Delhi: Lawyer Ujjwal Nikam recently opted out as special public prosecutor in the 2014 Mohsin Shaikh murder case in which members of the right-wing Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) are accused. 24-year-old Mohsin Shaikh was lynched by a mob in Pune on 2nd June, 2014, following communal tensions sparked by the circulation of objectionable images of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and Maratha king Shivaji. Mohsin was returning home after offering his evening prayers when the attack took place. He was taken to a hospital but the doctors declared him brought dead.
Following Nikam’s sudden departure from the case without any explanation, Mohsin’s family has written to the state government requesting for Rohini Salian to be appointed as the special public prosecutor.
Mohsin’s 63-year-old father Sadiq Shaikh is deeply disappointed at Nikam’s decision to withdraw from the case. Sadiq runs a small photocopy and desktop publishing shop in Maharashtra’s Solapur. He is unable to fathom why Nikam took this sudden decision at a critical juncture when charges are about to be framed against the accused.
“We had great faith in him,” says Sadiq. “But he has opted out now. We are highly disappointed.”
Nikam did not answer Sadiq’s calls but replied to his message thanking him for his faith in him and saying that he respected Sadiq very much, which is why he took the case. “God is great and he will give justice,” he concluded.
“When Mohsin was murdered, the administration was under severe pressure but my family and I never let the situation spiral into a riot,” Sadiq told The Wire. “The tension was such that people on both sides were ready to kill each other. I can never forgive them for what they did to my son. But the right to punish lies with the judiciary.”
“I made sure that my children are well-educated besides having proper knowledge of religion,” says Sadiq. “I have followed Abdul Kalam’s example and my children idolise people who have contributed to the development of this country. There are people on both sides that spread anarchy and hatred. I want the government to stop such people who are misguiding the youth in the name of religion, whether Hindus or Muslims, and inciting them to turn into murderous mobs who lynch people. The society needs to understand that such activities are pushing us back a hundred years.”
The family had wanted Nikam to represent the case because of his credentials. “He is one of the best public prosecutors. He has won most cases he fought against terrorists, including the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Since the Hindu Rashtra Sena is nothing but an internal terrorists organisation, we wanted him to win the case against them.”
“He managed to get the bail pleas of the accused rejected several times. But now all accused are out on bail except five. Justice Mridula Bhatkar observed in the high court order that the accused did not kill Mohsin over personal enmity, and that the murder was provoked in the name of religion. Can you imagine how difficult it is to get justice in a place where the judge harbors such beliefs?”
“Nikam sahab has not given a reason why he withdrew his name from the case. I have been informed that there is pressure on him from the accused,” Sadiq said.
“When Nikam sahab was handed over the case, I was warned by someone that he had links with the RSS,” says Sadiq. “But I did not pay any heed to it. The prime accused, Dhananjay Desai is the president of Hindu Rashtra Sena. Everyone is saying that there is pressure on him [to give up the case], but only Nikam sahab would know the truth which he is not ready to divulge.”
After Mohsin’s murder, the then chief minister Prithviraj Chauhan had assured Sadiq that he would get justice and the government would help the family in every way. “When my son was murdered, several leaders came to visit us. Prithviraj Chauhan and home minister R.R. Patil were among those who had come with promises of justice. But nothing has been done. The then UPA government has deceived us.”
“Former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his daughter fooled us. When I went to meet him after the elections, he refused to even recognise me saying that they get visitors every day and it was not possible to remember every one.”
Sadiq claims that the family was given merely Rs 5 lakh as compensation. The government had also promised a job to the younger son. But the promise has not been fulfilled. In fact, they have been told that he cannot get a government job because Mohsin was not a government employee.
A probe committee sent to Pune informed Sadiq that the central government has offered to pay Rs 3 lakh as compensation to the family. “We haven’t received the compensation promised by the Centre yet. When we enquired with the district officer about it, we were told that the Centre is yet to grant an approval to the aid. We wrote to Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi regarding this, but got no response.”
Before he was killed, Mohsin was the sole earning member of the family. He was an IT professional employed with a private firm in Pune. Ever since Mohsin’s murder, the family has been facing financial difficulties.
“Mohsin was the family’s only source of income,” says Sadiq. “His murder and the government’s irresponsible attitude after it have pushed us into a deep financial crisis. The attitude of the government and ministers has been the most hurtful. Our current MP Subhash Basonde was the only one to visit us and offer Rs 50,000. No one else came forward.”
“While Mohsin’s mother is still in shock over his murder, Nikam’s decision has come as yet another blow to us. We had read about Rohini ji in a newspaper that she was public prosecutor in the Malegaon blast case. The NIA had put pressure on her to go easy on the accused but she refused. We believe she is an honest lawyer and no one else can fight the case better than her.”
Sadiq has written letters to Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh seeking Rohini’s appointment. He says he has not received response to any of his letters yet. The hearing for the case begins on 4th July before which he must arrange for a prosecutor. But he has not lost hope for justice.
Expressing his faith in the constitution and the judiciary, Sadiq says, “I have full faith that my son will get justice. We have done no wrong and my son was a good human being. God and the country’s law are on my side. I do not fear anything. We will continue to fight until we get justice.”
Commenting on how violent mobs are killing people in broad daylight in the name of religion and faith, he says, “I will not say this is happening only on one side. On both sides, there are people spreading hatred in the name of religion even when all religions preach humanity.”
“Today, it was my son who became victim of mob frenzy,” adds Sadiq. “Tomorrow it can be someone else. I believe there is an urgent need to control the mobs incited to kill in the name of faith.”
The police had arrested 14 HRS activists after the incident and took them in judicial custody. Prime accused Dhananjay Desai was also arrested. A total of 21 people have been accused in the murder. Out of them, 14 have been granted bail.
This article was originally published in The Wire Hindi and has been translated by Naushin Rehman.