“I just want to sleep for the next four days, eat good food and watch some films,” quipped 64-year-old Abdul Qayyum, an hour after he walked out of the Arthur Road prison.
Getting comfortable in his brother’s house on Lady Jamshedji Road in Mahim, after more than a decade, Qayyum who was acquitted of all charges in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case on Friday, was happy and relieved. He stepped out of the jail around 5.55 pm and was greeted by his brother Kadeer and media persons. As soon as he reached home around 6.45 pm, he was on the phone — seeking blessings from his mother living in Saudi Arabia and sharing his joy with his wife and two children in Dubai.
Qayyum was acquitted of all charges by the Special TADA court in the case. Six others, including Abu Salem and Mustafa Dossa, were convicted. Speaking to The Indian Express, Qayyum said: “I have spent 10 years and eight months in prison. But I was confident that I will be acquitted.” Qayyum believes that he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity.
“Abu Salem’s confessional statements may have named Qayyum but there are so many by that name. He did not refer to me. Besides, Salem did not identify me as one of the perpetrators. It was all a lie,” he said.
Speaking about the years he spent in jail, Qayyum said that 40 percent of the prisoners languishing are innocent. “My faith in the judicial system has been restored. But if the authorities had conducted a detailed inquiry, I wouldn’t have spent so many years in jail. Who will show mercy on the other innocents languishing in jails?”
He went on to say that he did not interact much in prison and kept to himself through the years.
Qayyum lived in Dubai from 1991 till 2007 with his wife and two children. The Mumbai Police arrested him on December 13, 2007, when he landed at the Mumbai airport. He was managing an import and export business in Dubai.
Although he feels that he doesn’t believe in asvking for compensation from the government for the number years that he lost owing to his incarceration, he doesn’t hold back his emotions while talking about the mental trauma he went through. “I lost my business. I couldn’t bring my family back from Dubai because I feared they will be jailed. I had many physical ailments and mental stress while in jail. I got addicted to tobacco also. I just kept going, with the hope that I will be acquitted,” he said, while stating that he had no interaction with other accused in the case. Qayyum said he did not know any of the blast accused from the past except actor Sanjay Dutt with whom he had a professional relationship. “I know Sanjay Dutt through work. My family and his family were close. But I don’t know Abu Salem and Mustafa Dossa, etc. Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are names I read in books and papers,” he added.
Qayyum said he will not leave India under any circumstances. “I’m going to bring my family to the country. I won’t leave India. I have no fear. I will start a business — real estate or films or some such and start afresh,” he said.
In jail, Qayyum spent his time praying and watching television whenever the jail authorities permitted him to do so. “I ate vegetarian food mostly in the prison. My only request was that I wanted to watch some movies on television once in a while. I made it a point to not indulge in any fight or arguments in the jail. I always kept to myself and my behaviour was lauded by the authorities,” he said.
While retiring to break his Roza (fast) around 7.30 pm, along with his brother, he said: “I cannot wait to have the best sleep of my life after breaking my fast. It’s been more than a decade that I have been waiting to sleep well.”