Friday, March 1, 2024

15 years as undertrial prisoner; Zakariya, Kerala Muslim youth, still in jail

Kerala Muslim youth, Zakariya, who was picked up by the Karnataka Police at the age of 19 charging him with draconian UAPA in connection with the 2008 Bengaluru bomb blast, completed 15 years in prison on 5 February 2024.

The prolonged struggle to release her son, Zakariya, resident of Parappanangadi in Malappuram district, has taken a mental toll on the ailing mother, Beyummah.

Four years ago, the single mother in her sixties had moved to the Supreme Court of India challenging against UAPA and the new amendment. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea was requested to declare the act ‘unconstitutional and violative of fundamental rights’.

“What happened to us should never happen to anyone else,” Beyummah earlier said to Maktoob about the petition.

“How is he ever going to rebuild his life,” asked Beyummah. Zakariya has already lived one-third of his life in prison.

Beyummah lost her husband, Koniyathu Veetil Kunjahammed when Zakariya, the youngest of her four children, was 10 years old. Ever since she was supported by her brothers.

No appeal, either to the state government and other agencies ever helped Beyummah to access justice for last 14 years. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla

Zakariya, after dropping B.com, attended a short term course in electronics to support the family. He got employed at a mobile shop in Kondotty and later shifted to a shop in Tirur for an easier commute.

According to Beyummah, days prior to the abduction, Kerala Police came to their house making enquires about Zakariya. Police told Beyummah it was regarding his application for the passport.

“I was certain he didn’t apply for a passport,” Beyummah narrated. Police met Zakariya the day later and told him there was nothing to be afraid of. Zakariya went to work without fail, only to be taken away.

On 5 February 2009, Zakariya was picked by Karnataka Police from Tirur and taken to Bengaluru without informing the local police.

“He called on the fourth day. He had no idea what had befallen upon him. He said he was taken by the police,” recalled Beyummah. The family was intimidated by the police to not speak about his arrest publicly. They cautioned it, saying that it would narrow the chances of his release.

Through Abdul Nasar Madani, renowned Islamic scholar and Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who is a prime suspect in the case, Zakariya’s story had reached civil groups. The intervention helped Beyummah in finding empathy and solidarity.

“They must be terrified with the police surveillance and there is nothing wrong,” Beyummah forgives the initial inactions. ‘Free Zakariya Action Forum’ was constituted by his friends and several organizations which enabled the public discourse on his story.

After seven years Zakariya was granted parole for two days to join his brother Shareef’s marriage in 2016. In the chronicle of tragedies, Zakariya returned again next year to attend the funeral of the same brother.

Zakariya is the eighth accused in the blasts in Bengaluru in 2008, in which one person was killed. He is allegedly involved in making timers for the bomb.

Shuhaib, Zakariya’s cousin, was stubborn about Zakariya’s innocence and pressed for his release since his arrest. “It was Shuaib’s initiation that enabled public interest in the case,” said Adv. Hashir K, who made a docu-fiction movie on Zakariya. Shuhaib dug out the fault lines in the chargesheet projecting Zakariya’s Innocence.

Haridasan and Nizamudeen, two witnesses produced against Zakariya publicly denounced their statement. They claimed that they were forced to sign the statement which was in Kannada and falsely translated by the police.

Shuhaib admitted responsiblity for arranging the work at Kondotty, from where Zakariya is accused of involvement in the crime.

“Police knows he would be acquitted. But they keep him to make sure the merit of investigation is never questioned,” observed Sameer. Although some of the arrested personals were released with a plea deal. Zakariya turned down the offer from the police.

“Zakariya in our conversation shared the offers made by police,” said Hashir. “Willpower of this man and his commitment to seek justice in an honorable way defeats me,” Hashir added.

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