is penning a memoir of his passage from incarceration to redemption. Fourteen years behind bars have cost him much more than his youth. Not only did he lose his father, his mother was also paralysed in the interim.

In 1996-97, a couple of low intensity blasts had hit the national capital region (NCR), leaving the police in a tizzy. This was the time when the Khalistan movement in Punjab was fading and the Kashmir insurgency was at its pinnacle. The homegrown Indian Mujahideen (IM) was, however, nowhere in the arena. The police had no strong lead to follow. Then, in what looks like a meticulous plan to frame a young boy, the police claimed to have busted a terror module in February 1998.

Aamir was seized when he was returning home after saying Isha prayers. Bundled into a jeep, he was blindfolded before being dumped in an unidentified place for seven days, where he was tortured and made to sign on blank papers.

On 28 February, he was produced in the Tis Hazari court, charged with 17 cases in Delhi, including murder, sedition and waging war against the Indian State. Among the charges were two blasts in Haryana and one in 1996, on the Frontier Mail (train) in Ghaziabad.

“Getting me justice wasn’t easy for my father,” says Aamir. “Lawyers who would agree to fight cases charged a lot of money. Some quit midway after a local paper dubbed me a Pakistani national.

One by one, the prosecution evidence was disproved in the courts. But it was too late,” he rues. “My father died in 2001. The way justice was done only made me realise that I was guilty until proven innocent,” Aamir adds mockingly.

Now, at ANHAD’s office, Aamir hopes to finish his memoir and heads a forum for demanding the rehabilitation of falsely implicated youth.

Explains activist Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD: “Writing a memoir is a healing process for Aamir. He is finishing his BA from IGNOU and aims to study law to help people like him.”

Aamir’s efforts have already started paying off. This is evident from the recently prepared list of 33 young men that now lies with the president.

The CPM demanded compensation for these men, special courts to settle such cases within a year and action against policemen found fabricating evidences.

Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.


Satyamev Jayate: Of downright manipulations and status-quoist revolutions

By Saswat Pattanayak,  Kindle Magazine

Aamir Khan claims to address the roots of social evils, engages statistics, experts and pending court cases to illustrate his findings while offering solutions to overturn Indian feudal structure, all within an hour’s televised show, intensified with tears, hopes and resolutions. And the unprecedented success of ‘Satyamav Jayate’ underlines that this tactic is effectively working. If a generation had somehow failed to awaken following Rang de Basanti, it is wide awake, this time.

Each episode is a testament to this resounding success. Aamir poses significant questions in the beginning, acknowledges the conventional answers, moves on to  dismantle those very assumptions, and the audience bursts into tears at its own ignorance and at the promise of a new tomorrow bereft of the maladies.
Just when the cynics wonder if he has turned self-righteous, it turns out ‘Satyamev Jayate’ works precisely because Aamir identifies himself entirely with the audience. He, too, learns of the bitter truths about Indian society from the very show itself, live on the stage. “Mujhe bhi aaj yeh seekh mili hai” is oft-repeated. Along with the audience, he is shocked at the barbaric, with them he sheds the tears, with them he signs petitions. The routine criticisms usually reserved for holier than thou shows simply find no outlets here.
Finally, it is the content area where the Aamir Khan effect shines. Female infanticide, dowry tortures, child sexual abuse – the themes so far – are societally entrenched as innately problematic, inherently evil and acutely in need of redress. They are so commonplace that they should have ideally lost any shock value by now; and yet Satyamev Jayate revels in the euphoric disconnect of the audience with their harmful consequences.
And yet, what goes almost unnoticed is that Satyamev Jayate is a reality television show, not a reality; that the truth has not triumphed in the show capitalizing on our national motto. What remains deeply unsettling is that the solution evinced in the show is part of the problem, that the answers gathered are critical question marks, the lulling agents are masquerading as the antidotes, the normative as surprises, and the status quo as revolution.
Aamir Khan, along with his corporate sponsors, the so-called philanthropy partners and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, have together created a recipe for unparalleled commercial venture, the most gigantic instance of private capital earning public respect, a creative collaboration that gloriously abolishes economic class as a social determinant, an immaculate shield against revolutionary restructuring.
A reality television show is entirely scripted, and Satyamev Jayate is no exception. Where it resorts to downright manipulation is where it hides behind the cloak of social change agency. What percentage of Indian children are sexually abused, asks Aamir Khan. Two percent, says one, four percent, another. All nice and dandy, except that either the reality show does not arrange for a single informed member to be present amidst the audience, or that the host chooses not to ask this question to people whose answers can upstage his assumptions. No Pinki Virani there. Does female infanticide take place majorly in rural areas or how does one plan one’s wedding could likewise – effortlessly – generate opposing views, but Aamir, bent upon cashing in on the shock value, chooses to register the answers that suit the script.
So are the ignorant answers from the audience a result of random sampling? Hardly so, considering each episode has target audience representing a certain age/gender group. Instead of facilitating a dialogue among the people representing diverse views owing to unique social locations, Aamir Khan chooses to engage in a linear fashion, as a preacher, as an instructor, and eventually as the tool of social change.
As part of the script, the critical voices in the audience are not asked for opinions independently, but only as supporting evidences that embolden Aamir’s heroism. It would have upset the stage had the members of Tanzeem Khuddam E Millat engaged in a dialogue with the young people who advocated lavish wedding in the beginning of that episode. Hence, after the unassuming audience was sarcastically applauded for its wedding preference, and after Aamir had made forceful arguments against audience perception, Mausim Ummedi is introduced as his supporting voice, whose adulations for Aamir’s mammoth sacrifices are then televised to the viewers. One wonders if becoming the highest paid anchor in the television history to showcase impacts of poverty is the sacrifice, or being a descendant to Maulana Azad itself constitutes this acclaimed sacrifice of Aamir Khan.
Turns out, neither. More disturbing is the claim on part of the elite host that women’s rights issues have nothing to do with economic class. Infanticide is a practice across classes, dowry torture equally universal, sexual abuse as well. Political economy is not the culprit, and there is no need to address feudalism, let alone capitalism. Both rich and the poor suffer equally, and even the poor are romanticized as happier survivors. There is light at the end of the tunnel because patience with the system, and not privilege redistribution holds the key. In fact, so content is Aamir in the status quo, that his constant disclaimer is his complete and unwavering faith in our judicial system and that he – on behalf of us all – is perfectly assured, justice shall prevail in each case.
That, the oppressed state of women and children is a necessary consequence of patriarchy, which in turn is unequivocally interwoven with capitalism, is entirely lost to our beloved renaissance man. While claiming to be addressing the root causes of social evils, Aamir conveniently blames it all on individual conscience without addressing a commodified society that must treat its weaker sections as non-entities. In an increasingly individualistic society where profit – and power – accumulations are ruthlessly preserved – and whose direct beneficiaries include the illustrious host himself – the next logical step is to sign the petitions in a dramatic manner and repose trust in the law and order system of our assumedly robust democracy.
So the woman continues to be worshipped as a sacrificial mother, motherhood as a moral virtue, every abortion is a killing without a word spoken on abortion rights of women, wearing jeans and miniskirts continue to be slutty, big weddings remain fine so long as the couples pay for them, child sexual abuse victims should forgive their abusers, belief in the gods and religious scripts remain the saviors, and the pending court cases shall invariably meet justice. In Aamir Khan’s troubled India, trouble is forever over, when he comes back to reassure the awestruck audience, after the break.
It is not the disbelievers, the radicals, the Maoists, the agitators, the ones who have given up on the political economic system that inherently sustains the wealth and gender gap who should be emulated. It is the pacifiers, the collaborators, the petitioners, the forgivers, the individualists who must pave the way. Contrary to the claimed exceptional values this show provides, the truth is we have continually worshipped the heroes, the successful and the glorious, the judicial system and the political democracy, just as Aamir envisages. Moreover, we have always waited for the superhero to come fix what is wrong with the system while leaving its roots intact. The role of the messiah is not to discard the god, after all; just to empower the masses into believing a tiny bit more.
When this season of televised empowerment started, Aamir outlined India’s biggest obsessions, he mentioned cricket, films and weddings. The truth would have surely triumphed, had he not overlooked the most apparent one, the one obsession he has willingly turned himself into becoming: the Messiah. Alas.
Read original article here

What happens when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? # Satyamevjayate

Satyamev Jayate
Posted by Khamba  on May 7, 2012

Nazar Suraksha Kavach

I’ll be honest – I’m a little tired of Aamir Khan looking down at me from every hoarding in Mumbai as if I’m a pathetic human being. So annoyed infact that I’ll consider doing the exact opposite of what he tells me to do on the show just to spite the guy. If he talks about drunken driving – I’ll down a bottle of Old Monk and run over people in an auto-rickshaw. If he talks about pesticide dependency across farmlands being linked to cancer, I’ll drink bottles of Coke he endorsed a couple of years ago. If he talks about abor…well one doesn’t need to when its so easy to abuse OTC pills being sold in happy Shilpa Shetty packaging.

It’s like he’s the only one concerned with what’s happening around the country and pardon my French…like hum sab bas ch***ye bethe hain… as if staring at someone with keen intensity accentuated by soft lighting and adequate depth of field is going to solve the poverty of people’s backs. I understand one needs to play the emotional card, because without it Indians ko kuch samajh nahi aata, but I have enough people preaching their moral superiority to me everyday and I can do without another one.

But before I move on to talking about how the show told me more about us as people than it did about the issue it chose to address, I want to get some stuff out of the way.

Aamir Khan: Contrary to how annoyed I am with the marketing blitz; I actually have no beef against Aamir Khan doing the show. The intention is noble, and props to him for even trying something like this on Indian television. He’s using his star power to “raise awareness”, and while personally I will always skeptical of that terms intangibility, I hope some good will come of it. What and how? I don’t know, and I don’t even think anyone cares. People are just happy that Aamir Khan is “doing something”! And we as a people seem so starved of role models and hope that even “doing something” is enough to get them on your side.

One of the biggest challenges within the development sector always remains impact assessment – so while I don’t expect massive “societal change” (the term rich people use to say we hope poor people reach our level someday before making sure they never do) to happen through the show, it’ll definitely get rich people to think about the issues it raises through its run. (I like how rich people keep saying the show is meant for a “DD Audience” – our of saying poor bastards – because for us everything that is wrong with society only happens amidst these poor fuckers who dirty our streets and have no civic sense and have the audacity to ask for something more than minimum wage and more than one holiday a year while they clean our houses)

Again, parts of the show made me cringe (Aamir’s opening monologue – and the song in the end interspersed with pictures of helpless kids that we as society have wronged – straight out of the aao videshi tourists se gareebi ki numaish ke zariye paisa nikaalte hain playbook) but let’s face it – shots of people crying and a painful story are what work to get people’s attention and there the producers got their desired results.

The show: I don’t know why people are bothered about Aamir charging 3 crores per episode. Like any other professional he’s spending his time and effort making the show and will/should be compensated for it. I know for a fact that some of my friends who have been working their assess off on the ground for a pittance will be irked at so much attention being showered on issues they’ve been crying hoarse about for years and years purely because Aamir Khan has said it – but that’s just how we’ve become. We can’t eradicate polio till Amitabh Bachchan tells us its fucked up, so I don’t know why we’re surprised now. I am curious to see how sensitively issues are treated and whether the research is accurate – and I hope I won’t be disappointed given how television is forced to stick to broad strokes. I’m looking forward to the piles of academic literature that will flood JSTOR and the likes once the show is done, and how friends working on the ground and on campus react to it. On many levels, it is and can be a critical show.

The people’s reaction: The best thing that Satyamev Jayete did for me however was providing an insight into how people (using Twitter as a sample) thought. It immediately became taboo to even make jokes about Aamir Khan simply because “he was doing something and all we were doing was tweeting”. It’s almost as if you had to qualify yourself as having good karma before being able to comment on the show incase you didn’t like it. So what is it then? Does one have to had donated a certain amount of money to charity, spent x number of years working with an organisation, personally saved 8 kids from a fire? Why must one be chastised for not liking the show or joking about it?

It’s amazing how by just watching the show – people thought that they had done something amazing which made them morally superior beings. And while my first instinct was to mock it, I realized it became taboo to mock the show simply because Satyamev Jayete – for that moment – became a beacon of change. For that brief period, it became more than just a television show – and cheesy as it sounds – Aamir became the crusader who gave voice to people’s hope. We’ve become so disappointed and disgusted with our political and social representatives, that Aamir Khan became that one guy we could look up to because he seemed to have no personal agenda and was using his influence for something other than selling biscuits.

Here’s what made me uncomfortable however. The issue dealt with yesterday was one of female feticide and there really is no conflict within it. No one would willingly (I would imagine) admit to not wanting a girl, especially amongst the educated elite. So the sheer number of people who seemed aghast at the existence of this practice across the country was on some level – hilarious. How isolated does one have to be from the country one is living in to not have a clue about how widespread a problem this is? It was even funnier when rich people expressed shock at other rich people following this practice. “YOU MEAN EDUCATED PEOPLE ALSO DON’T WANT GIRLS?” I doubt if the upper caste farmer in Punjab who is crushed with debt and needs more male hands to help till the land will give a shit about the show, but that it hit some people on Twitter like a ton of bricks was very amusing.

What happens however, when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? What when an Aamir Khan talks about caste based discrimination across religions and takes a side? What if Aamir says he is pro-reservation in educational institutions? What if Aamir Khan is against nuclear energy? What if Aamir Khan supports the ban on beef? These are all hypothetical questions – and we will likely not have these answered simply because it is a television show and Aamir cannot afford to get into so much trouble. But how will we as people react? Will we again give him the same wholehearted support we do so now when it offends our own sensibilities? In their heads people seem to have already made Satyamev Jayete more than a television show – but I don’t think we’re ready to be confronted by actual truths of our societal order. We are happy as long as we’re making a noise about issues we’re all against – but that’s not even a real debate. We will also avoid the real debate because we’re not ready for it – and instead of worrying about governance deficits we will like to be distracted by Aamir Khan for atleast he’s talking about some things we can all agree on. And that is where the massive support we’re giving Aamir right now seems to ring a little hollow. And that’s not Aamir’s fault at all – he’s doing what he can with his talent and influence and that’s a good thing – I just don’t know how much we as people are willing to be taken down that road of societal change, especially when it offends what we believe in.

I’m going to be watching the show keenly – simply because it has and can have so many implications. I’m sure everyone else will to, but maybe lets keep our shit together while we watch it?

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Presumed Guilty: After 14 wasted years in prison, life begins anew


Mohammed Aamir at his home in Sadr Bazaar. Aamir spent 14 years in jail before being acquitted in January this year. Photograph: ABHISHEK SHUKLA

n the night of 20 February 1998, in the Sadr Bazaar area of Delhi, a young man walked to the neighbourhood hakeem seeking treatment for a persistent kidney stone problem. The 18-year-old had just said his namaaz at the Madrasahwaali Masjid and, in pain, decided to walk across the desolate marketplace — by day this is one of the busiest spots in the city, but at night it empties like a sieve — even more so in the ’90s, when Indian retail did not shriek with the vehemence of today.

As the boy walked he noticed an unmarked white Maruti Gypsy sidle up along the kerb behind him. It moved slowly, prompting him to quicken his pace, though he continued to walk, staring ahead. The Gypsy overtook him and then, without warning, a pair of hands shoved him in the back. He raised his hands to protect himself from falling, but before he knew it he’d been hauled into the Gypsy. Blindfolded, hands tied and mouth gagged in a matter of seconds, trapped in a mélange of elbows, insults and accents, he was driven to a destination 40 minutes away and deposited in a room. Here he was routinely beaten, tortured, fed at the rarest possible intervals, and made to sign blank papers and disclosure agreements. There was no question of providing access to legal representation.

The boy left that room seven days later, when he was taken to Delhi’s Tees Hazari Court to be charged with 17 cases of murder, terrorism and waging war against the nation. By the time he was acquitted of the charges brought against him — the High Court ruled that any evidence connecting the accused to the bombings was “woefully absent” — Mohammed Aamir was 32 years old. He spent 14 years “ground in the mortar and pestle” of the Indian justice system (main kanoon ke chaal mein pis kar aa raha hoon). In the years before he could once again walk into the modest room in Azad Market where he was born, his father had died, his mother left mute and paralysed by a stroke.

Read more here


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