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The mother of Mujeeb Sheikh, one of the eight suspected SIMI men killed in a controversial encounter near Bhopal after escaping from jail, Wednesday alleged that the action of the Madhya Pradesh Police was part of a “conspiracy”, and claimed that he was “innocent” and not a terrorist. Amid heavy security cover by Special Operations Group (SOG), Crime Branch, State Reserve Police and local police, around 300 people participated in the funeral procession of Sheikh on Wednesday. The entire procession and the burial was monitored by the police through CCTV cameras.
Sheikh’s body, covered by a black embroidered shroud, was laid for the one “last look” before the “janaza ki namaaz” that follows the burial procession. A few people who saw Sheikh’s body said there was an “injury mark on his head”.
Residents of Mahib Apartment in Juhapura, where the family members of Sheikh stay, did not allow mediapersons inside, alleging “they have already branded Sheikh and the others as terrorists despite the fact that the charges were yet to be proven in the court of law”.
After the funeral, Sheikh’s mother Mumtaz interacted with mediapersons, claiming that her son was innocent. “Tum log iss tarah usko antakwadi bolte ho… uska koi bhi gunah sabit nahi hua hai (You are branding him a terrorist… no charges have been proven against him yet). He was innocent and his murder is part of a conspiracy,” she said.
Sheikh, in his 30s, was arrested by Jabalpur police in June 2011 for allegedly being a SIMI member. He was also a key accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts. Mumtaz said she was ready for a legal battle so that “those who are inside jails wouldn’t meet a similar fate”. “When I had gone to Bhopal to bring my son’s body, people told me that he was pulled out of a vehicle and killed. I will fight the case of my son, so that he can get justice,” she said.
His father Jamil said, “I and my wife had gone to Bhopal to bring Mujeeb’s body. Police did not let us stop the ambulance which was carrying his body for even a cup of tea or water on the way back to Ahmedabad.” According to Jamil, “Mujeeb completed his IT diploma from Polytechnic in Ahmedabad. On July 26, 2008, he had appeared in the final exam, the same day when the serial blasts had taken place.”
Hazi Asrar Mirza, Congress corporator representing Sarkhej ward which covers Juhapura, was the only politician in the funeral procession. Besides him, activists and lawyers representing the 2008 serial blasts case participated in the funeral. Mufti Abdul Qayyum, who spent 11 years in jail before being acquitted in 2014 by Supreme Court in the 2002 Akshardham temple terror attack case, was also present.
Shahid Bakshi, a resident of Juhapura, who was part of the procession, slammed the media for branding Sheikh and the seven others as “terrorists”. “I have spent seven years in Delhi’s Tihar jail. I was also branded by the media, but I am free now. How can you brand someone as terrorist until he has been proved guilty?” he said. Bakshi was arrested by the Delhi Police after the 2002 riots under the now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act for allegedly possessing RDX and hiring youths for “jihadi training”. He was later acquitted of all charges.