The details of the torture and humiliation endured by the 21 Muslim youths, who were detained after the twin blasts in Hyderabad last year, are finally coming out of the closet.
These youths had remained tight-lipped about the inhuman treatment they suffered since the police allegedly threatened to kill them by staging encounters, if they confided in anybody.
The youths finally garnered the courage to speak out about their ordeal after a local court acquitted them on all charges and the state government admitted that the youths, many of them the sole bread earners of their families, had been wrongfully detained.
The victims, who narrated their horrific tales to rediff.com, included auto drivers, an embroidery worker, salesmen and a welder. But their stories have striking similarities -- they were all picked up within days of the blasts, illegally detained in secret places and subjected to horrific torture.
Mohammed Abdul Wajid, an embroidery worker from the old city, was arrested on August 27 by plain clothed policemen.
"They blind folded me and covered with me a burqa. After a three-hour long journey out of Hyderabad, they took me to an unknown place. After we reached a building, the policemen started questioning me about the blasts, saying I had planted the bombs and I should tell them who my accomplices were. When I told them that I have no idea what they were talking about, they started torturing me," reveals Wajid.
The torture, which included regular beatings and electric shocks, continued for ten days. Javed was finally produced in court and remanded to judicial custody.
Mohammed Abdul Kareem, an auto driver, also suffered a similar fate when he was arrested by the police and subjected to torture. "The policemen kept telling me that they knew I was involved in the blast. They wanted to know from where I had procured the bombs. I told them that I had never seen a bomb in my life, but this angered them further and they started torturing me."
Kareem alleged that the policemen often taunted him about his religion. He was also illegally detained for ten days, taken to four different secret locations and tortured in each of them.
Mohammed Mutafa Ali, salesman at a mobile shop, was tortured for four days. He was remanded to judicial custody and remained imprisoned for five months, till the Hyderabad High Court granted him bail.
"Every time the police opposed our bail, claiming that we were involved in terrorist cases. But there was no such charge against us. The police had booked us in a fictitious case of criminal conspiracy," he said.
Abdul Quader, another auto driver, was tortured and verbally abused about his religion.
These youths, all of them from poor families, could provide the surety for bail only after local Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi provided them Rs 50,000 each.
They received further financial assistance from local legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi, who gave them Rs 50,000 each to start their own businesses, as nobody was willing to employ these 'terror suspects.'
"Even a murderer or a rapist gets some respect from the society, but we did not even get any sympathy. Wherever we went to look for a job, we were turned away. Even our relatives refused to talk to us. Our lives have been completely destroyed by the false allegations of the police and the propaganda by the media," said Abdul Kareem.
The only thing that these youths are seeking now is a fresh beginning. They have approached the state Minorities Financial Corporation for margin money under the self-employment scheme. The corporation has agreed to provide them Rs 30,000 and the Indian Bank is giving them Rs 80,000 each to start their own businesses.
Meanwhile, state Minority Welfare Minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir has announced a compensation of Rs 30,000 for these youths, after the state government finally admitted that they had been indiscriminately detained and tortured.
"The minister's statement is wrong," said Abdul Kareem. "We have not asked for any compensation from the government because money can't compensate for our sufferings."
Mustafa Ali says that if the government actually wants to do something for the victims, it should punish the police responsible for victimising and torturing them. "Then we will feel that justice has been done," he said.
But the government has refused to take any action against the guilty policemen. Shabbir maintains that the policemen were only doing their duty and investigating the blasts cases.
Wronged by the state and turned away by society, these youths have now filed a case against the government, demanding Rs 20 lakh compensation each.