The two 20-something men who allegedly planned multiple bombings in the Capital walked in slowly, without handcuffs, as the three men and a woman in the room stared in silence.
They were human rights campaigners who have routinely accused the Mumbai Police of arresting the wrong people and calling them terrorists.
The two young men were suspected members of the Indian Mujahideen, the militant group that has claimed credit for a series of recent terror attacks.
The police had arranged a secret meeting for them in September so they could make up their minds first hand. “We first stared with cynicism. We are trained not to trust the police,” said filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, one of those present in the room.
“I was petrified to see the face of the young Indian. They said they had participated in terror operations. They passionately spoke about the oppression of minorities. They were individuals inspired by nothing but the creed of revenge,” he said.
One of the two men spoke English and had allegedly helped send emails to the media announcing bombs would go off in the next few minutes. The other, police alleged, had planted bombs and then monitored TV news channels reporting the blasts. But they said killing people hadn't been worth it.
“I asked them why they were using the blood of the innocent victims of Gujarat to justify this bloodbath. I asked them whether they had a message for young Indians who might be on the verge of taking the same path as them,” Bhatt said. “The English-speaking man said ‘tell them this road leads nowhere. The only way to set this straight is to fight within the system,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt remembers the helplessness in the eyes of the officer who arranged the meeting. “He didn’t know when and how, but I think he saw what was coming,” he said, referring to last week’s terrorist attacks. “He simply said, ‘an avalanche might be on its way’.” Bhatt says the meeting somewhat changed his views on the police. “It showed me not all police versions are flawed. I felt some remorse.”