Mohammad Saleem Khan moved to Delhi in 1990 with his brother Suleiman. The two aspired to establish their business. Saleem married Shabina Khan in 1994, and after a few years, his first daughter Saima was born. Khan’s prison letter demonstrates his struggling life when meeting both ends was impossible. Initially, the days were filled with sorrow and misery, but he worked exhaustively for his family.
Soon, his hard work paid off, and the business expanded. He recalls, “In 2015, I was suggested to settle in the United Kingdom, where a lot of his clients were based. I chose to live here as our country is very nice. Now I laugh and cry simultaneously.”
Saleem Khan’s letter from prison ‘Delhi Riots 2020, Big Turn of My Life’ is a living document that testifies to his innocence. The family wants to publish Saleem’s letter as a book.
Background of his case
In February 2020, North East Delhi riots broke out. The police falsely accused anti-Citizenship Bill protesters of conspiracy to disturb law and order in the city. The claim disproportionally targets the Muslim youth as a ‘mastermind’ of communal violence, which was in fact orchestrated by Hindu right-wing organizations with support from the state. The FIR 59/2020 contains the names of activists and dissenters for their alleged involvement in the riots.
The Delhi Minority Commission report suggests otherwise, alleging that it was indeed a conspiracy by the Hindu Right wing groups backed by the state.
Saleem Khan was one of the victims. He was the owner of a garment export in the Chand Bagh area of New Delhi.
Delhi Police framed him in the North East Delhi riots conspiracy. His presence at the factory became a ‘triggering point’ for the police accusing him of conspiring against the government.
Saleem Khan was neither a dissenter nor participated in any protest.
His daughter, Saima, told a reporter, “When the commotion erupted, he called my mother and said there was a ruckus. We told him that he should not come home because there is only one way to come home, and he might get stuck. So, he remained there. More than 50 people were killed in this violence. After the violence, we came to know that constable Ratan Lal Ji had unfortunately died. My father had no hand in this.”
The Delhi Police entered Saleem’s house asking him to identify protesters. Khan couldn’t identify any of them. However, as a citizen, he later cooperated in the investigation. He was arrested in March 2020.
Khan was charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The law has been misused by the Indian government to disproportionately target dissenters.
Sections 13, 16, 17, and 18 of the UAPA, Sections 25 and 27 of the Arms Act and Sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act,1984.
Khan was granted bail in FIR No – 60/20 and 136/20 – but he remains in jail under FIR No. 59/20 of UAPA.
He was granted custodial parole to attend the funeral of his brother.