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'I worry about my children'

Last updated on: May 22, 2007 18:23 IST

Seated under a tree near the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, a family waited for a verdict that could alter their lives. Shabnam Gul Mohammed Shaikh and her two sons, Zubair (8) and Zaaed (7), were in the TADA court on Tuesday, to hear the final verdict against her husband, Gul Mohammad Shaikh, an accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

Gul Mohammad has been accused of being a Pakistani agent. He and five others have been held guilty for undergoing weapons and explosives training in Pakistan on the behest of Tiger Memon.

While the young boys munched on a snack, unaware of the sheer gravity of the situation, Shabnam insisted that her husband is innocent - "There is no truth in the charges against him. He has family in Pakistan and he was visiting them. He did not go for any sort of training."

Shabnam told that Gul Mohammad was in the marble business and had an office in Mumbai's suburb of Vile Parle. The family lived in Bandra, another suburb, and led a happy, sheltered life.

That changed, however, on March 9, 1993, when Gul Mohammad was arrested on charges of his involvement in the communal riots that erupted in Mumbai.

"It was only when the policemen at Bandra station told me that I came to know about his arrest. We are not denying that he had been to Pakistan but just to visit his relatives and nothing else," said Shabnam.

According to police records, Gul Mohammad was arrested on March 9, and during the course of interrogation, he told  the police about Tiger Memon's terror plot to cripple Mumbai.

However, his disclosure was dismissed and on March 12, serial blasts rocked the city, claiming hundreds of innocent lives.

Shabnam points out that prior to this incident her husband has never been on the wrong side of law and there are no criminal charges whatsoever against him.

Gul Mohammad has spent close to four-and-a-half years in prison. As the time nears for the verdict to be announced, Shabnam was hopeful but anxious. She asked this correspondent to tell her the verdict as she did not want to be questioned by anyone.

"We don't have any comments to make before the cameras. Nobody actually cares for our version. The media is only concerned about Sanjay Dutt. We are left alone and helpless," chipped in Iqbal, a cousin who is accompanying Shabnam.

Eventually, the special TADA court sentenced Gul Mohammad to six years imprisonment with a fine of Rs 15,000.

The court mentioned in its verdict that it has taken a soft stand against Gul Mohammad and five others as they did not indulge in any kind of terrorism or acts of violence on Indian soil.

Shabnam was slightly relieved, but still insisted that her husband has not done anything wrong.

A 30-year-old mother of seven children, Shabnam has many worries - "My gravest concern is providing food and education for my children. He was the sole breadwinner of the family. I am a housewife and now we are living at the mercy of some of my relatives and family friends."

Reassuring her, Iqbal said, "This is a good judgement. God did not completely wash His hands of us."

Binoy Valsan in Mumbai