20 years as undertrial prisoner: Kerala Muslim leader Maudany continues long battle for justice

Sahid Faris

The founder and supremo of Kerala based People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Islamic scholar Abdul Nasir Maudany who was named as the 32nd accused in the 2008 Bangalore serial blast case, completed ten years under judicial custody on 17 August  2020.

Prison and prosecution were nothing new to Maudany. He was exempted from all charges suspected for involvement in Coimbatore bombings in 1998 after spending 9 years of undertrial imprisonment. Although the court sentenced 72 people in connection with the explosion where 42 were killed, the prosecution failed to prove a single allegation made against Maudany. He was released in August 2007 acquitted of all charges.

Once released, Maudany did not refrain from political activism despite his ailing health. He continued his endeavors with more rigor and conviction. Since his release, he was seen as having closer ties with the left front. In 2009 he led a Kerala march from Trivandrum to Kasargod as a proclamation of his politics, in which he also campaigned for the victory of the left front in the Loksabha elections. However, he couldn’t continue his public life longer, as his name got dragged in Bangalore blasts of 2008.

Maudany was arrested again by the Karnataka police on 17 August 2010 on charges of involvement in the 2008 Bangalore blasts conspiracy under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). It was based on a statement allegedly given by the accused Thadiyantavide Nazeer. Meanwhile, Nazeer changed his position, claiming that his earlier allegations against Maudany were the result of coercion from the police forces.

Maudany was arrested when the BJP leader B. S. Yediyurappa was serving as the Chief Minister of the state. It was a sudden move from the Karnataka police while the supreme court was considering the anticipatory bail application of Maudany on the same day.

Sebastian Paul,  Former Lok Sabha member and Chairman of Justice for Maudany Forum, observes that Yediyurappa or his party cannot be blamed alone. He shared his experience of meeting with the Congress leader Siddaramaiah when he was the Karnataka’s Chief Minister and asking him to give necessary directions to the prosecution to avoid delays in the trial. Though at that time he expressed concern, the worst steps were taken during his tenure.

“Karnataka is one of the few states where the Constitution and laws of India have not been fully implemented,” says Sebastian Paul.

The Bangalore blast is a combination of nine cases. One woman was killed in the blast. Maudany was charged in the 32-accused case as the 31st accused, two years after the incident.

Officials of Justice for Maudany Forum state that this is a clear example of police and prosecution delaying the case. They said that though the Karnataka government submitted before the Supreme Court in 2014 that trial of the cases would be completed in four months, even after six years the trial was progressing at snails pace. The police and the prosecution did not follow the directions and promises given in the court. Delaying the trial of Maudany can only be seen as a mask to cover up the complications for keeping him so long in prison. With the aim of providing legal and financial aid to Maudany to wage legal and political battle, Justice For Maudany Forum was constituted under the aegis of various Muslim organizations on 25 August 2010.

Proceedings are still ongoing regarding the Bangalore blasts. two cases are pending of the total 9 cases.

In the same case, Maktoob had reported before about Zakariya, the fifteenth accused.

T Mohammed Velom, member of the Jamaat-e-Islami Kerala state committee said that the successive governments continue to hunt Maudany to delay him the justice.

The remarks that Justice Markandey Katju made during Maudany’s bail application in 2011 are very significant. He noted that the judicial system and the state cannot return the years lost by a citizen due to the problems in the system.

His eldest son was one and a half years old and his youngest son was four months old when Maudany went to jail in the Coimbatore case. They spent their childhood among the prison wardens and other police officers demanding justice. The state continued its hunt by allegedly dragging the name of Maudany’s wife in terrorism-related cases that denied him proper care for his ailing parents.

His health condition is challenging and worrying. Maudany is a chronic diabetic, suffers from hypertension, has a partial vision impairment, and is an amputee. He is wheelchair-bound. He Fainted during a court trial four months ago.

On 11 July 2014, Maudany was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court in the Bangalore blast case. Bail was for one month. The bench comprising justice J.Chelameswar and Sivakeerthi Singh rejected all the arguments made by the Karnataka government against granting bail. The court ordered him to stay in Bangalore itself and barred him from traveling to Kerala. The Court also asked the Karnataka police to provide adequate security for Maudany and monitor whether he is influencing the witnesses. The court also allowed Maudany to seek treatment at any hospital at his own expense.

Court extended the bail on November 14 the same year and Maudany now lives in a rented house in Benson Town, Bangalore. But the Supreme Court did not permit Maudany to leave Bangalore on behalf of Karnataka’s promise for quick settlement of the case. He is also not allowed to move out of Bangalore for better treatment.

Since July 2014 wheelchair-bound Maudany has been living in the city under armed police protection. After getting permission from an NIA special court, he visited Kerala in 2017 and 2018 to visit his ailing mother and to attend his children’s weddings. 

Maudany still holds faith in the judiciary and firmly believes that he will be acquitted of all charges. “My fight is not for charity or mercy, but for justice,” Maudany posted on Facebook on the 10 year anniversary of his second imprisonment.

Though he had been active in social activism since the age of 17, it was in the post-Babari Masjid demolition that Maudany ventured into full-fledged politics.

In the aftermath of the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid and anti-Muslim riots by he Sangh Parivar organizations, Maudany started giving speeches all over Kerala. His oratorical skills were well received, and he soon built up a following. But, Kerala police arrested and detained several times Maudany charging that his speeches were promoting communalism.

“It is the intensity of his speech that drives many to view him as guilty. In that situation, the constitutional rights enshrined in Articles 19(1)(a) and 25(1) of the Constitution are responsible for his fate,” says Sebastian Paul.

In the communally charged atmosphere that was conditioned by the infamous Ratha Yatra of LK Advani, he came up with Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS), which he thought would mobilize Muslim youths.

“Abdul Nasar Maudany, the then chairman of ISS, declared that his party will organize a historic secretariat march on 6th August 1992. The demands put forward by Maudany show his extraordinary political vision. They were powerful enough to shake the casteist and islamophobic foundation of the Indian state. These were the demands: Babri Masjid should be handed over to Muslims, Conduct special recruitment for backward sections, End the oppression of Muslims and backward communities, Remove anti-Muslim content from educational textbooks, and Ensure representation of Muslims in the newly formed Rapid Action Force,” Thahir Jamal KM, a research student at the University of Hyderabad, wrote on Facebook about the politics of Maudany.

In 1992, Maudany became the target of an assassination attempt by RSS in which he lost his right leg and is fitted with a prosthetic limb.

After ISS got banned in the aftermath of Babri demolition, he initiated the formation of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as a move towards the formation of a wider alliance between all oppressed communities.

Maudany formed the PDP on 14 April 1993. The motto of PDP was “power to avarnas, liberation to the oppressed”.

The case of Maudany is seen by many people as a clear example of how state apparatuses systematically silence the ones who move against the established power dynamics in society.

Sahid Faris is a freelance journalist in Kerala.