Sunday, May 19, 2024

“Bogus case, innocents remain in jail”: Muslim student leader Atikur Rahman on Hathras UAPA case

Atikur Rahman was arrested while en route to Hathras in October 2020 and had spent over 36 months as an undertrial prisoner. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

“I met death twice,” says Atikur Rahman, recalling the critical days he had to spend in jail with no medical attention. A week after coming out of jail, Rahman affirms freedom is invaluable.

The 29-year-old was arrested from Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura on 5 October 2020, along with journalist Siddique Kappan, Jamia Millia Islamia student Masud Ahmed and their cab driver Mohammad Alam while travelling to Hathras.

While Kappan claims he was travelling to report on the rape and murder of a Dalit girl that made national headlines, Masud and Rahman, leaders of the now-banned Muslim student outfit, Campus Front of India, were visiting to show solidarity with the victim’s family.

Among the four, three have been granted bail after spending several months in jail. However, Masud remains incarcerated. Over the past three years, student leader Rauf Shareef, former manager of Thejas Daily KP Kamal, Anshad and Firoz, workers affiliated with the now-banned Popular Front of India, as well as a youth named Danish, were arrested in connection with the same case. They have been languishing in jail without being granted bail.

While sharing his ordeal on a humid afternoon, Rahman’s two children occasionally embraced him as if they were making up for the 36 months he had to spend in jail.

“The central government and UP government tried everything. But they couldn’t break me. At least until now,” Rahman smiled. At the time of his arrest, the PhD scholar was receiving treatment for a congenital heart condition called aortic regurgitation. he has accused the jail authorities of not giving him adequate medical attention.

“The case will not stand in the court. Even they know it.”

Last year, his family members, activists and rights groups demanded immediate bail after Rahman had a heart attack. Speaking to Maktoob, he acknowledged that his health had improved.

The Muslim student leader from Muzaffarnagar said the case was “only because he was a Muslim”.

“That week many leaders attempted to go to hathras to meet the Dalit family. All of them were sent back by the police. Only we were arrested.”

Rahman said, at Mathura toll plaza, police had his picture and pulled over their car when they saw him. The group has been questioned by dozens of investigating agencies before sending them to quarantine centres, according to the pandemic protocol.

“I was feeling funny and frustrated. Investigating officers explicitly told us that they were doing this because of pressure from the top,” Rahman claims.

The Uttar Pradesh police charged them with ‘sedition’, ‘promoting enmity between groups’, ‘outraging religious feelings’ and ‘criminal conspiracy’ under the Indian Penal Code and ‘raising funds for terrorist act’, and ‘conspiring to commit a terrorist act’ under the UAPA.

Asked about the ban on CFI, Rahman said the matter is in court and he believes the ban will be dropped. At the time of the ban, Rahman’s house was raided although non of his other family members were part of the organisation.

“They forcefully entered the house in the middle of the night and scared my children and family. They persistently haunted my cousins and relatives for investigation,” he told Maktoob.

“There is no democracy in this country anymore. You may see it written in books and hoardings but reality is different,” he added.

Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla
Shaheen Abdulla, an award-winning journalist, is the Deputy Editor of Maktoob.

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