What would you do if your son suddenly became a police quarry, a terrorist? Deny it probably, then get angry about it, show you are pained by the allegations and finally perhaps, let it all sink in and accept it.
The family of Mohammad Shahid, better known as Bilal the Hyderabad bomber, has gone through the stages of denial and anger. It now says it is pained by the allegations. Acceptance may be round the corner.
Bilal’s mother Hafeeza Begum, 61 insists Bilal is not Bilal. “Please do not call him Bilal. His name is only Mohammed Shahid. He is called Bilal by the police,” she says.
<b1>In Hyderabad’s Muslim-dominated Malakpet area, everyone knows Bilal and his family, but no one wants to show you the way to his house. Even the police are reluctant.
House number 16/11/240, when HT finally tracks it down, turns out to be a squat white structure with colourful doors. It looks a bit forlorn, abandoned. There’s no sign of life around, either in the windows or in the lane.
At the third knock, the front door opens a crack. It’s Hafeeza Begum. Her husband and Bilal’s father Abdul Wahad, 64, is not home. But she is not unwilling to talk.
Is Bilal a terrorist? “No…if he is the one who carried out the blasts, why don’t the police shoot him dead? I will have no complaint,” she says. She is irritated, a little agitated.
But Hyderabad police are convinced Bilal masterminded both Saturday night’s twin bombings that killed 41 people, and the May 18 attack at Mecca Masjid. The first blast got him a promotion from his jehadi masters, say sources among the investigators.
The 12-class dropout of Hyderabad's Mumtaz College is now said to be the India chief of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Harkat-ul Jehadi Islami (HuJI), a promotion brought to him by the Mecca Masjid bombing.
So, where is her son? "I do not know," Hafeeza says testily. "He left home four or five years ago. The police say he is in Karachi, so why don't they get him and shoot him if he is a jehadi aatankwaadi (jehadi terrorist)?"
According to Hafeeza, her son simply disappeared one morning. So did the family go to the police? Hafeeza doesn't answer, just stares. After a moment, which seems like a few years, she whispers, "The police just want to kill my son, they keep blaming him every time an incident happens in Hyderabad."
Suddenly, the door opens wider. And another younger, louder, voice joins the conversation. It's Umera Begum, Bilal's youngest, 26-year-old, sister.
"My brother is not a terrorist; he is a normal young man. Just like you. After the Mecca Masjid blast too, they said my brother had got it done. But these are just frequent, false allegations by the police," says Umera.
The family is now clearly in a mood to talk. You can sense their need to deny it all, get angry about it, and show their pain.
"After the Mecca blast, we had filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court seeking directions for the police to produce Shahid," says Umera. But she refuses to name their lawyer.
"They (the police) might have killed him already… once they said he is dead and that we should go and identify the body. It was not him, but they keep coming back to us to harass us with their unending queries about him. They say he visited Warangal, or a kabrastan, or Bidar."
According to the police Bilal has been missing since February 2004 after he was named along with his brother Zahid an alleged JeM operative now in Visakhapatnam jail in an attempt to kill former BJP MLA Indirasen Reddy.
That would make Bilal missing for a little less than the time his family says he's been gone for. Like most things around House No. 16/11/240 in Malakpet, it all depends on who you want to believe.