'Once you are in their system, they finish you with the never-ending processes.'
'Once your family member is arrested, you are just running between lawyers, courts and the jail.'
'The process to prove that you are innocent drains you to such an extent that you are finished.'
Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik was arrested on February 23 by the Enforcement Directorate for a transaction which is 22 years old, by retrospective application of provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, and is currently in judicial custody. On March 21, his judicial remand was extended to April 4.
Malik, who was Maharashtra's minister for minority development, Aukaf and skill development and entrepreneurship, besides being the guardian minister of the state's Gondia and Parbhani districts, has since been divested of these responsibilities.
The then minister had locked horns with Sameer Wankhede, who was then the Mumbai zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau and who was in the news for arresting Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan in what infamously came to be known as the Mumbai cruise ship case.
Wankhede's tenure with the NCB ended in January and he returned to his parent organisation, the directorate of revenue intelligence.
Last month, an FIR was registered against Wankhede in an old case for allegedly providing false information that he was an adult in order to procure a liquor licence. This was one of the many accusations levelled against him by the 62-year-old Malik, who also accused Wankhede of forging his caste certificate.
Since then, Malik had alleged that Maharashtra's Opposition Leader Devendra Fadnavis and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, have been gunning for him.
Sameer Khan, who is Malik's son-in-law, and five others were arrested on January 9, 2021, by the NCB under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
In their chargesheet, the NCB claimed the accused had conspired to procure, sell, purchase and transport 194.6 kilograms of ganja (a form of cannabis). The six were charged for dealing with commercial quantities of the drug, a crime that carries a maximum punishment of 20 years.
Sameer Khan received bail on September 27, 2021, on a surety of Rs 50,000. This bail was given after the forensic laboratory report said 11 of the 18 samples it received could not be detected as cannabis.
Speaking to Rediff.com Senior Contributor Neeta Kolhatkar, Nilofer Malik Khan, Nawab Malik's daughter and Sameer Khan's wife, shed light on the battle being fought by her family.
While she hopes her father's bail appeal will be accepted soon, she warns that the misuse of power via the central agencies needs to stop because the younger generation is getting scarred in this political war.
The first of a two-part exclusive interview:
Are you disappointed that the lower court rejected your father's bail appeal?
Yes, but we have faith in the judiciary.
Somewhere down the line, I knew we were not going to get bail because I had gone through this drill for eight-and-a-half months when my husband was arrested (Karan Sajnani, an accused in an ongoing drugs case, named Nawab Malik's son-in-law Sameer Khan as one of his business partners. Khan, who was arrested in the first week of January 2021, was released on bail on September 27).
The entire process of delays by the (central) agencies (the NCB arrested Sameer Khan while the Enforcement Directorate has accused Nawab Malik), the filing of the chargesheet, the delays in courts... none of this was a surprise.
But hope is something that keeps you going, right?
Do you believe what is happening is a vendetta against your father because, as a cabinet minister in the Maharashtra government, he was taking on the central agencies? Is that why they first targeted your husband and are now targeting Malik himself?
We've been hearing that there is a vendetta against him.
To tell you the truth, we have been through this and we have heard how badly things are manipulated. We have also witnessed it ourselves.
The process to prove that you are innocent drains you to such an extent that you are finished.
Our recent experiences have taught us about the wrongdoings of these agencies and their officers. You know that term Daddy uses -- 'farjiwala' (one who presents false evidence) -- that is exactly how they conduct themselves
But we are a family of fighters.
When the Aryan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan's son was arrested on charges of October 3, 2021 after a cruise ship was raided off the coast of Mumbai. He has been accused of involvement in the consumption, sale and purchase of drugs.) matter came to us, it was an opportunity to expose the wrongdoings of the NCB.
We had already learnt, during my husband's case, how they make it difficult especially if you are a politician or belong to a politician's family. In my husband's case, he was told by the investigating officer that it was my father, who had been exposing NCB's misdeeds, who was the target.
That officer had told Sameer (Khan) they want to 'cut his leg', meaning they wanted to damage my father's career. This is something I'm never going to forget.
When I met Sameer (Khan) at the NCB office on the second day, he told me his investigating officer had extended his sympathies for targeting Sameer because he is related to Nawab Malik.
However painful it may be, this is a fact we have to accept.
But, in those eight-and-a-half months, my father taught us to fight back.
He explained the entire process that I would have to face.
This time, too, I am prepared.
Where were you on February 23, the day he was arrested?
I was at home, sleeping.
The night before his arrest, I was with Daddy in his office. Our lawyers too were present.
In fact, Daddy and I had been discussing everything -- the SIT report, what our action plan should be -- on a daily basis.
After our discussion, I bid him goodbye and he said, "See you tomorrow, beta."
The next morning, I received a call from my aunt. She said something is going on at our house and it looked fishy. She asked me to call my mom immediately and find out what going on.
When I called mummy, she said, "Nahi, everything is fine. One officer had come and has taken your father for questioning. He will return soon."
My instinct made me call daddy immediately. He didn't answer the first time, so I called him repeatedly. After five or seven calls, he answered. I asked him where he was. He said he was on his way to the Enforcement Directorate.
I was shocked and asked why they had summoned him. He said, "Don't panic. It is just routine questioning. I will return soon."
I was alarmed.
He was not at all prepared for this.
Even today, I strongly believe he should never have gone with them in the first place.
Was it because of what had happened with your husband?
After Devendra Fadnavis held his press conference and began making allegations against my father since the last two-three months, people close to our family and a few relatives have been called for questioning.
Our lawyers will present this issue in court soon.
In fact, before Daddy was arrested, one of our close lawyers faced a similar situation. Some officers landed up without warning at his office and asked to be given papers regarding our matter. So there were indications that something was happening, but we never thought they would just take him away.
We thought they would come here, question him and follow the routine procedure. That, clearly, did not happen. The manner in which they barged into our house at 6 am and whisked him away was shocking.
How is your mother coping?
Initially, she too believed Daddy was just called for questioning.
But I knew, in my gut, that he was not coming back immediately. He should never have gone with those ED officers.
When Sameer (Khan) was served his summons, I did not tell any of my family members.
We knew he has not done anything wrong or illegal so I was confident he would return soon. As for what happened next, everyone knows. He didn't return for eight-and-a-half months.
I have experienced how they trick people. Once you are in their system, they finish you with the never-ending processes.
Once your family member is arrested, you are just running between lawyers, courts and the jail to ensure they get basic necessities which should actually be provided by the jail authorities.
This process is a painful one.
Even people like us, who have connections and are in power, are put through such experiences. Imagine, then, how terrible the plight of those who don't have the money, power or any other kind of support must be.
When these poor, ordinary people were being harassed, my dad was fighting for them; he promised to help them get justice. You saw how many people came forward with their complaints and revealed the false cases they were charged with by the NCB.
We still have such cases with us. My father had not exposed all the cases at one time.
These poor people are still languishing in jail for no fault of theirs.
My husband too told my father about some of the innocent people he had met in jail.
What message are these agencies sending by arresting your father?
'Hamare khilaf bologe toh andar jaoge. (If you speak against us, we will ensure you are jailed).' Lekin hum kyon nahin bolenge? (But why should we keep quiet?)
When I met my father at the mulaqat (a meeting between someone who is arrested and a family member) last week, he raised and said, 'Beta, hum kranti laaenge (I will bring about a revolution).' This is something he has told me on earlier visits as well.
I am sure my father's courage will inspire at least one more person to speak up against such atrocities.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com