With the verdict on the Mecca Masjid case set to be delivered in Nampally on Monday, the Hyderabad police pressed 1,500 personnel into service to avert any untoward incident. As victims waited with bated breath for the judgement, whatever little hope they had quickly turned into disappointment as all the accused were acquitted.
On 18 May, 2007, as thousands gathered for the Friday prayers at Mecca Masjid, considered one of the holiest sites in the city, two blasts ripped through the mosque, killing nine people, injuring 58 others.
A CBI probe concluded that the Hindu extremist organisation, Abhinav Bharat, was behind it.
Adjacent to the masjid, in the Moharjin Camp, Shaik Jahangir lives. He was at the mosque and was offering prayers with his father when the blasts took place. Now, due to the injuries he suffered, he is bed-ridden and suffers a speech impairment.
“My father and I were in the masjid that day. While I went inside to pray, he was still outside. I remember how much panic and chaos there was when the blasts happened. They were just shoving one another and running for their lives,” says Athiq, Jahangir’s oldest son.
He pauses briefly before saying, “There was blood everywhere. I saw so many people lying there, lifeless. It was an awful sight. Immediately, some of us began helping the injured. As we started taking the bodies outside the injured, and I remembered my father was still inside. I rushed back, and spotted him. There was blood oozing out of his head. My uncle too had seen him and rushed to help him.”
Jahangir has four children: A son and three daughters.
He was hospitalised for 18 days after the blast. His head injuries hadn’t healed fully even after a year, which forced Athiq to find work to help feed his family.
Jahangir used to sell bangles in Charminar.
“The compensation of Rs 1.2 lakh from the government dried up almost immediately. It wasn’t sufficient. So, as the elder son, I took up the responsibility to run the family,” says Athiq.
As the media gathered outside his house to get his reaction, a stony-faced Athiq simply says, “It was sad all the accused were acquitted. The poor investigation by the NIA reflects in the verdict.”
Sixteen-year-old Syed Ghouse lives in the same locality as Jahangir. He was just five when the explosions took place, injuring his left hand.
He says he can’t remember anything of the fateful day. His mother, Saleema Begum, has preserved the Urdu newspaper that had reported the blast and had carried a photo of her son’s bloodied face.
Syed recognises that it’s him in the photo, but says he has no memories of the blast.
“How many innocent people died in the incident. What sort of justice system is this, where the court acquits them. People lost their lives and livelihood. This judgement is appalling,” Saleema laments.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court at Nampally on Monday acquitted all the five accused including the prime accused Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, citing lack of evidence.
The other four accused are Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharath Mohan Lal Rateshwar and Rajendra Choudary.