Malegaon blasts: The 'usual suspect' who was hunted by all for 16 years

Noorul Huda, who was discharged on Monday in the Malegaon blasts case, was the most sought-after suspect in terror cases starting from 2001 till his arrest in 2006

When the police picked up Noorul Huda for questioning in October 2006, he was all too familiar with the drill. After all, he had been summoned by the police over 50 times till he was picked up in the Malegaon bomb blasts case.

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A relieved Noorul Huda (left) and the brother of Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh, another accused, break down after being discharged in the Malegaon blasts case. Pic/Suresh KK
A relieved Noorul Huda (left) and the brother of Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh, another accused, break down after being discharged in the Malegaon blasts case. Pic/Suresh KK

Huda, who was subsequently named the bomb planter in the case, has never been able to shake off the terror tag. He says he has been the victim of botched-up investigations since 2001 — after every blast in the country, he was alleged summoned before the police.

Huda was among the eight men discharged by the special NIA court on Monday in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case.
The chill he felt when he was picked up the first time at the age of 18 is still fresh in his memory. "It was August 18, 2001 and it was raining heavily. The police arrived at my doorstep, asking for me. They accused me of giving a meal to some terrorists, which I had not," said Huda (34). The alleged terrorists were killed in an encounter in Ayodhya in July 2001. The police accused Huda of feeding them during their stay at a lodge in Malegaon.

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"They put me through third degree torture for six days. After several rounds of questioning, the investigators realised that I was not the one they were looking for. Without even an apology, they asked me to leave the police station," he said. A relieved Huda didn’t have the slightest foreboding that it was just the beginning of a 16-year-long ordeal.

Huda was then labelled a SIMI activist. "To save face, the police named me a SIMI activist on their record. From that day, I was picked up by several agencies for repeated questioning," he alleged.

Huda allegedly became the most sought-after suspect of state and national investigation agencies — be it the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition or a Hindu festival, he was summoned to police stations more than 50 times till the Malegaon blasts.

Hoping to start a new, stress-free chapter of his life, Huda married in 2006. But barely three months into wedded bliss, he was picked up by the ATS in the Manmad-Aurangabad arms haul case and detained in Mumbai for 12 days.

Soon after, in July 2006, Mumbai was rocked by bomb blasts. Huda, along with aide Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah (who, too, was later charged in the Malegaon blasts case), was picked up by the ATS again in August. Having failed to find an iota of evidence against him, the ATS released him on the condition that he would regularly visit the police station and not go anywhere without their permission.

His life finally came apart during a siesta in October 2006. He had just returned after Friday prayers when the ATS came knocking on his doors again. The officers told the family that they were taking him for just a two-hour questioning. But he was booked on the charges of jihadi material being recovered from his house.

The case is still on in the local court.

Eventually, the ATS named Huda as the planter of bombs at the Hammidiya Masjid in Malegaon, where explosions killed 37 people on September 8, 2006.

Getting back up
Since his release in November 2011, Huda has been trying to put together some semblance of a normal life. The going is still tough — he works as a labourer in a power loom in Malegaon and earns R1,800-2,000 a month. "I had been married for just three months when the ATS arrested me. Post-release, I have had two daughters. I have to take care of them and my family. The fight for justice has cost me a lot," said Huda. In jail, he cleared his Std XII examinations and studied till second-year BA, hoping that education would give him better prospects outside.

Still living in fear

Police had found an unexploded bomb at the Hammidiya Masjid on the day of the blasts. After Noorul Huda was named in the Malegaon explosions, the ATS linked it and the other bombs to Huda. “Thankfully, since my release on bail in November 2011, I have not been called for questioning by any of the agencies. The botched-up investigation of the ATS has helped free me from terror suspect tag. Still, whenever there is a knock on my door, I fear they have come back for me,” said a worried Huda.

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