Malegaon four pick up pieces after five years
Malegaon, Nov. 19: Sitting outside his home in a plastic chair among neighbours, Shabbir Masiullah Ahmed tries to recognise people he is meeting after five years. "You have aged," he tells one.
His brother-in-law Raees Ahmed is trying to bond with his five-year-old daughter who, he says, "has begun to recognise me".
Dr Salman Farsi complains of lack of sleep because of the steady flow of journalists and relatives.
These three are among the seven men who have returned home to Malegaon after spending five years in Mumbai prisons on the charge of plotting and carrying out the 2006 blasts that killed 37 people in their hometown.
The seven, whose families had initially faced a social boycott after their arrest, got bail after Bengal-born Swami Aseemanand's confession about a Hindu Right-wing hand in the blasts. On Thursday morning, they were welcomed back to this textile city, 260km from Mumbai, with fireworks and sweets.
Shabbir is relieved and touched but can't help worrying about the future. Sometimes, he broods a little over how the long imprisonment has affected his life and his family's.
"Every time I step out of home for namaaz, my kids fear I won't return. Whenever they came to meet me in prison, I would tell them I would be home in a month — but five years went by," the father of four says.
Raees refers to the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act under which they were charged. "We didn't know what the law MCOCA was; now everybody in the family, including my kids, know what it means."
Shabbir says he was arrested just when his business of making batteries and inverters was picking up in a city that faces long power cuts.
"I was the first in the city to manufacture inverters and batteries. I haven't looked at the machinery I left behind, but there ought to be a lot of damage. I worry about whether I will be able to begin from scratch, or begin at all," he says.
Another household, that of 29-year-old Noor-ul-Huda, throws up a bleaker story. The third among six brothers, Huda was arrested four months after his wedding, which the state anti-terrorist squad alleged was used for a conspiracy meeting for the blasts.
Before his arrest, Huda earned Rs 2,000 a month as a power-loom worker. Supported by him and his father, the family barely led a hand-to-mouth existence. The arrest crippled the family.
In the five years he spent at Mumbai's Arthur Road jail, Huda's parents could only meet him three times.
"They couldn't afford the travel expense to Mumbai. The family had to choose between having enough to eat and meeting me regularly," says Huda, whose smile never leaves his face despite what he has just said.
His 27-year-old brother Noor-uddin says that economically, the past five years took the family back by 15 years.
"I wanted to study medicine but had to quit earlier because of our poor economic condition. After his arrest, I had to give up education altogether. I now work as a power-loom labourer in the day and study science at a night college."
Huda himself studied two years for a BA course in Urdu from prison. When his second-year exams arrived, he was sent to Ahmedabad for narco-analysis and brain-mapping tests. He missed the exam.
"I don't have the time to sit and think about what happened. I shall soon start looking for work," Huda says.
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