'The blasts destroyed my family. Two of my sons are in jail and one is absconding.'
Parents of two of the 7/11 accused speak to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com
Ten minutes before the judgment was passed on the accused in the 7/11 case, an elderly couple sitting on the benches in Special Judge Y D Shinde's court was hopeful that Allah would give them justice.
When the trial began nine years ago, Attaur Rehman and his wife Parveen Bano felt that their accused sons -- Faisal Shaikh, the man the Mumbai police alleged was the mastermind in the 7/11 case -- and Muzzamil Shaikh would be let off.
"We only depend on Allah. We left our fate to him. He will give us justice," Rehman said.
"The police tortured my sons and arrested them. My other son Raheel is absconding for the last nine years. I have no idea where he is," Rehman added.
"The blasts destroyed my family," Parveen Bano said. "Two of my sons are in jail and one is absconding. I have not spoken to Raheel these last 9 years."
The couple lives in Mira Road, a satellite town close to Mumbai, and had traveled to the court in south Mumbai in the hope that their sons would be proven innocent.
Raheel disappeared after the blasts, but his brothers were arrested.
An Interpol notice was issued against Raheel who is still listed as one of India's most wanted.
In 2008, the Maharashtra police contacted the Birmingham police in Great Britain after it received information that Raheel was living in the city, but he was not found.
"There is no one to support us in our old age. We had three sons and don't have anyone to look after us," Rehman said. "We are looking after each other."
"All my relatives had stopped talking to me. No one contacted me for two years (after the blasts). It was only after some Hindus were arrested after the Malegaon bombings in 2008 that my relatives began to believe that my sons were being framed by the police and were innocent," Rehman said. "Until then, we lived like pariahs."
Asked how he supports himself financially, he said, "I do some calligraphy and had worked in Saudi Arabia before my retirement 10 years ago, through which I have some savings."
"The police detained me for 15 days after the blasts. The media never questioned any of these things. They only highlighted the news the police gave them," Rehman added. "Only the Urdu newspapers used to write about us, but they too stopped eventually. They never asked us questions about what we were going through."
When I asked what his son Faisal was doing in Iran before the blasts, Rehman got agitated and asked, "Is it a crime to go to Iran? Faisal was a businessman and had gone there."
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had stated that many of the 7/11 accused had traveled to Iran, and from there to Pakistan to be trained by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in handling arms.
Doubts surfaced when some of the 7/11 accused claimed that they had gone to Iran on a religious tour, but the fact is that the accused are Sunni Muslims, and Iran has holy sites for Shia Muslims.
As soon as news arrived that 12 of the 13 accused had been convicted and only one of the accused acquitted, gloom descended on the accused's relatives.
Munira, accused Tanvir Ahmed's wife, wept after her husband was convicted and refused to asnwer questions. "Please respect our emotions," she said.
"We have gone through hell and are still suffering. Insha'Allah! My husband will come out of prison."
Rehman was calm and only said, "We cannot question Allah's will. He is testing us in these difficult times."
Parveen Bano, his wife was clearly upset, declaring that Andha Kanoon (The law is blind)."
IMAGE: A suburban Mumbai train compartment damaged by a bomb blast in this photograph taken on July 12, 2006. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters