Friday, the 19th day of the holy month of Ramzan, brought good news for the families of the eleven convicted under the repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) in the twin blasts case of 1993, carried out in Surat reportedly to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition.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.
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 have completed their terms — Salim Patel, Aziz Patel, Saeed Nari and Aijaz Patel — and five are expected to be freed possibly by next Tuesday.
They were all serving sentences ranging from seven to 20 years in Surat district Central Jail at Lajpore.
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Like every morning, Amena (71), wife of Mohammed Surti, was sitting near the window on the first floor of their two-storey home in Rampura area of Surat, reciting the Quran, when her youngest son, 29-year-old Amin, informed her about Surti being acquitted. 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 other two children include Zulekha, who is married and settled in London, and Ruksana, married and settled in Surat.
Talking to The Indian Express, Amena Surti said, “I have not seen my husband for a long time. My eyes remain glued to the door 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 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.”
Amin says their lawyer in the SC broke the news to him Friday morning. “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. There has been no celebrations in our home for all these years.” Surti has served nearly 12 years of his sentence, say sources.
After the news trickled in, Kharwa Chaal, 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.
On Friday morning, Razia, Mustaq’s wife, got a call from their lawyer, informing her about her husband’s acquittal. She said, “This is the happiest moment in my life. Only yesterday, I went to jail with ice-cream, sweets and biryani to meet him. 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.”
Hussain Ghadiyali lived in Rani Talao area. He is a father of three. Zubair (34), his youngest son, said, “We always missed dad, especially during festivals and marriages. Now, after he returns, we will celebrate the marriage anniversary of all my brother and sister… 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. Now, the head of our family will come home and we all are happy.”