On 29 September, around 5 pm, three officers in plain clothes arrived at the house of Abdullah Saood Ansari in summoning him to the police station for “chit-chat”.
When they came out, about 50 police personnel, stationed outside, spared no time to enter the house to begin their raid.
Ansari’s sister Nausheen kept asking the officers about what was happening. But none bothered to answer her. It was only later Nausheen got to know that her house was raided in connection with the ban imposed by the Indian Union government on the Popular Front of India and its affiliated groups for alleged “terror links”.
Days leading up to the declaration of the ban, many leaders and activists associated with PFI were arrested across India. All the members of its National Executive Committee were booked under UAPA by the National Investigation Agency.
Ansari was suspected of being a member of PFI and indulging in “unlawful activities”.
The 28-year-old computer science graduate was arrested the next day the ban got imposed and the group was disbanded.
Several human rights defenders and opposition parties have objected to the five-year ban on the Muslim outfit, imposed by the Hindu nationalist regime.
Speaking to Maktoob, Nousheen says the raid was a horrific experience.”They didn’t even spare small items in the house. They broke everything.”
Police allegedly took Ansari’s younger brother’s phone and added it to the evidence recovered from Ansari. Two mobile phones, a file of documents and a laptop were seized by the police, according to Police dairy.
Nousheen also refutes all terror-related allegations against her brother and maintains he is innocent.
The 24-year-old B.Ed student speculates that her brother’s arrest has something to do with a complaint her brother submitted against Lohta police to Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission for unlawful detention.
“They recovered the copy of the complaint and heckled him over it in the station. He was told he will pay for his action”.
Case against Saood
Ansari was taken to Lohta police station where he was officially arrested the next day, 30 September 2022 at 4:33 pm under India’s terror law, Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act.
FIR no 0299 is registered under the Section 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 153-B (Assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 7, 8 and 13 of UAPA.
It also alleges that police have discovered videos containing provocative speeches of PFI officials on laptops and mobiles. FIR also interprets mobile applications used for online conversations, evidence to prove Ansari is an active member of PFI.
The FIR says Ansari is “dangerous for society”.
One of the documents recovered from Ansari, according to FIR, is a press release by the All India Lawyers Association for Justice protesting the “raid and arrest of PFI members” accusing the move “politically motivated abuse of government machinery and clampdown on voices against state power”.
Police accuse Saood was receiving money from PFI under a scholarship, which his family also admitted.
“He was a recipient of a PFI scholarship in 2017 and he received money from them for the same. But it was used for his education,” claims Nausheen.
Former PFI leaders told Maktoob that looking at the age of Saood he must be associated with Campus Front of India, a banned PFI-affiliated group dedicated to youth. Former National leaders of Campus Front said they never heard about Abdullah Saood or his incarceration.
Nausheen remembers Saood going to Delhi to attend a PFI national event but refutes the claim that he went to Kerala to attend a 9-day camp.
Maktoob has requested Nausheed to clarify the same with Saood who is under judicial custody.
“Revenge for complaint against cops”
On 06 July, while the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was visiting Varanasi, Ansari was summoned by Lohta police and detained till the evening.
He was threatened that his family will suffer if he doesn’t oblige to come the next day morning at 9 am and remain in the station till 6 pm — until Modi leave the town.
Maktoob got access to the complaints Saood filed with various authorities. It says he was under “unlawful detention” during which he was not given any food or water. The family suffered mental trauma and he was humiliated by the police.
The officers were transferred after Saood’s complaint although the Human Rights Commission’s Network website says “no action taken yet”.
The issue was taken up by the police during the interrogation after the raid and some officers told him that he will know the repercussions of going against the police, Nausheen claims.
“Mere association not attract UAPA”
Maktoob shared the FIR with Supreme Court lawyers and human rights defenders to understand if the evidence gathered in the case attracted such heinous terror charges.
In 2021, Supreme Court said that “mere association” with a terrorist organisation as a member or otherwise is not sufficient to attract an offence under the draconian UAPA.
“There are no ingredients of any sections of UAPA in the case. Merely keeping videos/ photos or literature of any banned organisation is not a crime, even sections 7 and 8 of UAPA are not penal sections. These are the sections delegating powers to State/Judiciary enabling them to take several actions against the banned organisation,” Abubakr Sabbaq, an advocate practising at the Supreme Court of India, told Maktoob.
“Even sections 153 and its clauses are not made out,” he added.
On the day ban was imposed, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi wrote on Twitter that “the way India’s electoral autarky is approaching fascism, every Muslim youth will now be arrested with a PFI pamphlet under India’s black law, UAPA”.
Saood’s bail plea in the local court was rejected on Wednesday.