A Prisoner’s Dilemma: In Conversation with Adambhai Sulemanbhai Ajmeri

  • Written by Shuchita Goel
  • Reported by Shivpriya Gurtoo

“I have come back to find myself lost again.”

Today our University hosted a very special guest. Adambhai was wrongfully branded a terrorist and spent 11 years in prison, 8 years on death row for his alleged involvement in the 2002 Akshardham terrorist attacks in Gandhinagar. He, along with five others, was acquitted by a division bench of the Supreme Court on May 16, 2014, which expressed its anguish at the shoddy investigation carried out by the Gujarat police and the brutal consequences which fell upon innocent men.

Supreme Court

The Death Penalty Research Project has been actively involved in Adambhai’s case, who was invited to campus to give us students a peek into the horrific circumstances he fell into and the blatant mistreatment and lies that the police had meted out to him and the public. Prior to the talk we were shown a documentary about the trials and social ostracism his family had to face in his 11-year long absence. His son was deprived of the opportunity to educate himself, not only because he was forced to find work to support his family but also because the people around him had labelled his father a terrorist. On numerous occasions their family had to go without food, unless the neighbours were kind enough to provide for them. There were some days when they had to scrounge around for their neighbours’ leftovers.

Maulshree Pathak of the fifth year, initiated the conversation with the observation of how the legal system is so impersonal and had Adambhai never visited our college, he would just be a statistic to us, case number (2014) 7 SCC 716. She asked him about his experience with the law and whether he ever feared being killed in an ‘encounter’ while in custody.

Adambhai responded with the wry observation that although the law is very well formulated and written down in statute-books, its implementation is far from acceptable standards. He talked about how he was asked by the police which case he’d like to be implicated in and the Akshardham case was assigned to him at random. He resignedly told us he was asked questions about terrorist activities he’d never indulged in and beaten black and blue, tortured till his hands were so frail he couldn’t do basic activities.

Adambhai

Adambhai

Adambhai also talked about the peace he felt when he was released from police custody and sent to jail where eventually he became acquainted with his fellow-inmates. He also talked about his political activities, of how his previous encounter with the law had left a sour taste in his mouth wherein he had been implicated in another false case involving fake ballots. Maulshree then asked him about the day of his release and the emotions he felt when he came to know about the judgment that exonerated him. His reply was very simple: Adambhai and his fellow inmates were checking the Lok Sabha results on television when they saw a ticker scrolling by with the news of their acquittal. Later the jail authorities too informed him of his waiting family and the fact that was now free.

His freedom, though, comes at a huge price. The world has changed radically ever since his arrest and subsequent imprisonment. He does not know how he will support his family. He does not understand the new technology that has revolutionised modes of production, exchange and communication. People reject his applications for jobs that he is too frail to do, repulsed with horror that he was once in jail for alleged terrorist activities. He has plans of starting a dairy farm business but he does not have the means or resources to do so. His imprisonment has sucked out everything from him and his only wish is that he be able to support his family and send his younger children to school.

He’s facing what seem like insurmountable obstacles but the University has decided to step in and lend a helping hand. DPRP has taken the initiative to launch a campaign requesting for donations to help him and family get back on their feet. The link to the same can be found here.

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