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Home > News > Report

Will Coimbatore blasts verdict reopen wounds?

A Ganesh Nadar in Coimbatore | July 30, 2007 22:13 IST

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On February 14, 1998, explosions rocked Coimbatore during Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani's election campaign visit, claiming 52 lives and devastating property worth over Rs 100 crore. The verdict in the case will be pronounced on August 1, nine years after the shocking incident.

One of the accused sits stunned in his advocate's office. Sardar was arrested when he was barely 17 and was behind bars for nine years. Last week, the court found there was no evidence against him. So he was let out on bail.

Sardar does not know why he was arrested. He does not know why he was released and what will happen to him on August 1.

Prosecution counsel T A Selvaraj seems to be a believer in the Bhagwat Gita. He says with all earnestness: "We have done our duty´┐Ż we do not have any expectations about the judgment. When it comes, we will study it. If we don't like it, we will appeal to the High Court."

B Mohan, the defence counsel, is however optimistic. "We will get everyone released. They have not been able to prove the conspiracy angle. So they can be tried for individual cases only. If they are punished up to ten years, they will be released as they have already spent nine years in jail," he says.

Both prosecution and defence agree on one point -- All those arrested are not involved in the bomb blast. Their only sin was that of association and being a Muslim. On the 181 accused in the case, only three are Hindus.

The accused were granted bail after nine years, thanks to the prosecution's insistence that they had evidence against the accused. They could not convince the court in nine years.

Mohan promises, "If the case turns out to be foisted, they will have to pay damages for nine years in jail and destroying their lives."

The blasts were engineered to avenge the riots, which took place after members of the outfit Al-Umma murdered a traffic constable, Selvaraj, who had stopped their bikes and asked for their license. The constable never knew that the youths had just been fined for the same reason. Selvaraj left behind a grieving wife and a year-old son.

Does anyone remember Selvaraj, his widow or his son? No one does. Who is interested in this verdict -- those who were injured or the loved ones of the people who died that day? Cops are not taking any chances. There is extra security in the city.

Does anyone know that the lower court convicted Selvaraj's murderers but the Madras High Court set them free? (The government has moved an appeal in the Supreme Court.)

The 181, who have been accused, are said to belong to the Al-Umma -- the organisation that is said to have carried out the blasts. Though prosecution insists that it has hard evidence, the defence pooh poohs this.

Mohan says, "They have evidence that the bomb blasts took place. That everyone knows. They do not have evidence about who did it."

Both prosecution and defence agree that Kerala [Images] Government's resolution in favour of Abdul Nasser Madhani -- the main accused in the case -- will not have any bearing on the Court's verdict.

Both sides are determined to go ahead and appeal if the verdict goes against them.

Ironically, the government is footing the bill for both prosecution and defence. Didn't those who had money to buy bombs have money to defend themselves?

Selvaraj insists that all his witnesses are genuine. Mohan laughs at this. "They are all police stock witnesses and belong to Hindu fundamentalist groups. One fellow Ravi was shown as witness to two bomb blasts that occurred within 10 minutes of each other. Was he visiting bomb blast sites as he had advanced information about them going off," asks Mohan.

The bombs left a permanent scar on this city, which was till then known as Manchester of the south. Fear stalked the city long after the blasts. The Muslim community bore the brunt of police brutality and insensitivity. Will the blast verdict reopen old wounds or inflict fresh ones? We will know on August 1.






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