Mufti Abdul Qayyum, (center) the main accused in the Akshardham temple attack, addresses a press conference after his release last year

“My life has been totally ruined because of this case, my family is being hounded and I have nothing in life to look forward to.  I have to start from scratch at this age. The time lost will never return,” says Mufti Abdul Qayyum who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani 

AHMEDABAD – Ahmedabad’s Dariyapur area has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons since the Akshardham attack in 2002 in Gujarat`s capital Gandhinagar. At least 33 people were killed and over 80 injured before the National Security Guard commandos managed to gun down the 2 attackers. The prime accused Mufti Abdul Qayyum was the resident of Dariyapur. After a long drawn and emotionally exhausting legal battle, Mufti Abdul Qayyum got a clean chit from the Supreme Court last year. Coincidentally it was on the same day when the BJP got a thumping majority in the General elections last year.

Abdul Qayyum has now come out with a book on his ordeal. He has detailed everything in the book right from his detention to police brutalities and the long drawn legal battle during which he was sentenced to death and finally got acquitted by the top court. The book runs into 224 pages and will be released on Thursday, 16th April, in Ahmedabad.

Five of the six men who were freed by the court in the Akshardham temple terror attack case in Gujarat, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tashi Tobgyal/Iindian Express photo.

Abdul Qayyum has a harrowing ordeal to narrate. After spending 11 years of his life behind bars for a crime he never committed, he has spent the last one year penning this heart-wrenching story recounting his trauma and suffering due to state excesses.  In his book, titled ‘Gyarah Saal Salakhon Ke Peeche,’ (Eleven Years behind Bars) Qayyum provides a detailed account of what he calls is a life as “a terrorist without evidence.”

“This book is not just for the Muslims; it is for all the oppressed classes of the country. If through my book, even one person is spared state-sponsored terror and excesses then I will be happy that I have achieved something,” Mufti Qayyum said.

“My life has been totally ruined because of this case, my family is being hounded and I have nothing in life to look forward to.  I have to start from scratch at this age. The time lost will never return. At least now the government must give us adequate compensation for the manner in which we were falsely implicated,” he added.

Mufti Qayyum said that he is planning to approach courts seeking compensation as well as punishment for the police officials who slapped false cases against him, tortured mercilessly and incarcerated him all these years before the apex court rescued and acquitted him honorably.

He said he still trusted the top judiciary and was happy that his case has been pursued sincerely by non-Muslim lawyers in all the three stages. He further said that now it is the turn of the security officials who acted illegally against these six acquitted people to answer in courts. “Not only should they be booked, they should be prosecuted so that an example is set for all such security officials booking innocent Muslim youth and ruining their lives forever”, he said.

The apex court also rejected the confessional statements of the convicts as being invalid in law and said the prosecution could not establish that they participated in any conspiracy. He was arrested after investigations conducted by the then Deputy Superintendent of Police DG Vanzara, who is now on bail in the Sohrabuddin staged killing case.

Mufti Qayyum says that Vanzara was the harshest and vindictive against all accused. He was 33 at the time of the arrest in 2003, a year after the attack on the Akshardham temple. The police had accused him of writing a letter that was recovered from the possession of two terrorists, who were killed in the attack. A lower court in Gujarat later convicted him and two others, sentencing them to death. But on May 17 last year, the apex court acquitted him of all the charges.

Since his release, the 43-year old Madrassa teacher has been trying to put together the pieces of his fragmented life. At the time of his arrest, 12 years ago, his teenage son was barely ten months old. His wife Sumaiyya not only struggled to bring up their children, but also had to live with the stigma of being called a ‘terrorist’s wife.’

“As my son grew older, his only constant question was about his father. Every day before going to school he would always ask; when will father come home. Every moment was filled with pain,” says Sumaiyya.

The book, for Mufti Qayyum, is a sad testimony of all that transpired in his life behind bars. Ironically though, he says, writing the book was easy for him but he hasn’t been able to gather the courage to read it again.