Madani cycle enters round two as accused turns ‘victim’ again

National

For Abdul Nazer Madani, chairman of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the cycle of terror charges, arrest and public sympathy has entered a second leg.

Taken into custody in 1998 in connection with that year's Coimbatore serial blasts, which were allegedly targeted at BJP leader L K Advani and which killed 58 people, Madani was acquitted in 2007. The acquittal created the image of a martyr who had lost nine years of his life in jail due to a false case.

Madani went on to be arrested again in 2010, this time in connection with the 2008 serial blasts in Bangalore that left two dead and 20 injured. Over the next two years, he went slowly into oblivion. Now, after the Karnataka High Court rejected his plea for bail so that he could take better treatment in Kerala, demands for "Justice for Madani" are being heard once again, from Muslim organisations, from rights acivists and now from across political parties, apparently in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Madani himself, who once moved around with a battery of self-styled "black cats", is today a far cry from his former self, the rabble-rouser before and after the Babri Masjid demolition. He has lost sight in one eye due to diabetic retinopathy, while his vision in the other is impaired, says his wife Sufiya. He had lost part of his right leg in a 1992 blast, allegedly triggered by RSS men; now he has lost all sensation in what remains of it. He is confined to a wheelchair and is afflicted with several chronic ailments.

He was not battling such severe health problems the first time he captured the public imagination, particularly that of Muslims in Kerala, as the victim of a travesty of justice.

Even before his image of a terror accused was transformed into one of a victim, he was much sought during those nine years in jail. For the assembly election of 2001, leaders of the Congress-led United Democratic Front had queued up in Coimbatore jail to get his party's support. In 2006, after the Assembly passed a resolution seeking his release, Madani extended support to the CPM-led Left Democratic Front.

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