DMK turns jail into spa for Coimbatore terror accused

via published on July 26, 2006

Jaya Menon


Ayurvedic massages for Abdul Nasser Mahdani paid for by taxpayer, wife facing arrest warrant has free access, no checks


COIMBATORE, JULY 23:One man has reason to laugh at all the tough talk on the need to crack down on terror: Abdul Nasser Mahdani, key accused in the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts that targeted BJP leader L K Advani and killed 58 people and left several more injured.


While the Left and the Congress in Kerala—Mahdani is a leader of the Muslim hardline People’s Democratic Party in the state—both are falling over each other in trying to woo him, in Tamil Nadu where he is in prison, Chief Minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi has bestowed new life upon him.


In fact, Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan’s plea for ayurvedic treatment for Mahdani “languishing in prison for more than eight years, having lost weight drastically from 104 kg to 54 kg,” seems to have “moved” Karunanidhi.


For, ever since he was sworn in as Chief Minister, the atmosphere has been upbeat in the high-security prison here, housing Mahdani and 166 Al Umma prisoners, mostly arrested for the Coimbatore blasts.


Thanks to Karunanidhi, a team of 10 masseurs and four senior Ayurvedic doctors began their “high quality treatment” on Mahdani, who has been housed in the prison’s hospital wing since 2001.


The 35-day treatment, which began on July 5, costs nearly Rs 50,000, said K G Raveendran, medical director of the Aryavaidya Chikiysalayam Research Institute, providing the specialized therapy for lumbar and cervical spondylitis caused by strain on his spine. His right leg was amputated some years back.


While the prison manual says that a prisoner pays for the cost of any private medical treatment he avails, the Tamil Nadu government is using taxpayers’ money to pick up the bill for Mahdani’s “dhara” and “pizhichil” (the ayurvedic massages).


On instructions, the prison staff has provided screens for the hospital ward where the PDP leader is undergoing treatment to create the “appropriate atmosphere” for the VIP patient, who has also been put on a special diet as prescribed by ayurvedic doctors.


But what has infuriated investigating officers in the blast case is the move by the Chief Minister’s Office to quietly lift the ban under Section 268 CrPC, restricting Mahdani’s movements within the prison.


“Soon after the DMK came to power, there were attempts to move him out of the prison and get him treatment outside, preferably in Kerala. We strongly resisted such a move. With a friendly government in Kerala, we can never hope of seeing him again, particularly when the trial (in a special court) is likely to end in three months’ time and a verdict is expected soon,” pointed out a senior police officer on the condition that he be not named.

One of his first pro-Mahdani moves came just hours after he was sworn in as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on May 13. Karunanidhi revoked the suspension of senior IAS officer, Syed Munir Hoda, and appointed him his secretary.


It was Hoda who was Home Secretary when he was suspended on July 30, 2004 by the Jayalalithaa regime for “attempting to help” the PDP leader “without taking into confidence” the then Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary.


Hoda was also accused of discreetly lifting the ban on Mahdani’s movements for a week while he underwent treatment at the KG Hospital in Coimbatore in 2002. When his reaction was sought Hoda declined to comment, and referred the matter to the state Home Secretary Pravin Raina. Raina could not be reached for his comments.


“Surely, there is a palpable change among the blast accused in the prison. They are happier. We think this government is far more humane,” M H Abdur Rehman, one of the lawyers defending Mahdani told The Indian Express.


The accused are taken to the special court trying the bomb blast case almost everyday.

The Jayalalithaa regime had taken precautions to conduct surprise checks to ensure that none of the “banned” items find their way in.


But under the new dispensation, the mandatory surprise raids and checks on the HS (High Security) Block, which houses the blast accused, have dramatically reduced, a senior jail employee said.


On July 6, the DMK government quietly permitted Soofiya, Mahdani’s wife to sit in on her husband’s treatment for two hours as ayurvedic principles demanded that “someone close” to the patient administer the “internal” medicines. This, despite an arrest warrant pending against Soofiya in a case relating to her allegedly smuggling in a SIM card for her husband.

The Coimbatore Race Course police station registered cases against her under Sections 353 and 506 (ii) of IPC for “obstructing a public servant from discharging his duty” and “criminal intimidation.”


She subsequently left for Kerala and after that returned for the first time on July 6. The previous day, her lawyer moved the Madras High Court for anticipatory bail and obtained a direction granting her two weeks’ time to appear before the Coimbatore judicial magistrate.


In fact, in the pre-blast days, the DMK, then ruling Tamil Nadu (1996-2001), was accused of flirting with Muslim militancy and turning a blind eye to the activities of Jehadi groups like the Al Umma.


Some of the outfit’s key members, including S A Basha, former Al Umma president, Mohammed Ansari, who anointed himself as the outfit’s president following a power struggle, and Basha’s son Siddiq Ali are now among the 167 accused in the case and lodged in the Coimbatore prison.


Incidentally, in the recent Assembly election, the performance of the DMK and its allies was the worst in Coimbatore. They won just four of the 14 Assembly seats in the district. It seems the rich textile town is yet to forgive the DMK for its February 14 nightmare.


The VVIP prisoner

• Accused No. 14 Mahdani is one of the key conspirators in the Coimbatore bomb blasts case

• Accused of collecting and transferring explosives to the town, ripped by a series of bomb blasts on February 14, 1998

• Charged under Sections 302 IPC (Murder), 307 IPC (Attempt to Murder), 153-A IPC (Creating hatred among communities), Section 5 of the Explosives Act and Section 25 of the Arms Act



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