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'People around me have changed, not me'

S Srinivasan in Aurangabad | June 17, 2005 14:52 IST
Last Updated: June 17, 2005 14:56 IST

Dr Abdul Mateen was the face of the Ghatkopar Blast case. Mumbai had seen far more dreadful and devastating bomb blasts earlier, but none had such an impressive list of accused to command the kind of public attention that it did.

The budding doctor had roped in a chemical engineer, mechanical engineer and a few computer professionals, all of whom had gone on to make a promising career in creating communal terror.

Or, this was what the police made it out to be.

Together, as accused standing trail under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Dr Mateen and his accomplices depicted the changing face of Muslim fundamentalism in the country, the police said.

From being a gang of street fighters, small time bandits and ruffians, the fundamentalists had now begun to recruit from the best professional colleges in the country, they added.

But, the court, in the end, refused to buy this version.

The script echoed in the court for thirty months, as Dr Mateen took centrestage, first as the architect of the blast and in a much more interesting role later, as the witness to the death-in -custody of his friend and co-accused, Khwaja Yonus.

Dr Mateen, who must have performed thousands of post mortems as a doctor, (he specialised in Forensic Medicine and Toxicology), gave a graphic account of what he saw of Yonus before he breathed his last while in custody. This account paved way for an independent enquiry into the custodial death.

Meanwhile, the police had scripted another story on Yonus's death, saying he had fled from his escorts while being taken to Parbhani for a spot investigation in the blast case.

Now out of the jail and free of the charges, Dr Mateen, is back in his house, in Aurangabad Times Colony, but he is no more as vocal on his ordeal as he was while in custody.

He wants to share none of his horrors. "The experiences are something, which even I do not wish to recall. There is no question of sharing it with others.

"Everything I have to say has been said in my statements before the judge and affidavits. I have nothing to add,'' he says.

Heena died before the verdict

Thousands of people have thronged his house to greet him, bringing along garlands, flowers, sweets, but the adulation hasn't gone to his head.

It's just like another day for him, chatting up with friends, advising them on career courses, catching up on their activities as he sips a warm cup of tea sitting across the veranda in front of his house.

Have the last thirty months changed him? "No," he says, "I see the change in the people around me, my relatives, and friends, not me. I remain very much the same individual.''

Does he have any complaints against the system? No, he says, it had more to do with individuals than the system. He adds a quick thank you, signaling the end of the brief interview.

Future plans include getting his job with the government medical college back.

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