RECOUNTING HOR­ROR The men who al­legedly cel­e­brated Pak vic­tory say jail in­mates were hos­tile to­wards them

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - PUNJAB - Neeraj San­toshi n let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The men who were ar­rested and charged with sedi­tion for al­legedly cel­e­brat­ing Pak­istan’s win against In­dia on June 18 said they were lashed and made to clean toi­lets

MOHAD VIL­LAGE(BURHAN PUR): Their or­deal is over, but not the night­mare. Hav­ing spent 10-odd days in jail for al­legedly cel­e­brat­ing Pak­istan’s vic­tory over In­dia in the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy, Anees Babu Man­soori shud­ders at what he had to en­dure in prison.

“We were made to clean toi­lets and drains in the Khandwa jail and were called traitors by in­mates. In jail, nearly a dozen se­nior jail in­mates slapped each one of us and abused us,” said Man­soori, a tai­lor by pro­fes­sion.

Man­soori was among 15 lo­cals of Burhan­pur — some 350km from Bhopal — who were ar­rested and charged with sedi­tion hours af­ter In­dia lost to Pak­istan on June 18. The po­lice claimed the Mus­lim men had burst crack­ers and shouted pro-Pak­istan slo­gans af­ter the match.

“We did not,” says Man­soori, stand­ing up to show bruises on his leg due to al­leged beat­ing by the po­lice. “We are Mus­lims, but also In­di­ans,” the 25-year-old in­sisted.

Vil­lagers agree, say­ing the po­lice cases were trumped up. They say a few crack­ers were burst that night but none is sure who was be­hind them. No one is also sure why the crack­ers went off, or to cel­e­brate what.

The ar­rests and sedi­tion charges against the 15 men trig­gered na­tion­wide out­rage, prompt­ing the po­lice to drop the charge a week later. But for the men, granted bail by the court on June 27 and let out of the jail the next day, the scars still re­main.

The worst treat­ment was re­port­edly meted out to Sar­faraz Khan, a farmer whose first name is sim­i­lar to that of Pak­istan’s cricket cap­tain Sar­fraz Ahmed. “They had fun with me as for them, I was the cap­tain. I was beaten up mer­ci­lessly by the po­lice. In jail the in­mates did the same,” he told Hin­dus­tan Times.

He and the other men al­leged the in­mates were par­tic­u­larly hos­tile to them as they faced sedi­tion charges. Id­bar Gulzar Tadvi, 24, says the in­car­cer­a­tion is go­ing to hurt him for a long time. The cot­ton crop he was grow­ing has wilted while he was be­hind bars.

“Most of us work in the fields as farm­ers or labour­ers. We have the most to lose,” he said.

Even Man­soori forsees a bleak fu­ture. “I am a Bach­e­lor in Ed­u­ca­tion and I had ap­plied for a job in the for­est de­part­ment. I was about to ap­ply for a job with the po­lice as well. Now, with such charges, who will give me a job,” he asked.

As the men stare at an un­cer­tain fu­ture, they also spec­u­late over the rea­sons why the po­lice picked them up and branded them anti-na­tion­als.

The po­lice had used com­plainant Sub­hash Lax­man Koli to book the men. But Koli has since re­tracted his state­ment in court and emerged as the hero of the vil­lage.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the po­lice slapped him and forced him to sign some pa­pers.

“It is only the next day I re­alised that I was made the com­plainant when I read my name in the lo­cal pa­pers,” Koli said. “Po­lice tried to in­tim­i­date me, but I told the truth in the court state­ment. If some­thing hap­pens to me, po­lice will be re­spon­si­ble.”

Though forced to drop the more se­ri­ous sedi­tion charge, RRS Par­i­hat, the su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice for Burhan­pur, de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

“Be­fore the mag­is­trate, each one them have stated that they were not beaten. We are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mat­ter and as fresh facts come out, we will ac­cord­ingly take ac­tion against whoso­ever is guilty,” he told Hin­dus­tan Times.

As the find­ings are awaited, vil­lagers in­clud­ing Sar­faraz’s fa­ther Rashid Khan, sus­pect a con­spir­acy to sow com­mu­nal dis­cord in the vil­lage.

“Dur­ing the com­mu­nal ri­ots of 1992 and 2008 in Burhan­pur, our vil­lage re­mained un­touched. What changed this time needs to be in­ves­ti­gated,” he said.

(Right) Tai­lor Man­soori, who was one of the 15 men in­car­cer­ated, shows bruises on his leg due to al­leged beat­ing by po­lice. Vil­lagers say a few crack­ers were burst the night when In­dia lost the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy but none is sure who was be­hind them. The ar­rests and sedi­tion charges against the men trig­gered na­tion­wide out­rage, prompt­ing the po­lice to drop the charge a week later. HT PHO­TOS

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