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04 September 2011

SPECIAL REPORT: Heart-wrenching story of three acquitted in Haren Panya murder

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By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani


Ahmedabad: This heart-wrenching story of three men will make your blood curdle. For it exposes how ordinary people like you and me could be picked up by the police and inhumanly tortured to confess to a crime we may never have committed.


“Give it to me in writing that you murdered that man else I’ll bump you off in a fake encounter.”


“This syringe contains HIV+ve blood. You better confess.”


“If you don’t own it up, I’ll pour petrol in your a** and set you afire!”


Imagine yourself surrounded by cops screaming this. Wouldn’t you have confessed to any crime?


The three men in this story did just that. And call it divine justice, the cops who tortured Attar Parvez Sadiq, Mohammad Faruq Ghani and Mohammad Riyaz to make them confess to Haren Pandya’s murder, were thrown behind bars.


“In jail for their involvement in fake encounters, they could not meet our eyes. Allah is great. He will punish them,” said Attar, who spent more than eight years of his life in jail.


Released on the eve of Eid, after being acquitted by the High Court, the men narrated explosive accounts of third-degree torture by Crime Branch cops during illegal detention.


‘I didn’t know Pandya till I read about his Murder’


Attar, 41, who was released from jail onlast Tuesday, told that he did not know who Haren Pandya was till he happened to read a news report about the murder. Pandya was murdered on March 26, 2003. A week later, around 4 am, the cops raided Sadiq’s Bapunagar residence.


“They kept asking me ‘Mehmaan kahaan hai’. I could not understand what mehmaan was. It was later that I came to know mehmaan was the cops’ code name for Ali Asghar. Back then, on the morning of April 4, 2003, they searched my entire house and confiscated my passport and driving licence. They asked me to come to Crime Branch the next day and give a statement pertaining to Sohail’s abscondment,” said Attar.


When he went to the Crime Branch the next day, they allegedly asked him to sign on a paper which stated that he was involved in the murder of Haren Pandya as well as in ISI conspiracy case of 2002. “I was too shocked to react. I told them that when I was not part of the crime why should I sign on the paper? They did not question me further and allowed me to go home that day,” said Attar.


Two days later the Crime Branch cops picked him up and his friend Mohammed Ghani and kept them in illegal detention for 23 days. “It is only after Ghani’s brother filed a habeas corpus in the High Court that the cops showed us as ‘arrested’,” he said.


He says the mental agony, poverty and helplessness he and his family members have suffered in these years cannot be compensated for.


‘Hum hi Allah hain!’


Those 23 days were “worse than hell” for him and Ghani. The cops allegedly forced them to sign on the murder confession. “A senior officer threatened to kill me in an encounter if I did not relent. Five-six cops would beat us up and two would persuade us to give in. Once, when I begged for mercy, one of the cops told me, ‘Dadhi ka masla hai. Agar dadhi chahega toh chhod denge (It all depends on the bearded cop. If he wishes so, you will be released)’.”


The cops would allegedly beat him up till he dropped unconscious. “They would splash water on my face to wake me up and continue beating me with lathis till I started bleeding and screamed in pain. Once they even poured petrol in my anus and threatened to kill me if I did not sign the confession. I told them, “Sahab, Allah sab dekh raha hai (Allah is watching everything). A senior officer retorted, ‘Hum hi allah hai (We are Allah).”


Unable to bear the torture any further and scared that their family members would be harassed, Attar and Ghani signed the confession. The case was handed over to the CBI. The accused were later sent to judicial custody.


“The senior cop who told us that he was our Allah was later accused in a criminal case and was lodged in Sabarmati Central Jail. When I happened to meet him, I looked straight into his eyes and asked him, ‘Batao sahab, ab Allah kaun hai?’ He couldn’t face me,” said Attar.


‘Couldn’t Bear her Tears’


Attar’s wife Sultana Bano would often visit him in the jail, but would keep away from courtroom hearings. “When I would ask her the reason behind not coming for the hearings, she would not answer me and start crying. That would depress me further. I wouldn’t be able to sleep or eat till she greeted me with a smile on her next visit,” he said. As his brother, an accused in the case was absconding, the family’s ancestral property in Rajasthan was seized as per law. That soured the relations between him and his relatives. “My wife took care of my mother and our three daughters with whatever she earned through tailoring. She has been there by my side like a rock. I only want to lead a peaceful life with my family now. They have suffered a lot. I hope the real murderers are arrested soon,” he said.


‘I Feared for my Wife’


Ghani, a class XII pass, used to work in a car accessories store. He was first picked along with his brother by the cops and illegally detained. Ghani’s brother, who was released later, filed a habeas corpus in the HC following which he and Attar were shown as ‘arrested’.


(Left to Right) Attar Parvez Sadiq, Mohammad Faruq Ghani, Mohammad Riyaz
“They treated us like animals, kicking and beating us up mercilessly. Once, in order to force me to sign on the confession statement, they placed syringes containing HIV+ve blood in front of me. I kept telling them I was innocent, but they just wanted a scapegoat. I was even scared they would hurt my wife who was pregnant then. Fed up with the torture, I finally signed on the confession,” Ghani said, tears welled up in his eyes.


Released from the prison on Tuesday evening, Ghani hugged his 8-year-old daughter for the first time. “I could not be there with my wife during her delivery. She took care of my family out of stitching clothes. I have missed my daughter’s childhood. Photographs are all that remain of those lovely years. But I want to secure her future now,” said Ghani, holding his daughter’s hand. He lost his mother shortly after he was convicted by the POTA court.


The family’s financial condition is in a deplorable state. But fortunately for Ghani, his former employer is keen on taking him back. While in the prison, Ghani pursued his BA from Ambedkar Open University and also did a course in computer software.


“I just spoke to my employer. He is a large-hearted man. He said his doors are always open for me and I could join duty the day I felt like. I’ll work hard now. This Eid is special for me. I just hope the bad times are over for us,” he said.


Shoaib Ansari, advocate for Attar and Ghani, told Mirror: “I had filed an application in the metropolitan court earlier stating both my clients were physically tortured and forced to sign on the confession.”


Arrest of Real Killers will Rid Me of the Stigma


After acquittal from the high court, Mohammad Riyaz alias Goru (32), a resident of Nayi Mohalat Kalupur, said he was falsely implicated in the case as he was from minority community.


“I was running a small business of selling mobile phones. My arrest in the case came as shock to my family members and others in the community. I had to spend valuable years of my youth in the prison for no fault of mine. I was being made to pay the price as I belong to a minority community,’’ said Riyaz, a few hours after his release from the Sabarmati jail, late on Tuesday night.


Riyaz, who has studied upto Class VIII, wants to join his brother in the business but is finding it hard to come to terms with “all that I have lost”.


“My family was stigmatised by the society. They were always reminded about a son who was behind bars for killing a political leader. All this, when they knew I was innocent. Though the court has set me free, it will be a while before society accepts me. I only want the real killers behind bars. May be that will heal my scars,” he said.


The Case


Haren Pandya was killed on the morning of March 26, 2003 in Ahmedabad. The CBI clubbed the Pandya case with the attempt on the life of a VHP leader Jagdish Tiwari on March 11, 2003 in Ahmedabad, terming both as part of the same conspiracy aimed at terrorising the people and filed a single chargesheet. Though the accused were found not guilty of the charge of Pandya’s murder, High Court upheld the charges of conspiracy and attempt to murder in the case of Tiwari.


[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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