Sheikh Abdul Kaleem, a 23-year-old student of Bachelor of Law in Hyderabad, is the man who admittedly inspired a change of heart in Naba Kumar Sircar alias Swamy Aseemanand at the city’s Chanchalguda jail. Kaleem, arrested by Hyderabad police in 2007 on terror charges in 2007, was released on bail on Monday.
When did you meet Swamy Aseemanand? How did you start talking about the terror strikes?
He was confined in a solitary cell near my barrack. In the second week of December, when I was passing by him, he called out saying ‘Salaam’. Other Muslim inmates had boycotted him…since we knew he had been arrested for his role in the Mecca Masjid blast. He was alone and was let
out only after 6pm for a 30-minute walk.
What did you tell him that made him decide to confess?
Swamyji had taken an instant liking to me. He had asked me, ‘Why are you here?’ I told him the Hyderabad police had arrested me on terror charges, including the blast at Mecca mosque and the twin blasts of August 2007.
I told Swamyji it was him and his associates who had killed so many, and also ruined my family. My parents fell sick, my mother had a heart attack, while I was detained, arrested and subjected to torture for two years. I made him meet co-accused Imran too. I showed him the injury marks on my body.
Did Aseemanand confess immediately, how did he react?
No, he would listen to me but not say a word. He would keep quiet but at times I found saw tears in his eyes. He wept, then apologised saying: “Tum aur baaki Mussalman ladke nirdosh ho, Mecca blast maine aur hamarey logon ne kiya tha. (You and the other Muslim youth are innocent, I and my associates did the Mecca blast).’ But he had not given me any indication that he might confess.
For how long did you two talk?
We spoke for several hours on three days. Since he was in solitary confinement, there was a guard to protect him. I would sneak up to him when I saw the guard missing…It was Allah who made it happen; he chose me as the medium.
When did Aseemanand tell you about confessing? Did he reveal any details?
He was gone, then I heard through newspapers that he had confessed. After December 18, Swamyji came back and hugged me and said, “Main prayaschit kar raha hu aur aagey bhi karunga (I am repenting and will repent for this).” He then narrated to me the details of his entire confession. He told me he would stick to the truth.
Did he ever defend his acts? Did he talk of making amends?
He did not say anything about why he did the blasts. But he told me he had instructed the jail authorities to donate his organs after his death and give the proceeds to help those who died in the Mecca blast and me and other Muslim suspects’ families.
How do you look at him now? Should he be hanged for his terror acts?
Considering what he told me about his lifelong service for tribal families in Gujarat, he must be a great man. For his terror acts, he has decided to do prayaschit (repent), which is a great deed. Not all can do this. The court should punish what he deserves.