The History Appraiser Caught With His Books

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Photo: SK Mohan

ON AUGUST 15, 2006, in his hometown of Kottayam in Kerala, Abdul Razik boarded a 6 am bus for a three-hour journey to a village up north. To mark Independence Day, the village Muslims had invited Razik, a scholar of some repute in the community, to speak on the role of Muslims in India’s freedom struggle. At 10 am, a group of 18 assembled at the ironically named Happy Auditorium. When Razik started his lecture, three policemen he had earlier seen in a jeep outside entered the hall. “They browsed through my notes and questioned me,” Razik told TEHELKA during an interview at Thiruvananthapuram.
The entire group was taken into custody but 13 were let off. Five, including Razik, were arrested and charged with (a) criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death or life imprisonment; (b) sedition by way of attempting to bring hatred or contempt against the government and “excite disaffection” towards it; (c) being a member of an unlawful association (yes, SIMI, again); and (d) participating in its meetings to incite unlawful activity. So off went Razik and the other four to jail.
The police claim this was a secret meeting called by SIMI, but cite no proof. The organisers deny any SIMI link and say they put out notices in the area, including at the mosque. Happy Auditorium sits squat in the middle of the village, with bustling shops around, including a well patronised bakery- cum-teashop. The law says the police must get “independent and respectable inhabitants of the locality in which the place to be searched is situated” to stand witness. One imagines there would have been no dearth of witnesses around a place like Happy Auditorium. But the FIR against Razik does not cite any such witnesses, nor does it state whether the police even tried to find any. The only witnesses cited are two policemen.
The police say the five arrested were SIMI activists. The host of the meeting, a local by the name of Nizamudheen, denies associating with SIMI. This should be easy to settle: the police have a list of SIMI members seized from its office sealed at the time it was banned in 2001. But the police make no reference to that list. Instead, they say they collected the list of SIMI members from the Intelligence Bureau, without explaining how that list can be deemed incontrovertibly genuine.
From Razik, the police seized a book titled Mass Resistance in Kashmir: Origins, Evolutions, Options. This book is authored by a Pakistani scholar, Tahir Amin, and is published by the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad. The book was issued to Razik by a library run by the Jamaat- e-Islami in Kerala. It certainly reflects the typical Pakistani position on Kashmir. But is the possession of this book unlawful? The Kerala police wrote to the Centre asking if the book is banned. The Centre hasn’t yet answered. The police have initiated no action against the Jamaat library that owned it.
The “banned SIMI literature” police claim to have seized includes back issues of SIMI’s Malayalam magazine, Vivekam, published before the ban. Vivekam was registered with the Registrar of Newspapers of India and sold by subscription and on newsstands. The issues allegedly seized are of 1993, 1994, 1998 and 2000. No cases were made out against Vivekam in those years or afterwards. The police also seized from Razik a booklet with articles on the “repression of Muslims” by state agencies. Alleging misdeeds by the State can’t be seditious, can it?
Yet, Razik spent 65 days in jail. The Kerala High Court denied him bail thrice, relenting only when the police failed to submit an update on the investigation, which the judge had repeatedly ordered. This February, the police requested the district collector’s sanction to begin prosecution. Six months later, such sanction is still awaited. The chargesheet is yet to be filed. The trial is yet to begin. Razik, 29, says he has been framed because he was a SIMI member from 1996 until the ban. Razik holds MA and B.ED degrees. He has worked as an editor of religious books in Urdu and Malayalam. His harassment by the police and intelligence agencies began with the ban. His house was often searched; he was often questioned. Never was a case found against him. Even though the ban on SIMI is lifted, the Damocles sword still hangs over him. “I wasn’t angry when I was in jail,” Razik says. “I kept praying to god. I was mentally prepared to be in prison a long time.” •