‘Trying to become normal after six months in jail’

Mohammad Azam and three others were granted bail by the special NIA court since they were not named by the NIA in its charge sheet due to want of sufficient prosecutable evidence

Mohammad Azam sitting with his family (Photo Courtesy: The Hindustan Times/Vipin Kumar)

“My life had come to a halt. It has gone back by six months,” The Hinustan Times quoted Mohammed Azam, 35, as saying. Azam returned home on Tuesday after spending six months and six days in the custody of National Investigation Agency (NIA) and in the high-risk ward of Tihar jail. Azam was among five men arrested from Delhi for their alleged affiliation with a pro-ISIS module ‘Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam’ on December 26 last year.

According to the Daily report, on Tuesday, Azam and three others were granted bail by the special NIA court since they were not named by the NIA in its charge sheet. The central probe agency, while responding to the bail plea informed the court the four accused were “not charge-sheeted due to want of sufficient prosecutable evidence”. It did not oppose the bail plea moved in the court saying that the court should order as it deems fit “in the interest of justice”.

The NIA had conducted searches on December 26 at six places in Jaffrabad, Seelampur and Chauhan Bangar in northeast Delhi and arrested five men along with Azam. Nine others were arrested the same day following raids at 11 places in UP’s Amroha, Lucknow, Hapur and Meerut. The agency had then claimed to have recovered 12 pistols, 163 assorted ammunition, an improvised missile launcher, 98 mobile gadgets and phones, 25kg explosive chemicals, 120 alarm clocks to make IEDs, and incriminating books.

In the charge sheet filed last month, NIA said the accused had “entered into a conspiracy to wage a violent Jihad against government of India by use of weapons and explosives to establish an ISIS Caliphate in India”. But it did not name four suspects , two of them from Delhi — Zaid Malik and Mohammed Azam.

“Six months is a long time. Everything that was happening in my life at that time came to a halt. Now my personal, professional and social life has gone back by six months. I am trying to pull things together and become normal again,” Azam told to reporters, who ran a medical shop in Chauhan Bangar. After 12 days in NIA’s remand, Azam was shifted to Tihar jail number 4 in January.

To his 6-year-old daughter who enquired about him every day, the family had to lie. “We told her that I have found a job at a big medicine manufacturing factory. She thought of the jail as a factory where I worked. Every time she would come to meet me, she requested me to come back and I assured her that I will return soon,” he said.

Recalling his routine in the high-security prison ward, Azam said, “I used to wake up around 7-8am. Since only convicted inmates are assigned tasks, I used to spend the day mostly in the library. Officers maintained a strict vigil but I don’t remember them having ill-treated us,” he said.

Azam said he was in touch with other suspects only because they used to visit his shop to buy medicines. Azam’s father, Hafiz Ahmad, said his release has raised their hopes of his acquittal. “The day police had come to our house and searched every corner of it, but did not find anything suspicious, we knew Azam will come out clean,” the Hindustan Times quoted Ahmad as saying, who has five sons and a daughter, Azam being the youngest .

“We were waiting for him to return in two hours, as the policemen had promised us when they took Azam away for “questioning”. We did not know that we will have to spend over six months for him to return home,” said Ahmad.

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