Baramulla youth among 3 acquitted in blast case after 14 years

Lucknow: A youth from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district was among three persons acquitted in the August 15, 2000 bomb blast near the Assembly House in Lucknow, reports said Friday.
Gulzar Ahmed Wani, a resident of Baramulla, Sayyed Abdul Mubeen, of east UP, and Kaleem Akhtar, of Lucknow were acquitted by a local court in Lucknow on Thursday in the blast case for want of evidence against them.
Wani and Kaleem, however, still face trial in similar cases in Barabanki and Agra while Mubeen was released in 2006. Wani is still behind bars.
The independence day blast at Sahkarita Bhawan, near the Assembly House in Lucknow, had caused no casualties or injuries.
The three men had been slapped with charges like Section 121, 121A, 122, 123 and 124A of the Indian Penal Code, dealing with conspiracy and waging war against the nation.
Kaleem’s counsel Mohammed Shoaib said youth like Kaleem were arrested back then merely to legitimize the ban on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) of which he was a member. SIMI was eventually banned in 2001 exactly a year after Kaleem was picked up from Kargil where he was working as a schoolteacher.
Kaleem said even days after he was taken into custody, he had no clue of his crime.
“Back then I was under the impression that the police was questioning me only to know about SIMI. I think it was on the verge on being banned,” says Kaleem, who was 23 at the time of arrest.
It was only after he was produced in a CJM court in Kargil and then transferred to Lucknow Jail, that Kaleem realized that he was an accused in the August 15, 2000 bomb blast at Sahkarita Bhawan.
Though he was granted bail a year after his arrest, Kaleem spent 14 long years living under the stigma of being a terror accused and the sword of conviction dangling over his head.
“I was summoned by the court once every 15 days. In all, I got 300 hearings over the years. This ordeal destabilized me. I couldn’t focus on my work. I left my teaching job and shifted to selling cloth-as my life revolved around the court,” Kaleem, according to the Hindu newspaper, said.
Kaleem also alleged that the police regularly harassed his family to withdraw his bail application. “They beat my brothers in front of my mother while enquiring about me,” he said.
“Terrified of further harassment, Kaleem even refused to be photographed for this report,” the Hindu said.—Agencies