On March 6, the Gujarat court acquitted 122 people arrested in Surat in 2001 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly being members of the banned outfit Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). These people were acquitted as the prosecution failed to produce 'cogent, reliable & satisfactory' evidence.
In this incident's backdrop, many social media users are sharing a post claiming that these 122 people were in prison for 20 years.
Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar replied to the PTI's tweet claiming, "Let's simplify this. More than a hundred Muslims spent 20 years in jail or under trial over false terror charges.. 20 years!!!! Let. That. Sink. In."
Many social media users shared an image of 122 Muslims acquitted along with a text on the image that said, "20 years in prison for the crime never committed, Gujarat Court acquits 122 Muslim men arrested in Surat in 2001 under UAPA for allegedly being members of banned outfit SIMI." The court said, "Prosecution failed to produce cogent, reliable and satisfactory evidence that they belonged to SIMI."
122 acquits who were arrested under the alledged relations with SIMI were in prison for 20 years.
The Logical Indian did a keyword search and found a report published by NDTV on March 6, 2021. According to the report, 127 persons were arrested by Surat's Athwalines police in 2001 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for participating in a meeting organised in Surat in December 2001 for allegedly being members of the banned outfit SIMI. Five people died while their case was still under trial and122 people were acquitted by a court in Gujarat's Surat on March 6, after 20 years of trial.
The Indian Express quoted Ziauddin Siddiqui, one of the acquitted accused. According to Siddiqui, "They were afraid that if we were convicted we would have to go to jail again… Thanks to the Almighty the judgment came in our favour… After the order, we all went to the mosque and offered prayers. We believe the truth never dies, even though it takes time. One should be hopeful and keep patience. We were shocked to be termed anti-national. When we got out of jail, our relatives and acquaintances distanced themselves from us, as if we had committed a great sin. The stamp of anti-national not only ruined my life but also my ancestral business. Nobody extended us any financial help."
The Times Of India quoted another acquitted accused Asif Shaikh. Shaikh said, "I was a topper in my college and wanted to become a journalist, but now I sell spices. No one is here to answer our questions about why we were framed in a false case and so many lives were ruined." The report by TOI said that none of the accused were in jail for more than 9 months and also indicated that though these people were not sent to jail, they had to suffer financial difficulties.
Senior IPS officer, Arun Bothra in his reply to Swara Bhaskar's tweet, refuted the claim and said, "Court took 20 years to decide. This doesn't mean they were in jail for 20 years. All of them were on bail. There is a difference between false charges & charges not proved. It's not the same. Not justifying agony due to delay in the judicial process. But half-truths are dangerous.
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