In 2009, Ibrahim Ali Junaid, a Muslim doctor from Hyderabad, India was acquitted of all charges connecting him to Makkah Masjid blasts in 2007.
Junaid, 25, thought keeping a low profile post trial would keep him out of trouble. However, even after being cleared by the court of law, he faced constant surveillance by police and was picked up every time there was communal violence in Hyderabad.
“The police used to keep a watch on my movements till a couple of years ago… during the twin bomb blasts at Dilsukhnagar in February 2013, NIA authorities called me for questioning. And during the 2014 elections, I was bound over like a rowdy sheeter,” Junaid told Hindustan Times.
The once outgoing and sociable man is now a shadow of the man his friends and family remember. Leaving home only for the clinic, Junaid tells HT he hardly goes out for public functions, keeping himself busy with his medical practice.
“Yet, the police keep a tab on people coming to my clinic,” he said.
Junaid was only in his third year of medical college when the Makkah Masjid blasts took place in May 2017 and killed 16 people.
Instead of rushing to safety, he rushed to help victims and spoke to media about the incident.
“That was my crime. The police called me in the name of gathering information and then warned me against speaking to the media,” he recalled.
He was arrested days later when returning from New Delhi after a conference. “They subjected me to third-degree torture and tried to force me to say I had planted the bomb. Finally, they sent me to jail,” he said.
Two years later, Junaid and 20 others arrested were acquitted by the court because the police could not find any evidence. However, his reputation, along with that of his family’s, had already been tarnished. His college admission had been cancelled and the family was no longer invited to functions.
“I could not even get a match for myself for a couple of years,” he said.
There are similar stories of Muslim men in Hyderabad where they say the police routinely suspects them and tracks them. Hundreds of cases are reported where Muslim men are picked up on terror charges and let off after a few years.
Another story is of 33-year-old Mohammed Rayeesuddin who was working a jewellery shop when the Makkah Masjid blast took place. He was kept under illegal detention for eight days, saying his only crime was belonging to the same locality as a member of terrorist group Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islam (HuJI).
“The police kept me under illegal detention for eight days. I was blindfolded and tortured in different farm houses. Later, I was produced in court on charges of conspiracy. Along with other boys, I was subject to Narco Analysis test, but they could not get anything. Later, the court acquitted me for want of evidence,” he recalled.
He was continuously questioned even after acquittal. Questions have lessened as communal violence has decreased. “But my life has been spoiled. I have no permanent job now,” Rayees said.
The police say they have become more “people friendly”. “May be in the past, the police behaved tough… now, there are no complaints of any harassment of innocent Muslims,” Hyderabad south zone deputy commissioner of police V Satyanarayana told HT.
“We have been adopting latest technology to track the movements of people having a dubious track records.”