Five key prosecution witnesses tell Gulail that the ATS forced them into giving false testimonies against Himayat Baig in the court. In a path-breaking investigation Ashish Khetan and PT Thufail blow the lid off the sordid story of subversion of truth and justice. (Additional reporting by Soumik Mukherjee )
“The dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of those pleasant falsehoods which all experience refutes. History teems with instances of truth put down by persecution.”—John Stuart Mill
The story of Himayat Baig’s trial and death sentencing in the Pune German Bakery Blast is in many ways the quintessence of the state of Muslims in Modern India. What you are going to read here is not merely a story of the wrongful arrest of an innocent Muslim on terror charges: this is something that journalist and activists have been saying ad nauseum and something that the majority accepts as collateral damage in the war against terror. This is in fact the story of how the whole system—the police, the political executive and the criminal courts–is dehumanizing, criminalizing and crippling an entire generation of Muslim youth. This is a story that shakes your faith in the idea of India: the idea that minorities have equal rights and status as the majority; that poor Muslims too, if they aspire, can dig themselves out of the abyss of backwardness; that everyone is guaranteed the constitutional right to a fair trial; that the criminal courts are neutral dispensers of equal justice.
Extraordinary stories demand extraordinary measures. Since there was no other way of nailing the truth, Gulail secretly video-graphed the conversations of several key prosecution witnesses of the German Bakery Case who had given damning testimonies against Baig in the trial court and hence were instrumental in him being sentenced to death. Gulail filmed these witnesses during an extensive field investigation across the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Baig came from the Beed district and at the time of his arrest was working as a computer teacher in the Latur district. A majority of the ‘independent’ witnesses were also from these two districts. But a vicious witch-hunt by the ATS over the last three years has uprooted them. Many have migrated to neighbouring districts like Aurangabad and Parbhani in pursuit of anonymity. They told us a horrifying tale of coercion, blackmail and torture they were subjected to by the ATS so they would support their case against Baig in court.
These witnesses, all Muslims, were Baig’s close acquaintances or friends. But in a strange twist of fate, were forced to condemn one of their own. The ATS exploited their weak social and economic status and their insecurities of coming from the Muslim minority to build a fabricated case against Baig. The choice before them was stark: either help the ATS by giving bogus evidence or meet the same fate as Baig’s. Many of these witnesses had to sell their businesses or borrow money to pay significant sums of ‘protection money’ to ATS officials that allegedly included the Investigating Officer, ACP Vinod Satav.
Before August 18, 2010—the day the ATS abducted Baig– they were all toiling hard to build small businesses or earn a college degree or find a respectable job. But Baig’s arrest changed everything. Since then, these men have faced a kind of Dante’s hell, their lives and families torn to pieces.
The Maharashtra ATS is running a deliberate, cynical programme of denigrating the Muslim youth creating in its wake an army of disaffected youth. Baig is not alone who is languishing in prison for a crime he did not commit; those who testified against him are also in prison: this prison has no walls, no chains, but there is no escaping. With their life savings frittered away in bribes to ATS personnel and their prospects of building a future diminished owing to the stigma of their association with a so-called ‘terrorist’, these witnesses are now living on the fringes without a glimmer of hope or promise. They told us that they had been instructed by the ATS to alert the agency if any unknown individual came around asking and probing about the case. Every once in a while, ATS personnel would make a customary visit to check on them. These men are full of fear, full of anger, helplessness, hopelessness and guilt. Some of them told Gulail that they were willing to tell the full truth to the High Court on the condition of a fair and credible re-investigation and protection from almost-certain reprisals from the ATS. As much as they want to liberate Baig, they want to excoriate the burden of condemning an innocent man weighing on their conscience.
But will anyone listen? Home Minister RR Patil recently made a grand pronouncement that “Baig had been convicted through a due process of law and the State didn’t see any need for reinvestigation.” Union Home Minister SK Shinde had also ruled out the re-investigation. The injustice done to Baig and his community is a festering wound. It needs a healing touch, a soul-searching and above all justice. The empty bluster will only deepen the gash.
Here is the story of one of most cynical subversions of truth and justice in recent times.
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On 18.04.13 a Pune trial court pronounced Baig guilty of the German Bakery bomb blast case on the following three grounds:
- That RDX was recovered from a bag kept by Baig at his place of accommodation.
- That Baig had a jihadi mindset and in his conversations with his friends he often subscribed to the ideology of terrorism.
- That on the day of the blast Baig was in Pune and was seen with Ahmed Siddibapa Zarar alias Yasin Bhatkal near the German bakery.[/jbox]
In reaching the above conclusions the court presumed that Yasin Bhatkal planted the bomb inside the bakery. This presumption in turn was based on the sole testimony of ATS inspector Dinesh Kadam who told the court that he matched the CCTV footage (the CCTV camera inside the bakery had caught the images of a man with rucksacks on his back) of the alleged bomber with Yasin’s photographs and was sure that the two were the same. It needs to be reminded that at the time of the trial and verdict Yasin had not yet been arrested and all that was available with agencies were a few of his old photographs.
How to manufacture a terrorist: a quick tutorial.
Baig, 32 years, always wanted to be a teacher. He was concerned about the quality of education imparted to Muslim students in Marathwada region. “The Muslim children from poor families only attend madarsas where all they learn is Arabic. After passing out tall they get is the job of maulvis at masjids,” says Baig’s friend Shaikh gaus who was later compelled to testify against Baig.
Baig completed his two year Diploma in Education from Pune in 2006. But even before his results were out a tragedy struck. One of his friends got arrested by the Maharashtra ATS for smuggling a large cache of arms and ammunition. The case is famous as Aurangabd Arms Haul Case (over the last seven years only two prosecution witnesses have deposed and the case is in limbo). Though Baig was never named as a wanted accused in this case, it was enough to drill the fear in him of the possibility of he too being picked up or worse arrested in some case or the other. He spent the next four years in Udgir, 180 kms from Beed, under a presumed identity of ‘Hasan’ and soon came to be known as Hasan Sir by the local people. Baig started teaching computers to young Muslim students. He started staying at a local mosque called Madni Masjid and started an internet shop called internet café in local parlance. He would charge Rs 10 for one hour of surfing. Additionally he would do typing and desktop publishing work. The shop was set up in the premises of Nagar Parishad. “He used to make roughly Rs 2000 a month,” says Khurshid Alam, an Udgir resident who came in his contact and soon became friends. Baig soon made more friends and acquaintances who helped him into settling down in Udgir. His voter id card was made under a presumed identity, the internet connection was taken from BSNL in the name of his friend, Abdul Jagirdar Khaja, the son of Nagar Prasishad Adhyaksh, two friends—Munjebar Najeeb and Aadil Azeeb– invested some money in the internet shop and became Baig’s partners. In 2009-10 Baig and Munjeer Najib sold their stake in the shop to Aadil Azeeb who became the full owner of the café. During its research Gulail learnt that both Munjer Najib and Aadil were tortured by the ATS and were forced to bribe lower rung ATS officials to ensure that they were not booked as Baig’s associates in the case.
In April 2010, Baig’s friend, Shaikh Gaus, started a coaching centre for poor Muslim children and called it ‘Al-Saba coaching Classes’. For this he rented a two story building in Udgir town for Rs 4000 per month. Three rooms and a large hall comprised the ground floor and one large room made the first floor. The classes were run on the ground floor and at the end of the day the students slept in their classrooms. While the teachers stayed on the first floor. “We used to teach Mathematics, English and Science to students of 5th, 6th and 7th standards,’ says Gaus Shaikh who like Baig has done a two year Diploma in Education. Students would come to the classes by 2 pm and the classes would last till 10 in the night.
There were roughly 50 students, all from poor background. The fee per student was Rs 300 per month. Most of them used to spend the night at the institute and went to their regular schools in the morning. At night their parents used to drop their dinner boxes,” said Gaus.
Gaus hired Baig as a computer teacher at a salary of Rs 1500 per month. There were 4 more teachers, 2 male and 2 female, besides Baig. Some of these teachers including Baig—who now left the mosque and made the coaching centre his accommodation– used to stay on the first floor. One of them was Abdul Sayyed Rahim, 26 years, who used to teach Mathematics.
“All we wanted to do was to improve the future prospects of poor Muslim children. The madarsa education is creating a large army of unemployable youth. We wanted them to learn Mathematics, English and Science so they at least have some chance of employment, says Gaus.
Baig was known as ‘Hassan Sir’ by his colleagues and students. But if Baig thought that the cacoon of anonymity that he had created for himself—away from his home town, Beed whose many Muslim sons had been arrested by ATS in different cases — was going to protect him from police persecution he was so mistaken.
The ATS used Baig’s act of assuming a fake identity as a proof of his criminal intent. Baig’s friends like Gaus were forced to only narrate the story of Baig’s presumed identity and nothing more. The fact that Baig was keen on becoming a teacher, the fact that Baig was concerned about the educational backwardness of his community, the fact that Baig wanted to do his bit to educate poor Muslim children were omitted from case files and testimonies of police witnesses.
On August 18, 2010 Baig was abducted from Latur Bus Stand by ATS personnel. Baig’s friends had no clue where he had disappeared. Gaus took Baig’s two bags and kept them with him.
Finally, in the wee hours of September 8, 2010, the terror struck. Baig’s friends got a rude wake up call from a raiding team of Maharahstra ATS.
What Pune Trial Court concluded happened on the night of September 8.
An ATS team accompanied with Bomb Detection Squad, a sniffer dog and Baig who was covered in veil himself drove from Pune to Udgir. They landed outside the white building housing the Al-Saba Coaching Classes at around 2 in the night. Baig sounded the latch of the iron gate and called out ‘Abdul’. IO Vinod Satav deposed that on the call given by Baig the lights of the house came on and one person came outside. Baig lifted his veil and when Satav asked the name of that person he identified himself as Abdul Sayyad. Satav inquired if he could frisk him but Abdul refused. Baig then took the raiding team to the first floor and opened the latch of a room on the right hand side. Baig lifted the ply of one double-bed and removed one nylon bag. From this bag baig removed one yellow carry bag. Baig then told Satav that this bag contained ‘barood’ and some of it was used in the bomb planted at German Bakery. The sniffer dog was brought to the bag. Upon sniffing the material the dog wagged its tail and barked. The ATS officials were hence convinced that the material was indeed explosive. One solder gun, one solder wire, one cutter and five pieces of black colour material were also found in the bag, the prosecution claimed. The material was later tested in a government lab and it was found that it was RDX, said the prosecution.
The court concluded that the whole circumstance– as narrated above–was proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt. Abdul Sayyed, the lone independent witness who was present during the recovery, was not examined by the prosecution. “Non-examination of the said person Abdul who had opened the gate of the house is not fatal for the prosecution because what counts is the quality of evidence and not quantity,’ reads the last para of page 136 of the Pune Sessions Court judgment dated 18.04.13.
Abdul Sayyed Rahim told Gulail that the recovery was faked and the raid was rehearsed.
Abdul Sayyed Rahilm was the mathematics teacher at the coaching centre. The ATS raided the place four days before Eidul fitar. “The students and other other teachers were away because of Eid holidays. I alone was present in the building when the ATS raided the place.”
Gulail: On the 7th of September, or the 8th of September, the ATS came here. To Udgir. After coming to Udgir, the ATS came to the white building where coaching classes were held. From outside Himayat Baig called out- “Abdul….” Then, you, Abdul Sayyed opened the door. And you refused to give into being searched. What I am reading is written in this (the judgement on HImayat Baig). Then you went to the first floor. Opened the door on the right hand side. There was a bed over there. A double bed. Himayat took off the bed plywood. He then took out a nylon bag from there. There was a pressure cooker box in that bag. Again, there was another bag, a white colour plastic bag. There was another carry bag of yellow colour. In that bag, it says that there were explosives. And it says that it all happened right in front of your eyes. So, all these things really happened?
Rahim: Not at all.
Gulail: It didn’t happen?
Rahim: (Shakes head in negative)
Gulail: Then what happened?
Rahim: Asked, do you recognise him. I said I do recognise him. Who is it? I said, Hasan. What does he do? He teaches computer classes. Since when? I said since one one-and-a-half months. I didn’t know much details. Since when did he disappear? I said about 8 to 10 days. They said neither is his name Himayat nor is he from Parbhani. I didn’t ask any thing. I was nervous. I had no clue about what was going on. 4-6 people came all of a sudden in the night just like gundas, I felt. They sorted all the things in the room back to how it was. Bed etc. They went back and then came back again and started shooting again.
Gulail: They started shooting again?
Gulail: Did they shoot during their first visit as well?
Gulail: They said that they will come again and shoot again?
Rahim: Yes. They again opened the door and came inside.
Gulail: The same thing again?
Rahim: They made me sit down by holding my hand. They went up with all the stuff, machines etc. I didn’t know much about those things. There were around 15-20-25 people. There were 2-3 vehicles as well.
Gulail: So, there wasn’t anything of that sort?
Rahim: No. If they found explosives, would they let me leave? I was also there on the spot, right.
Gulail: they were saying that they had found a solder gun inside the bag. Was the solder gun there?
Rahim: No there was nothing like that.
Gulail: so, some people had told you to speak in this way or that way.
Gulail: What did they tell you?
Rahim: Afterwards, when it was time to testify they called me. I stayed there for 2 days.
Rahim: In a rest house.
Gulail: In Pune .
Rahim:Yes. We both went together (pointing towards Gaus Shaikh who was sitting next to him) . We were at the rest house the whole day. When we asked why had we been called, they said, “nothing there is a little work to be done. You have to testify.” The previous day they got a lawyer, and said assume he is the lawyer. They said we have to answer the lawyer’s questions. What is your name? What is your age? Since when you had been there? Was a bag recovered from there? Yes there was. There were these things in the bag? I said, I don’t know, I didn’t see it. They said no you have seen it all and you have to answer like that. You would get scared, that’s why we didn’t tell you earlier (about the recovery of explosives).
Rahim: We didn’t tell you anything. But you had seen it, say that. They said, you had also signed. Sir I have not signed. After that they took me in front of the D.I.G. I sat down in front of Sanjay Latkar. In front of the D.I.G. there were 2 Assistant Police Inspectors with me. Even Inspector Lobo was there. I was called inside. ‘Son what all did you see?’ I said that I have seen nothing. They told me that solder gun was there. I didn’t know anything about solder guns. They got the gun and showed me and said this is what they recovered. I said this is a Daagni ( the Marathi word for solder gun )… Before that they had tutored me regarding the things which were found at the place. I said that I was told that there was a gun found at that place, a shoulder gun meaning a gun, then he (DIG) got angry at him (inspectors) regarding this. But, you had seen it. Say that. You have signed it also. I said, sir I have not signed. Sir, none of this was written and shown to me. There was nothing in the bag. After that they took me in fron of the DIG. Sanjay Latkar sahab. I sat in front of him. In front of the DIG. Dwarke and Gaikwad, two APIs were also there. ACP …. What is his name.. Lobo…was he a PI? He was also there. 2-3 people had taken me there. DIG was there at his cabin in the chamber. First they questioned him and then I was called inside. Tell me son, what all did you see? He asked me. I told them everything. Who came and at what time etc. I said that I had seen nothing. They told me that solder, machine or gun. I didn’t even know what is a solder gun. They got a gun and showed me and said this is what they got from there. I said this is a daagni.
Gulail: This is….?
Rahim: Daagni. Marathi for solder gun. I didn’t know what’s a solder gun. Before that they asked me regarding the things which were found at the place. I said that they are saying that they had found gun at the palce. Solder gun means banduk. They are asking me to say so. Then he got angry.
Gulail: who was he angry at?
Rahim: People who went with me to the rest house, API… is this how you have prepared him and come? He will be called in as witness tomorrow.
Gulail: D.I.G. was scolding them?
Gulail: Latkar got angry that you were saying gun for solder gun?
Seeing that Rahim could not be trusted with such an important piece of (fabricated) ‘evidence’, the ATS didn’t produce him in the curt eventually. Only Gaus Shaikh, the owner of coaching classes, was produced.
Under duress Gaus gave a doctored testimony. He left out facts that would have gone in Baig’s favour and narrated a selective and tutored story that made Baig seem a dubious character. The trail judge later relied on Gaus’ testimony to find Baig a man of dubious and doubtful credentials.
This is what Gaus told Gulail.
Gulail: How did they make you a witness?
Gaus: I didn’t understand.
Gulail: Then… you have testified in court?
Gaus: Yes I have.
Gulail: So what did you say in that testimony?
Gaus: That the boy used to stay with us.
Gulail: Himayat Baig?
Gaus: Himayat Baig…He was there to teach. He stayed with us for 2 months. Then how we got to know each other? He used to offer namaaz in the mosque. That’s how we go to know each other.Then I had two bags. I am telling in short. Two bags were with me. He came to me around May-June.—He used to come during nights. Used to teach the kids for an hour. There were tuitions. He used to teach kids in the tuitions.
Gulail: You only said that…?
Gaus: after that… he didn’t come for 15-20 days. I called him. He didn’t answer my phone. When this incident came forward in September. One morning, at 10.30, ATS personnel showed up and asked where is Hasan sir. His (Baig’s) pet name was Hasan.n Then I said he has not been coming for the past 15-20 days. They said ok…where are his 2 bags they asked. I said at home. They said ok get it from home. I got it from home. After bringing it they said ok go sit inside.I was nervous. I was nervous beyond limits. I have never seen a case before in my life. I have never had a police case against me. And I have not seen any case. I have no idea about all of this. What is this case , what is this police, ATS. I was extremely nervous. What’s going on, what’s not. I had no idea. My hands and legs were shivering at that time. This topic sends shivers down my spine even now. Then they said sit inside. I sat inside.
Around 11 o clock I was sitting inside the room. I was sitting inside till about 3-4. After 4 they called me out. Around 4-5 pm it was time to break my fast, it was the time of roja(ramjan). It was my 28th-27th roja. After calling me they said, your sir Himayat Baig, he is a terrorist. He has carried out the German bakery bomb blast. And we have been doing..this to to his bag. What do we call it? A panchnama was done and 51 things were retrieved , a list of those things was made, they told me to sign. They showed me a pant….this is a dress, mobile,2-3 books. They told me all this. Where was all this in my mind to look all these at a time like this. For me it was a big thing to get out of that place….I didn’t even think whats there,what to do,what is the procedure,read-write etc etc. They were not opening it (bag) in front of me. I was sitting inside the room. When they told me to sign while I was leaving, I signed.
Gulail: Was there a panchnama there ? Somebody by the name of Umakant Chatnalay (the chargesheet mentions he was present when the panchnama of Baig’s bags was done).
Gaus: No,nobody was there. They said afterwards. Whether it’s panch or no.. they did not tell me anything.
Gulail: You dont know, they didnt tell you about the panch?
Gaus: No they didnt tell me. They said, that panchanama was like that. Nobody came in front of me.
Gulail: In court you said, nobody came in front of me.
Gaus: No,no, in court I said that the panch was there..
Gulail: Why did you lie?
Gaus: I was under pressure by the ATS. We will harm your family, your life. Our lawyer Raja Thakare (prosecution lawyer) was saying that Gaus was also with him, his name also should be included in the chargesheet as the accused.
Gulail: He told you that?
Gaus: Yes.I was very nervous that day. He said sab saved you. Sanjay latkar sab. I just felt releived that there was no case on me. So they kept threatening me time to time. They came 5-6, 10-15 times.
Gaus: Reddy, Sudhakar Reddy, Gaykawad, Milind Gayakwad, Sawneet (all ATS cops). A team from Pune used to come here. They used to ask – what’s happening, what’s going on? I had no idea: How and what I have to say. They said if you’re not going to follow instructions in the court, then you will be framed. This and that. We will say that we received RDX from your place.
Gulail: Did they get any RDX from your place?
Gaus: I cross-questioned Sanjay Latkar sahib and asked- Sir, Where did you get RDX? You didn’t say any such thing at the time of ‘’Panchnama.’’
Gaus: And yes, I said yet another lie (in court) that they did ‘’Panchnama in the police station. But, they actually did Panchnama at the guest house. Nobody was there.
I lied because they said if you won’t do as we say, you will be framed. They
threatened me for many days.
Gulail: Had they tutored you before presenting in the court?
Gaus: They summoned at least four times to Pune.
Gulail: Before going to court?
Gaus: If tomorrow is hearing, then they used to call me two days back. I was presented in the court three times. They used to call me, train me and send me back.
Gulail: Who was giving the training?
Gaus: Milind Gaikwad, Sawneet sahib, Reddy, then Lobo, then comes Sanjay Latkar.
Gulail: After training they used to take you to Latkar sab!
Gaus: To Latkar sab. He used to ask the questions, like a lawyer in the court. If my reply was correct (according to them), then everything was fine, otherwise. Once Latkar sahib was cross questioning . He asked about RDX. I said I don’t know what is RDX, from where did you get that. I have no idea. Then He shouted angrily and abused an assistant. Will cut your….
Gaus: Don’t you understand, he shouted at the assistant.
Gulail: Because, he didn’t teach you properly.
Gaus: Because he didn’t train me properly.
Gaus: Indori (another prosecution witness) gave an statement against him (Baig). You know why. He went to Pune twice along with me. We were in different vehicles. But I saw him in the ATS office. It happened before me. Satav sab gave him money. Vinod Satav (the IO of case). He made every arrangement for him. Even he helped him to open a shop in the Pune. Gave a shop in the Nanded. Indori, himself, told me all this.
Two of Baig’s closest friends—Rehan Sheikh and Mohammad Ansari—told the court that Baig subscribed to the ideology of terror. But when Gulail spoke they said they were forced by the ATS into lying before the court.
Rehan Shaikh who stayed with baig for many years at the Udgir Masjid and was his closest friend appeared in the court as a prosecution witness and gave a five-hours testimony that later became a strong ground for Baig’s conviction. He said that Baig often spoke about avenging the demolition of the Babri Masjid and 2002 Gujarat riots. He also said that Baig used to carry video clips of terror training camps on his laptop and had once told Rehan that they should undertake similar training.
Similarly, Mohammad Ansari who came from Baig’s native hometown Beed and was also his close friend, said in the court, “Himayat used to always talk about Godhra incident of Gujarat, demolition of Babri Masjid, atrocities on Muslims and jihad.”
Rehan and Ansari told Gulail that they were coerced and tutored into giving false testimonies.
When Gulail reporters met Rehan in Aurangabad this is what he had to say:
Gulail: What happened when you were taken to Mumai ATS office?
Rehan: They made me sit on a chair. They removed my clothes. Put two plugs on my ear. On the chest too. Put a black cloth on my eye. And both hands were tied to the chair. Then administered electric shocks. On the year, chest and the private part.
Gulail: Was your statement taken?
Rehan: No statements were taken. They gave me a paper and asked to read what
was written. Then my uncle struck a deal in Pune with Satav
Gulail: Your Uncle?
Rehan: Yes, he made the deal. They asked for 3 lakhs rupees.
Gulail: Who said?
Rehan: Satav,the cop.
Gulail: The ATS officer?
Rehan: He was with the ATS. Now he’s the incharge somewhere in Shivaji Nagar.
Rehan: Satav, Yes ACP. Finally the deal was settled for one and a half lakh rupees.
Gulail: So they said you say this?
Rehan: They said, you have to say this. And if I don’t say this then? Then what, you’ll also be put inside. Then I said it doesn’t matter. They produced me before a magistrate. Magistrate said ‘Say what you want to say’. I said – nothing sir.. Baig was my friend. We lived together. I had given him my ATM because he was my friend and had been searching for jobs here0and there. And on this basis I gave him my ATM card. And he was my friend.
Gulail: You gave your ATM card to him?
Rehan: That’s all I said and then returned. The judge did not write anything. The magistrar. Did not write anything. Then Kadam from ATS, put his hand on my neck and shoved me. Sir said, “he’s a kid, must’ve gotten scared”, he told the magistrate. Then magistrate handed me a paper, and said read this out, and don’t talk too much. The Magistrar said this.
Gulail: The Magistrate said this? That this is the paper, you read it out?
Rehan: Yes. Take this paper, and just read this out, don’t be too smart.
Gulail: You also spoke against Himayat in the trial court? It was appeared in news.
Rehan: I also spoke in the Court. Then what happened is that I have this brother-in-law. He’s a little eccentric. And the thing is that my father was taking care of him. They picked him up and took him to the cop sation.
Gulail: Who did?
Rehan: ATS did.
Gulail: They took him away before you were about to give your statement in the court?
Rehan: They took him away, made him sit. They’d called him earlier…
Gulail: How did you know that he had been taken away by the ATS?
Rehan: They made him speak to him on phone. he is still very scared. Even today.
Gulail: You mean you had given false statement in court?
Gulail: What did you say in the court?
Rehan: Even in the court.. what did the judge do? Abdur Rehman sahib was there.The lawyer was sitting there. They just pushed the paper ahead.The judge kept the statement paper. ATS people were sitting in front. Moving around as if it was their own house. One was hovering around me, opening drawers and checking. He was also from ATS. As if it was a joke, a joke. Even the judge pushed it like this. Raja Thackeray also pushed the paper like this. I had met him before going to the court.
Rehan: Raja Thackeray. We were there three days.
Gulail: So you were with the ATS for 3 days before going to the court?
Rehan: Three days.
Gulail: In Pune?
Rehan: Yes, in Pune.
Gulail: Did they keep you in their office or at their hotel?
Gulail: ATS did?
Gulail: So, what did the ATS do there?
Rehan: ATS used to ask me to memorise the statement.
Gulail: They made you learn it by rote?
Gulail: What all did they ask you to memorise?
Rehan: Everything that was in the statement.
Gulail: What? Things that were against Himayat Baig?
Rehan: It was written that Baig would often talk of jihad and talk about the cruelty against Muslims. About Gujarat and Babri Masjid etc. That he used to talk about the Muslims in Afghanistan.
Gulail: And did Himayat ever say all this to you?
Gulail: So all this was bogus?
Rehan: Yes, bogus.
Gulail: Who made you learn all this?
Rehan: These ATS people never disclosed their name.And the typewriters there (in the court) and the people who were writing there, I saw them visit the ATS office two or three times.
Gulail: In court when you were giving all this false statements, did you and Himayat look at each other?
Gulail: Did you look at Himayat? He must have been looking at you?
Gulail: Do you not regret for your false statement?
Rehan: How can it be possible that I do not regret. From that day to this day, Allah is witness. I have not slept peacefully since that day. Allah is witness.
Sometimes I feel Himayat comes in my dream, with his bag, and spreads his arms out and says – ‘Gurudev, see I have come, didn’t I tell you?’ (At this point he breaks down).
Gulail managed to meet up with Mohammad Ansari, another key prosecution witness, in Mumbai. He had testified in the court that Baig had terror leanings. His testimony, like Rehan’s, was crucial in getting Baig convicted.
This is what Ansari told Gulail.
Ansari : I was reading that news repeatedly. I couldnt believe it after reading that it’s him (the news of Baig’s conviction). I’ve read it 3-4 times. What is this happening. Somewhere down the line I was blaming myself. After this happened, his sentencing, After his sentencing I am blaming myself that I testified against him. It’s simple, the conscience of a man, you understand, however evil one is from inside one feels sick with himself.
Gulail: So when the ATS took you, they said boss this is what you have to say? Did they give anything in written? Did they say that you have to say exactly this?
Ansari: No they didn’t give it in written, they told me . An entire story was made up. Say this.
Gulail: Say this.
Ansari: Yes, say this.
Gulail: This was said in front of the Magistrate?
Ansari: Yes in front of the Magistrate. It’s as if this is a story, right? There is a director who creates a story. Then he creates characters. The characters have to do what the director says. They can’t do anything by themselves. It was going exactly like that with us. They would dictate us what to do and where to go. Whenever they would say stop, we would stop. There was nothing we could do. What would we do, tell me. Didn’t trust anyone either. If we went somewhere and said something, then it would cause mmore problems. There was no point. I knew this. But, there is one thing that I still don’t understand. It is such a big department. As in such a valued one of the government. They do anything, like anything. There has to be something, at least something. They will make whatever story they want. It’s not a TV serial. What is this? And that happened also. It seemed fake. There isn’t anybody above them, as in an authority. Whatever they say is happening. That is not done.
Gulail: So, the story that you were told to say, what exactly was it?
Ansari: That h is mind is like this, whatever is happening, whatever, it’s the muslims. Do something against them. The muslims are doing something bad. What should we do, we should do something.
The man who wanted to testify that Baig was present with him in Aurangabad on the day of the blast was first tutored to lie; when he refused to succumb to pressure, his testimony was abruptly terminated and told to leave.
According to Shaikh Ateeq Nazir, Baig was present in Aurangabad on the day of the blast. But he was repeatedly tutored and coerced by the ATS to say otherwise. But when he refused to toe the line, his deposition was cut short and the prosecution lawyer allegedly told him to scoot off.
Gulail: what happened when they brought you in the court?
Ateeq: There was training for two to three days…
Gulail: who trained you?
Gulail: Who is Dorbe?
Ateeq: He was API.
Gulail: Which type of training did they give you?
Ateeq: That’s statement, cross questioning.
Gulail: What they used to say, what to speak…?
Ateeq: What they say, just follow that…My name, address…profession…then how did I meet him…
Gulail: With Himayat?
Gulail: They used to train you to narrate the real facts or something entirely different from real facts?
Ateeq: It was different from reality…There was a lot of addition in it.
Gulail: For Instance…
Ateeq: They told me i had an argument with him (Himayat Baig) during Namaz.
Gulail: What was that?
Ateeq: One of them told me Muslims are being oppressed. We will take revenge by Jihad.
Gulail: It was added by ATS?
Ateeq: Yes. It was added. On the day when we went to Pune, in the PIF programme, he was missing the whole day?
Gulail: That he was missing the whole day when this wasn’t the truth?
Ateeq: But the truth was not this.
Gulail: He was with you?
Ateeq: Yes. I objected on two points out of three. First one is that— He used to talk of Jihad. Then we again had an argument. He was rejecting me…. I told them it is my right to depose. I took the U-turn. I changed my stand in the court.
Ateeq: Nobody knew, even the judge, that we met on the 13th.
Gulail: Did you meet Himayat on the 13th?
Ateeq: Yes, on the 13th.
Gulail: When did you meet him?
Ateeq: We met on the day the incident occurred.
Gulail: At what time did you meet him?
Ateeq: Almost between 8:30 and 9:00.
Gulail: Between 8:30 to 9:00. Did you say this in the court?
Gulail: What did the court tell?
Ateeq: Firstly Court asked… Prosecution asked. Then Abdul Rehman (defence lawyer) asked. Asked a bit. I knew that Himayat Baig must have said this and I might get cross questioned. He asked whether I appeared for the examination on the 13th. I said not on 13th, but 14th. But you met him on the 13th?
Gulail: Abdul Rahman asked?
Ateeq: When Abdur Rehman asked me, I had to admit. He asked did you talk to him. I told him I talked him to 2-3 times on the phone. He asked me the time. I called him around 6:00 to 6:30 .Then between 8 to 9. When did you meet him, Judge asked. I said during Isha’s Namaz. Jamaat was over. Some people were offering prayers. That time we were offering Namaz. He asked time, then it was 8 to 8:30. That was the most dangerous thing. The noted the timing. But, since the defence advocate didn’t know this in advance, he didn’t cross question. He was shocked. Everyone was shocked. Alright, go judge said. Then, I requested, Sir. What? After this, Police should not disturb me. I said give the order to the police. Judge said, It won’t happen. Prosecution lawyer asked: Did you face any difficulties? Don’t make a drama. Judge said, If anything happens, contact me. I came out. Perhaps that time people were saying declare him hostile, declare him hostile. I was sitting there.. Everybody was in a shock. PI Sahab. Everyone gathering at different places, like they are about to attack. Everybody was talking on phone. Then PI told me, Go away from here, otherwise all reporters will surround you.
Gulail: When they called you first tiem for enquiry, then also did you tell them that you met him (Himayat) on the 13th?
Ateeq: I didn’t remember it at that time. Later when I did, I gave the hall ticket to them as proof. I wanted to give it, but the judge didn’t accept.
Gulail: You met him on the 13th?
Ateeq: I met him on the 13th. I appeared in a written examination on the 14th. I got the hall ticket for that.
Gulail: Himayat also appeared in the exam?
Ateeq: No, he didn’t give exam.
Gulail: He was with you.
Ateeq: Yes, we stayed at his house.
Gulai: You stayed at his house?
Ateeq: We had to go for a friend’s reception. I didn’t remember exactly. At around 3 O’Clock we took a train. 13th February, we reached there around 8-8.30. On the day the blast occurred. I called him, he said I will come to the station. Then I called and asked where are you. He said near the masjid. Aroujnd 8.30. We offered namaz. Three times- Asar, magrib, isha. All three together. It took us around half an hour. We took auto and went to Roshan Gate. Which was a 30 minute journey. It was between 8.30 and 9 pm and the shops were open. Himayat recharged his phone. He called Noushad.
Gulail: Who recharged the phone?
Ateeq: Himayat Baig. We must have spent half an hour there. We telephoned him. Waited there. – we walked till the gate of his house. It took around 30 to 45 minutes. And reached around 11. Even there the shops were open. We spent almost an hour at his house.
Gulail: Whose house?
Ateeq: The guys whose reception was there.
Gulail: When did you reach there?
Ateeq: 11 O’Clock. Shops were open.
Gulail: Shops were open?
Ateeq: Shops were open. 11 O’Clock. We spent an hour almost at his house. It was 11.45 then.
Gulail: It means you met him around 8.30 near the masjid. Then offered three times namaz. Then you…?
Ateeq: Went to Roshan Gate.
Gulail: Went to Roshan Gate. It took half an hour. Recharegd phone at Roshan Gate. It means both of you were together from 8 to 12 O’Clock. Then, after that?
Ateeq: Slept together.
Gulail: Slept together!
The trial court judge dismissed Ateeq as an unreliable witness.
Himayat Baig’s trial and conviction is a blot on the Indian judicial system. A large section of our society is losing faith in the judicial processes. This story is not just about Himayat Baig. This is about each of us. In many ways with Baig’s fate hangs the future of secularism and justice.