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Living With Terrorist Tag For 20 Years: Muslims Free in SIMI Case

In 2001, Gujarat police had arrested 127 people for attending a meeting allegedly organised by SIMI members.

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Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

“Everyone was told that we are ‘terrorists’. People would be scared to meet us or even say salaam. This is how our lives have been for the last 20 years.”

Asif Shaikh wanted to be a journalist but now runs a business of spices in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. He says, “I couldn’t fulfill my dream of becoming a journalist because I attended an educational seminar held for Muslims in Surat, 20 years back.”

Asif and 126 others were arrested and charged under India’s anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for attending a conference allegedly organised by members of banned outfit Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Two decades passed, five of the accused died, the rest faced extreme social stigma and financial crisis. Some lost their jobs, some had to shift cities for the frequent court hearings and some others had to run from pillar to post to support their families.

In March 2021, a Surat court said that the prosecution failed to produce “cogent, reliable, and satisfactory” evidence to establish its claim and observed that the accused cannot be held guilty under the UAPA.

“The police did not find any evidence from our homes. Our homes were raided like we were some dangerous people. Even after the judicial remand, they did not find anything. What evidence would they have found anyway? We were there to talk about education. But, should we have been punished like this for 20 years?”
Asif Shaikh

‘For 20 Years, Police Raided Our Homes, Treated us like Terrorists’

Arrested at 26, Sohel Patel says his computer hardware business got into trouble. “ Because of my computer hardware business, they harassed me more with IT department but God failed their ploy.”

He continues to run his computer hardware business but has also set up a school and medical centre to serve the underprivileged people in his locality in Gujarat.

“During the last 20 years, the police kept harassing us repeatedly. Officials from different police departments would come to our home, make us wait at police stations. Police used to tell everyone that we are ‘terrorists’.”
Sohel Patel
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'I Was in Jail When My Medical Exam Letter Arrived’

Saquib Farooqi had passed his examination for Medical Transcription and was waiting for his letter to arrive. When it finally arrived, he was in jail. “My father had passed away, I was the sole earning member for my family but whenever I went to ask for a job, they declined because I had a criminal case against me,” Saquib breaks down.

Saquib, like Sohel and Asif, is thankful that the difficult times have finally passed but regrets losing out on two decades of his life.

“I have hope that the atmosphere of fear will change. I have spent nights with this hope that after this darkness, there will be light.”
Asif Shaikh

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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