As Sunita Williams ended her space odyssey, her relatives back home in Gujarat could not contain their tears of joy. “She has landed safely by the grace of God. It is a moment of great joy for all of us,” said Sunita’s uncle Vitthal Pandya.
Sunita’s cousin and Haren Pandya’s elder sister, Bhartiben Pancholi said they just could not convey their sense of relief when she finally landed.
“We were very tense when her landings were delayed twice,” she said, adding the entire family had prayed throughout the day for her safe return. But all that gave way to “indescribable relief” when the space shuttle Atlantis touched base at 1.19 am on Saturday.
The Pandya family, relatives and neighbours came out on the roads and danced till day-break, bursting crackers and beating drums.
Vitthal Pandya said Sunita’s touchdown was an ‘unprecedented moment’. He said his brother-in-law and Sunita’s father Dr Deepak Pandya had told them that the family would visit India in October.
Vitthalbhai is already flooded with requests from schools and other institutions for arranging talks by Sunita. The family also plans to take Sunita around India to pilgrimage places like Somnath and Dwarka.
Concern for Haren Pandya
But for Vitthal Pandya, the joy of Sunita’s return was tempered with concern over the trial of his son, former state minister Haren Pandya, who was murdered outside the Law Garden here in 2003.
A designated POTA court will pronounce judgment on Monday, which Vitthal Pandya fears will not do justice to his son.
Vitthal Pandya has maintained that his son’s murder was ‘politically motivated’, although officially it has been held to be a revenge killing for the 2002 killings of Muslims in the state.
Moments after telling HT about how happy the family and friends were made by the successful landing of the Atlantis, Vitthalbhai said he had no hope the POTA court will bring justice to his murdered son on Monday.
“The CBI under NDA had fabricated the evidences and the POTA court did not take into account the Forensic Science Laboratory’s version that Haren could not have been killed inside the car”, Vitthalbhai explained.
“A Muslim (Asghar Ali) might have pulled the trigger, but the main motivator who conspired the murder is roaming free”, he said, insisting that his son was the victim of a contract killing ordered by a top politician.