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The Rediff Special/Onkar Singh
April 01, 2004
Shyam Sunder Malhotra runs a newspaper distribution agency in Hoshiarpur, a small town in Punjab 45 kilometres from Jalandhar. But these days he has no time to think about his business. He spends most of his day knocking on the doors of local politicians for assistance and worrying when his son Subash Kumar Malhotra will be released from a Spanish prison.
Subash, his brother-in-law Vinay Kohli, and three Moroccans were arrested by police in Spain for their alleged role in the train-bombing incidents in Madrid in which more than 200 people were killed and 1,500 were injured.
The two were picked up from Lava Pias, a suburb of Madrid. They had allegedly sold the mobile phones that were used by the blasts suspects. The police said they found the receipt of one mobile phone supplied by Subash and Vinay from a suspect's bag.
But Shyam Sunder, 55, insists his son is innocent. "He and Vinay Kohli have nothing to do with the terrorism," Malhotra told rediff.com in his first interview after his son's arrest. "He had a mobile retail shop and anyone could have come and bought a number from his shop.
"Unfortunately, the number used in the blasts case was sold by them. But that was as far back as January. How are they to blame for an act committed by someone else?"
The senior Malhotra and his wife Kanta were watching television when they heard of their son's arrest. "We called his home and his wife Annu answered," he said. "They had initially taken my second son Rakesh also for interrogation, but he was let off after questioning for a couple of hours.
"We have no information about Subash and Vinay. I have been knocking on the doors of local politicians as well as politicians from the Centre, but so far no one has come forward to help us."
Malhotra had prepared a letter addressed to Home Minister L K Advani asking for assistance, but a last-minute call from Rakesh prevented him from sending it. "Rakesh said the advocate they had hired for Subash has instructed him not to do any such thing. So we have deferred the decision to send the letter."
Subash migrated to Spain in 1992, when he was barely 19, to live with his aunt in Madrid. He came back on his first visit after three years, when he had settled down and started earning reasonably well. He would often send money to his parents to help them. He also sponsored Rakesh to join him in Madrid. In 1997, he married Annu of Janshed village in Jalandhar district of Punjab.
"Vinay Kohli, Annu's brother, was working in Germany," Malhotra continued. "Later he joined Subash in Madrid and the two started a business, which Rakesh also joined later."
Everything seemed to be going well till the train blasts. "Since then we have not been able to sleep or eat," Malhotra said.
A team of intelligence officials from New Delhi visited the family soon after the two Spaniards of Indian origin were arrested and talked to them at length, seeking details of Subash and Vinay's life after they left India. "That was the last time anyone from government got in touch with us," said the dejected old man, who happens to be a Bharatiya Janata Party worker. "We wanted to send a letter to Advaniji, but he is on his rath yatra. So we will have to wait till the end of the elections before approaching someone in the new government for help."
Local police officers refused to officially acknowledge that the family lives in their jurisdiction. "If you ask me about them officially, I will say I don't know them," an officer of the rank of senior superintendent of police said. "But if you ask me on a personal level maybe I can help you."
Also See: UK, Japan, Italy, Australia could be next targets
Photograph: PIERRE PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images | Image: Uday Kuckian