Thirteen years after local train blasts, victims, accused still await justice

BJP calls for end to terrorism; activists claim police tainted the narratives

Thirteen years after a 189 people died and over 700 were injured when a series of bomb blasts ripped through the city’s most-favoured public transport, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accompanied by family members of the victims, paid tribute to those who were killed on July 11, 2016.

The function, which was attended by 60 to 70 people, was organised by BJP MP Kirit Somaiya.

“We still remember the pain the city faced back then. We organise this function every year to raise our voice against terrorism. The terror attack created a fear in the common man’s minds and people are are scared while travelling in local trains. We have been demanding the end of terrorism for 13 years, he said.

Mayura Bhaskar Tari, a party worker, said, “We gather here every year to pay our tributes to the victims and mark our respect to those who raised themselves from the tragedy after facing terrible injuries.”

The bombs, which were planted by alleged operatives of terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, went off in a span of 11 minutes on seven trains plying between Churchgate and Borivali, at Matunga Road, Mahim, Bandra, Khar Road, Jogeshwari, Borivali and Mira Road stations. They were planted in pressure cookers, which were placed in the overhead luggage racks of first class compartments.

The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) went on to arrest 13 people in connection with the case, several of them members of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). A chargesheet was filed against them and 15 others wanted in the crime, who are believed to have fled the country. The accused, according to the chargesheet, were picked from SIMI cadres and taken to Pakistan, where they were trained and sent back to India.

In 2015, 12 of the 13 arrested were found to be guilty, and five of them were sentenced to death.

Thirteen years after local train blasts, victims, accused still await justice

Justice for accused

Another meeting held at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh hall near Azad Maidan was attended by the lone accused to be acquitted in the case, families of those convicted and others who faced terror charges in the past.

The meeting, organised by Innocence Network India, a Non Profit Organisation that works in the legal sector, was a call for truth and justice for the accused.

Abdul Wahid Shaikh, the sole person to be acquitted in the case, said, “Our fight to free those who have been convicted has been on since 2006. Five of them have been given the death sentence while the rest have been imprisoned for life. Their families are suffering. We have been requesting the ATS for certain documents connected to the case for a long time. They claim the documents are beyond repair and can not be shared, but we believe that our innocence lies in them.”

The relatives of many accused had travelled from all over the country.

“We live in Bihar. One day, the police entered our house while my son was sleeping. They threatened us with guns and arrested him and took him to Mumbai. My son had never even visited the city before. Today, due to the police torture, he is on the verge of losing his eyes,” Shaheedunnisa, mother of Kamal Ahmed, one of the convicts, said.

Many of those present said the police, under heavy public pressure, targeted people due to their religious identity. Fawaz Shaheen, a member of the Students Islamic Organisation said, “They looked for easy targets and tagged them villains, because people wanted justice, thereby tainting the narrative.”

The police cracked the case on September 6, 2006, months after the attacks, and claimed ‘call data records’ proved the involvement of the accused and their connection with Lashkar-e-Taiba and Inter-Services Intelligence.

“This was a conspiracy. When the same call data records were brought up by the defence lawyers later, police claimed they didn’t have them. Even the narcoanalysis tests were tampered,” Mr. Shaheen said.

Also present was Mumtaz Mir, a Bhusawal native who was acquitted in a terror case by the Nashik High Court after 25 years. Mr. Mir had been accused of plotting revenge for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, and was charged under the now defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

“In 2012, we wrote to the Supreme Court, which took four years to find a court to try the case in, after which we were acquitted. What could have been achieved in a few hours was kept on hold for four years,” he said.

Social activist Khalid Siddiqui stressed on the fact that many of those arrested are young and have families. “Their families are left in emotional and financial turmoil while their life is wasted away in prison. How is the government ever going to repay their time?” he asked.

The Innocence Network India works on helping those who have been convicted and given life imprisonment or death sentences in serious offences.

Sharib Ali, the co-founder of the Network said, “We believe that the 2006 blasts case will be dismantled when there will be more judicial scrutiny. These people are the victims of 7/11 as well, their families have experienced the same loss that the families of the bombing victims faced.”

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