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‘Guilty by Suspicion’: How Nizamuddin Panayikulam is Living a Life Under Unending Surveillance?

Nizamuddin’s story highlights the struggles faced by people who, even after being cleared of charges, continue to be viewed with suspicion.

Nizamuddin Panayikulam

The consequences of wrongful accusations appear to affect the lives of those accused seriously, even after exoneration or the overturning of convictions.

Such is the case of Nizamuddin Panayikulam, a resident of Kerala, who, despite being exonerated from sedition charges nearly two decades ago, is still recurrently targeted by law enforcement agencies in the state.

The most recent episode transpired on October 29, 2023, when the Aluva police detained Panayikulam in the aftermath of bomb blasts at the Zamra Convention Centre. He was held in custody along with Abdul Sathar, a convict in the Vagamon SIMI Camp case, and was released only after Dominic Martin confessed to orchestrating the blasts.

“It seems like there are only two terrorists in Aluva,” Nizamuddin writes humorously in a Facebook post following his arrest. “In any case, we were saved by Martin, who killed Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t sing the national anthem. He surrendered, and we were spared,” he adds. 

“They will always arrive in large numbers, with multiple vehicles, raid my home,  and make such a big fuss that my house owners and neighbours would believe I am ‘implicated’.

Nizamuddin Panayikulam

In 2006, Nizamuddin was indicted for sedition for organizing a meeting in Aluva about the role of Muslims in India’s independence. The NIA alleged that one of the accused made a speech accusing the Indian army of killing Muslims in Kashmir who were doing “jihad”.

Nizamuddin, who, was not implicated in making any of the alleged speeches, was initially given a 12-year prison sentence by an NIA court. He served three-and-a-half years of this sentence without a single day of parole. However, in 2019, the High Court acquitted him, citing a lack of evidence supporting the claims about the speech. This acquittal was later confirmed by the Supreme Court in September of this year.

Despite the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court absolving him of the charges, he has been subjected to unremitting surveillance by national and local law enforcement agencies. This incessant scrutiny has compelled him and his family to relocate residences multiple times in the past four years.

“After each such incident, we’re compelled to move to a new location. Despite being declared innocent by the Supreme Court, I feel I’ll never be free from this situation,” says Nizamuddin.

He recounted another incident from 2022 when he was taken into custody after a car explosion in Coimbatore.

He said, “A large NIA team arrived at my home after the blast, conducted a search, and seized mobile phones… I’m always the one they take in. They don’t explain or ask questions. They just keep us in their office all day and then release us.”

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