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‘Our son not a terrorist, debt led him to leave home’

Eid comes early for the families of five acquitted

Five out of total 12 convicts in the case expected to be released next week; kin express joy, shock and relief.

Mustaq Patel’s family in Surat. Mustaq Patel’s family in Surat.

Friday, the 19th day of the holy month of Ramzan, brought good news for the families of the 12 convicted under the repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in the twin blasts case of 1993, carried out in Surat reportedly to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition. The Supreme Court acquitted all of them after nearly 12 years of imprisonment. They received the news with joy, shock and relief.

One of those freed on Friday is former Gujarat minister in the Congress government, Mohammad Surti. Two of the convicts — Iqbal Wadiwala and Ehsaan Patel —  died in prison. Four, who have completed their terms, are: Salim Patel, Aziz Patel, Saeed Nari and Aijaz Patel. The rest five are expected to be freed by Tuesday next week. Another accused, Faruk, is absconding.

They were all serving sentences ranging from seven to 20 years in Surat district Central Jail at Lajpore under TADA. The ones still in jail are Mustaq Patel (50), Mohammed Surti (78), Hussain Ghadiyali (75), Yusuf Nalband (54) and Salim Memon (51).

Like every morning, Amena (71), wife of Mohammed Surti, was sitting near the window on the first floor of their two-storey home —  Amin Manzil — in Rampura area of Surat, reciting the Quran. It was then that her youngest son, 29-year old Amin, informed her about Mohammed Surti being acquitted by the Supreme Court. Amena cried and kissed Amin on the forehead. Within no time, their home was flooded with well-wishers.

Surti’s eldest son, Faruk, was also wanted in this case and is still absconding. His  remaining three children include Zulekha, who is married and settled in London, and Ruksana, married and settled in Surat. Amin, who is also married, takes care of his mother.

Talking to The Indian Express, Amena Surti said, “I have not seen my husband for a long time. My eyes remain glued to the main door of our house in the hope that he will walk in. Now, the time has come and he will surely return. Earlier, people used to throng my home, waiting on the ground floor to meet my husband, seeking help on several issues. After he went to jail, nobody came and people even spurned us when we approached for help. The pain we have experienced is unbearable and we thank the Almighty God that my husband would be back home soon.”

Amin says their lawyer in the apex court broke the news to him on Friday morning. “Most probably, my dad will come home on Tuesday. We have informed my sisters and well-wishers. This time, we have planned that on Eid, we will invite all our family members, relatives and friends. We have also planned to visit Saudi Arabia. There has been no celebrations in our home for all these years. Even our marriages were solemn affairs, with no procession or music.” Surti has served nearly 12 years of his sentence, say sources.

After the news trickled in, Kharwa Chaal near Surat Railway station, where Mustaq Patel lives, burst into celebration. Three from this family were convicted in this case –  Mustaq, his younger brother Aziz and brother-in-law Salim Patel. Aziz and Salim were convicted for 10 years and have finished their terms. Mustaq has three sons — eldest Minaz is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in law,

Shahrukh is  in B. Com 2nd year and Abrar, who is studying in Class 8.

On Friday morning, Razia, Mustaq’s wife, got a call from their lawyer in the SC, informing her about her husband’s acquittal. In a state of shock, she broke down and collapsed. Her cellphone fell on the floor.

Minaz, who was at home, immediately called neighbours, who rushed to her rescue. She, however, recovered immediately. Razia told this paper, “This is the happiest moment in my life. Only yesterday, I went to jail with ice-cream, sweets and biryani to meet him, because it was his birthday. We both shook hands and I prayed to God for his early release. After returning home, I cried a lot and could not sleep for the whole night, missing him. We have planned to host a party on Eid with all the delicacies.”

Minaz said, “I preferred to study law from Bharuch and not Surat. My friends also don’t know that my father is a TADA convict. My mother used to visit us at our school and college. All my brothers have kept our father’s identity hidden in school and colleges.

After Ramzan, we all will go on tour and celebrate the release. I was very small when my dad was arrested and I don’t recall much.

Definitely, we have missed him all these years when we needed his support. We all are happy now and are eagerly waiting to hug him… play with him, as he will come out after a few days.”

Hussain Ghadiyali lived in Rani Talao area and hails from Hansot taluka in Bharuch district. He is a father of three — two boys and a girl, all married. Zubair  (34), his youngest son, said, “We always missed dad, especially during festivals and marriages. Now, after he returns back, we will celebrate the marriage anniversary of all my brother and sister in a grand way and invite all our family members. I am speechless. As during these days, we have seen many ups and downs in  life and there was nobody to guide us. We took all the decision on our own and are still managing to scrape through. During marriage functions and social events, everybody used to inquire about my father. They sympathised with us, but when it came to financial help, there was nobody. We have learnt a lot in life. Now, the head  of our family will come home and we all are happy.”

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