SAJJAD MUGHAL, the guard convicted in the murder of Mumbai lawyer Pallavi Purkayastha and on the run since jumping parole, stayed at his village in J&K for three days but brought with him a “jail document for his release”, his family says. He told them he would “return to jail soon”.
“He came at 5 pm [on June 17] and looked exhausted. At first, I couldn’t recognise him. When he came closer, I couldn’t believe he had come. The first question I asked him was why he had jumped parole,” said Hasina, Sajjad’s mother. He showed her the “document” and told her he had also met police officials, she said.
The police were already looking for Sajjad by then, after his plea for extension of his parole, granted on the ground that his mother was unwell, had been rejected in April. Hasina said her son told her that he had reported to the Uri police when he reached Salamabad village, their ancestral home, close to the Line of Control on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.
“I believed him and so did the others. He told me that he would return to jail after meeting his relatives,” she said, adding he left for Mumbai on June 20. “My elder son and I gave him Rs 1,000, which was all the money we had,” Hasina said.
She added that she “found out Sajjad had lied to me” two days later, when police came looking for him. “Sajjad had never visited the Uri police. For me, it would have been better if he were dead; police are now troubling our entire family, even my elder son who doesn’t live with us,” she said.
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After he left home, Sajjad called up his maternal uncle, Abdul Rashid. “My nephew told me that he was going to surrender within a few days and also asked me to convey to police not to harass his family members,” Rashid said, adding that he passed on the phone number to the police in Uri.
The family’s one-storey, wood-and-mud house has had frequent visits by police officials of late, and has become the centre of constant media attention.
The family, however, said they weren’t even aware that Sajjad had been released on parole until a month ago when, they said, the Uri police showed them a letter from the superintendent of the Nashik Road Central Jail, directing Sajjad to report to the jail as his parole extension had been rejected.
“I had sent the documents that the jail authorities had asked for [while granting parole] but we weren’t aware that he had been released. We found out when the Uri police contacted us a month ago and told us that he hadn’t reported back to jail,” said Toufeeq Mughal, Sajjad’s elder brother, who lives with his wife and three children in another house on the same compound.
“Since then, police has got me to report here every day,” Toufeeq said, while waiting at the police station. Toufeeq said he too was detained and interrogated for four days in connection with the case. A daily wager, the elder brother says the police attention has affected his work.
Sajjad’s father, Abdul Aziz, a labourer who returned to the village from Shimla, said he had never sought parole for his son. “I came to know about his visit only when I reached here. Three times, they [jail officials] returned our documents [for parole] as they were incomplete. I think jail officials were more keen on releasing him than we were,” he said. He added that Sajjad wasn’t released to his family or the local police once he had been granted parole.
“For us, preparing the parole documents was also a headache. We never wanted him to come home, but once we began receiving letter after letter, we prepared the documents as we looked at it as a chance to meet him after years,’’ Aziz said.
He added he was “cursing his fate” for having submitted the documents. “Now, in my old age, I have to answer police, relatives and neighbours,” he said. Hasina, who is suffering from heart and other ailments, said she had confronted her son over the murder.
“My son denied his involvement and said he would prove his innocence as he was going to appeal the sessions court ruling in the high court,’’ she said. “I have seen the pictures of the [murdered] young girl on television and always pray for her and feel for her family,” she said.
The J&K police, however, said the family had failed to inform them when Sajjad had visited the village. “Sajjad came to his house on June 17 and remained there for three days but unfortunately the family didn’t inform us,” said G M Rather, stationhouse officer in Uri. “Once we came to know about him, we went there to arrest him but he had already left the house. One thing is clear: he is not in Uri but somewhere in Mumbai. He called his maternal uncle from there last month.”
The J&K police said that they handed over the number, from which Sajjad called his uncle, to a two-member team of the Nashik police that had come to Uri.