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Row over Usmani's death refuses to die down

By A Correspondent
July 19, 2011 17:27 IST
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Three days after the death of Faiz Usmani, brother of Ahmedabad blast accused Afzal Usmani, after being picked up by the Mumbai police, his family is in no mood to accept any explanation tendered by police officials. With support from the Samajwadi Party, the family is now demanding a compensation of Rs 10 lakh and suspension of the Mumbai crime branch officials who interrogated Faiz Usmani just before his death.

While Usmani's wife Rubaida and son Azeem squarely blame the police for his death, Mumbai police officials categorically deny that Usmani was pressurised or tortured in any way. 

Faiz is the brother of alleged Indian Mujahideen member Afzal Usmani, who is currently lodged in jail for his role in the 2008 Gujarat blasts, and the police believe that Faiz is the go-between his brother and Riyaz Bhatkal, the IM mastermind.

Shortly after the incident and the media furore that followed over Usmani's death, Maharashtra's Director General of Police Ajit Parasnis ordered a state criminal investigation department inquiry into it. As many as six Mumbai crime branch officials have been questioned so far.

"According to the preliminary post-mortem report, no external injuries were found on Usmani. He died because of a cerebral haemorrhage and heart attack. There was a 90 gramme blood clot in his brain," said Dr T P Lahane, dean of JJ Hospital, adding that the report has also been submitted to the police.

The CID will also be speaking to Usmani's family members and neighbours who allege that he died because of custodial torture.

Before handing over the body to his family, doctors have retained Usmani's vital organs such as his heart, liver, and brain for further detailed medical examination.

"The report has conclusively established that there were no injury marks on his body," says Mumbai police's spokesperson, Deputy Commissioner of Police Nisar Tamboli.

Last Saturday, the Chembur unit of the Mumbai crime branch picked up Usmani for questioning in connection with the July 13 triple bombings from his residence at Shivaji nagar in Govandi, in Mumbai's central suburbs. Around 5.50 pm the same day, he was rushed to the Lokmanya Tilak Hospital in Sion by the police after he complained of uneasiness and started vomiting, prior to which he was first admitted to a local hospital in Govandi. He died at around 2 am on Sunday while undergoing treatment for hemiparesis and hypertension.

Usmani's wife Rubaida alleges, "After every blast in the country the police used to come home and question him. He always used to co-operate with the officers. What was the need this time for the police to take him to the police station? They have definitely tortured him."

Rubaida also vehemently denies that her husband had a history of hypertension or any other medical condition.

Son Azeem, who was at college when the cops came calling on his father, also blames the police for the death. According to him, "My father was taken away in the morning for questioning. They said it was routine questioning, so he went along with them. But suddenly, within an hour, the police came back and told us that my father was unwell and had been admitted to the hospital. I don't know what was the level of questioning, but they must have definitely tortured my father for him to be so tense."

On reaching the hospital, Azeem found his father admitted in an unconscious state. "Till the previous day my father was alive and now he is no more. How can somebody fall ill so suddenly? We want to know what exactly happened," adds Azeem.

According to the crime branch officials, Usmani had helped out the Mumbai crime branch with crucial information in the past. Officials also say that he was under medical treatment and had not been taking medicines regularly, which resulted in his health deteriorating. Usmani is survived by his wife and six children.

Meanwhile, a delegation comprising Mohammed Aslam Raazi of the Jamat-e-Islami-Hind, Abraham Mathai of the Minority Commission, and film-maker Mahesh Bhatt called on Anti Terror Squad chief Rakesh Maria demanding the complete truth behind the incident come out and to seek an assurance that the minority community does not feel isolated and vulnerable in the aftermath of the blasts.

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