Even two months after Thadiyantavida Nazeer’s acquittal in the Kozhikode twin blast case of 2006, his father Abdul Majeed is living a quiet and isolated life. In Thayyil, a coastal village in Kerala’s Kannur, Majeed is still known as the father of a ‘terrorist.’
The Kerala High Court acquitted 35-year-old Nazeer and his friend S Shafaz in January this year. Majeed, however, has reasons to believe that the unexpected acquittal, may not give him relief. His son’s release from prison is not imminent, he said.
A businessman from Thayyil, 86-year-old Majeed said that his son is already a convict in the controversial ‘Kashmir recruitment’ case.
Kochi's National Investigation Agency (NIA) court had in 2013, convicted Nazeer of allegedly recruiting Kerala youths for terror activities in the Kashmir valley. Though the NIA court gave its verdict in 2013, Nazeer’s incarceration term in the case was expected to commence after the completion of trial in the twin blasts case. This means, Nazeer would continue to be incarcerated in the ‘recruitment’ case, despite a favourable verdict in the twin blasts case.
Nazeer is also an accused in 2005 Kerala bus burning case and Bengaluru serial bomb blast case.
Why Did NIA Nab Nazeer?
On 3 March 2006, Kozhikode city witnessed bomb blasts at two of its bus bays. Before the blasts, unknown persons had informed the media and the district administration that bombs were planted in Mofussil bus stand and Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus stand in the city. Nazeer first got implicated in the case when the local police were investigating.
Later, NIA, which took over the case in 2009, accused Nazeer of having links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan sponsored terror outfit.
Meanwhile, in October 2008, the country’s security forces in Kashmir found four youngsters from Kerala among those they had allegedly gunned down for engaging in terror activities in the valley. This made the NIA initiate an investigation into alleged terror links between Kashmir’s separatist militants and Kerala’s Muslim youth.
NIA accused Nazeer and nine others of recruiting Kerala Muslim youths to man LeT’s terror network. Speaking to The Quint, Majeed said, “My son is also accused in the Kalamassery bus burning case of Kerala in 2005 and the serial bomb blasts case that rocked Bangalore in 2008.” Trial is yet to begin in both the cases.
“Our expectations are short-lived,'' said Majeed, who still faces social isolation and extreme hatred in his neighbourhood.
“I went through the High Court verdict and felt the NIA would not punish my son in the twin blasts case even if it appeals against the verdict. But all other pending cases can keep him in jail for long. As trials and appeals move at a snail's pace, we have no option but to wait. I don't know whether I will be alive when he comes out of prison," said Majeed as he struggled to contain his emotions.
Family Maintains Distance
Nazeer who allegedly goes by two aliases – Ummer Haji and Haji Siddique Nazar – was accused of having links with imprisoned Muslim cleric and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Abdul Nazar Madani. Madani, who himself is an accused in several cases including Bengaluru blasts case of 2008, has denied links with Nazeer.
Nazeer was running the family timber business and running and Islamic study centre when he was arrested.
He has been maintaining that he is innocent of all charges against him. During the course of the trial in the twin blasts and recruitment cases, he requested the law enforcement agencies not to drag his family into the investigation. However, fearing ostracization, Nazeer’s family has been keeping a distance from him.
“Neither I, his mother, nor our other three children ever knew anything alleged terrorist links. We never supported him, even in the form of facilitating legal aid. We even avoided meeting him in jail. My clear stand was that he must be punished if involved in criminal activities,” Majeed said.
The father was, however, happy to find his son “innocent” of the twin blasts case. “I am not sure about Nazeer's involvement in the other cases. But I still hope that one day he will return acquitted in all cases and lead a normal life,'' Majeed said.
Nazeer's Children Affected
According to Majeed, Nazeer has a wife and three children. The family has been protecting their personal details from the public as “they need to survive in a world that finds merit in the allegations of NIA.” Nazeer’s children should not face “isolation and humiliation” that the rest of the family have been facing, he said. Nazeer’s children have been wanting to see him.
“They need him. Let him prove his innocence and return home to lead a normal life,” Majeed said.
The family has been facing severe hardships since 2006, he maintained. “The police had even implicated my younger son in a fake child trafficking case around Nedumbassery airport in Kochi. But the court acquitted him,'' said Majeed. The family’s timber business too suffered huge losses because of the cases against Nazeer, Majeed said. The father, however, remained apologetic about the charges against Nazeer.
“We never interfered in these cases. I always believed in the collective betterment of people around me. We never treated people believing in other faiths as enemies,” he said.
Setback for NIA
The Kozhikode blasts case was the first terror-linked case in Kerala, journalist turned senior lawyer, Dr Sebastian Paul said. The acquittal of Naseer and Shafas is hence a setback for the NIA.
“The 100-page appeal judgment pulls up the investigation agency for its apathetic attitude in collecting independent evidence. The High Court also invalidated the confessions made by the accused in custody. They are inadmissible under the Evidence Act,'' Paul said.
The blasts were reportedly carried out to protest the denial of bail to Muslim accused in the 2003 Marad communal riots case. According to social activist N P Chekkutty, the NIA’s arguments were feeble right from the beginning. “The appellate court’s verdict has rekindled hope for delivery of justice in the case in which people were branded terrorists,'' Chekkutty said.
(KA Shaji is a journalist based in south India. He writes on human rights, environment, livelihood, caste, and marginalised communities.)