After 20 Years, Surat Court Acquits 122 Men Accused of Being SIMI Members

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Who will compensate the losses caused due to this case, asks Ziauddin Siddqui, one of the acquitted person

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A court in Gujarat’s Surat has acquitted 122 people held under the UAPA or Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. They were held in 2001 for participating in a meeting organised by the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a banned organisation.

Acquitting them, Chief Judicial Magistrate A.N. Dave held that the prosecution failed to produce evidence that the accused were the members of the banned outfit (SIMI) and they had gathered to promote its activities. The court said the accused persons cannot be held guilty under the UAPA.

Reacting to the acquittal, one of the acquitted persons Ziauddin Siddqui said that they are thankful to God that they were acquitted but who will compensate the losses caused due to this case.

“I’m thankful to God that we were acquitted but the system comes under question. This was 20-year-old long tiring trial and 122 persons were kept in jail. Our families remained disturbed and they lost their jobs. Their business was destroyed. There were problems in the education of children. Who will compensate for these losses? Is there any mechanism for it in the system,” said Siddqui while talking to Clarion India.

Siddqui, who hails from Maharashtra’s Aurangabad, said that the case has put a stigma on his life. Due to the case and terror charges, he suffered a lot. He is now 68-year-old. He was only 39 when he was detained.

On 28 December 2001, Surat’s Athwalines police arrested 127 persons under various sections of the UAPA for allegedly being members of the SIMI and organizing a meeting at a hall in city’s Sagrampura to promote and expand the organisation’s activities. The central government had through its notification dated September 27, 2001 banned SIMI. 6 persons died during the long trial of 20 years.

They belonged to different parts of Gujarat as well as from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They were arrested when they went to attend a programme in Surat. After spending 11 month in jail, Gujarat High court granted them bail. Sessions court had rejected their bail.

In their defence in the court, they said they did not belong to the SIMI and had gathered there to participate in a seminar organised under the banner of All India Minority Education Board. They said they were in the city for religious and educational purposes to take part in a seminar in a peaceful manner.

Anwar Azam, another acquitted person who hails from Allahabad, said that they were lucky that they had got bail. Then only, they could fight their case in a better way. But many people don’t get bail in such cases and continue to remain in jail without conviction.

“The allegations levelled against us were false. We had attended an open programme at Rajshree Hall in the city. It was not organized by SIMI. The allegations were politically motivated under the BJP government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state. We knew about our innocence but we were fearful that we will not be acquitted due to political pressure. But it did not happen. We thank God for this,” he said.

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