Tagged as victims but accused of rioting, they get relief after 14 yrs

FrontZahida Begum Zameer, who led the protest, says ‘it’s too late’. Deepak Joshi

Fourteen years after over 120 Muslims were "ruthlessly battered and one killed in police excesses", as observed by retired Justice A D Mane in his report, and the victims themselves were named as accused for rioting and vandalising public property, the state government has finally withdrawn the case against them.

The incident dates back to December 6, 1999. The Muslim Action Committee (MAC) had organised a symbolic protest rally to mark the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. Over 8,000 protesters marched from Shahganj area to Vikram Stadium in Aurangabad, when they reportedly faced police action.

"In the interest of administration of justice and in the public interest and in the interest of the society, and to maintain harmony... the government has decided to withdraw the case," said the closure report filed by the state government in the Aurangabad sessions court on November 18. The prosecution had earlier filed an over 600-page chargesheet in the case.

"It is 14 years too late," said 85-year old Zahida Begum Zameer, the then corporator who was at the forefront of the rally. She was among those who were injured, suffering multiple fractures on her neck, back and arms in the police lathicharge on December 6, 1999.

Her limbs may be failing her, but she still remembers that day. "Khaki-clad policemen and women rounded up all those they assumed to be Muslims. They beat us with their rifle butts, targeting our eyes and necks. It was not a lathicharge, but an attempt to kill us," she claimed.

"Hum Allah ke waaste ladh rahe the, humare hak ke liye awaaz utha rahe the... aur woh bina wajah (we were protesting for Allah, for our rights. They had no cause," she said.

"We had courted arrest and were in police custody. The attack happened outside the police headquarters. It was a conspiracy," said Ziauddin Siddiqui, another victim who lost his eyesight. Siddiqui was SIMI's all-India general secretary from 1984-92.

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