HT Special: A case brought two families together, a verdict snapped their ties
One young man was acquitted in the Aurangabad arms haul case while his cellmate, another young man, was found guilty. This is the story of their families who met and became friends during the 10-year trialmumbai Updated: Oct 07, 2016 12:57 IST
One young man was acquitted in the Aurangabad arms haul case while his cellmate, another young man, was found guilty. This is the story of their families who met and became friends during the 10-year trial.
It’s May 2006. A Maharashtra anti-terror squad team chases down a Tata Sumo and an Indica on a highway near Aurangabad, arrests three terror suspects and seizes 30kg RDX, 10 AK-47 assault rifles and 3,200 bullets. The agency goes on to arrest 21 men in the case and recovers a large haul of arms.
Two of those men were Waqar Nisar and Syed Aakif Syed Jafaruddin. Ten years later, Waqar is acquitted of all charges, while Aakif is sentenced to life in jail. The two men had shared a prison cell and their families, the 10-year struggle.
“The cases against Aakif and Waqar were made on two different sets of confessions given by the other men accused in the case. The court upheld one and rejected the other on technical grounds. Otherwise, my brother is as innocent as Waqar. It was just our bad luck,” says Adil Beyabani, Aakif’s older brother. Adil, an advocate in Aurangabad, wants to appeal the ruling of the MCOCA court that sentenced Aakif, in the Bombay high court. It’s been 10 years of running to-and-from Mumbai, 10 years since he began fighting to clear his brother’s name.
For Waqar’s family, the verdict came as a relief, but Adil remembers Waqar’s father, Shaikh Nisar Mohammed, crying in court after the verdict. “Uncle was crying inconsolably. He didn’t move from his seat. I had to pacify him and take him out,” Adil says.
Waqar and Aakif are around the same age. Both were well-educated men — Waqar had done his BEd before his arrest (and did a Masters in sociology in jail), while Aakif was a chemistry graduate.
“They shared so many things. When they were lodged in the same cell at Arthur Road jail for a year and a half, and later in judicial custody, it was natural they became the best of friends, and that brought our families together,” Nisar says.
Nisar said the families travelled together for court dates, and if one of them visited Mumbai, they would deliver parcels with clothes, books and food for the other.
Adil said these shared trips helped cut down on their expenses. “My father (an engineer with the Public Works Department) had retired by then. In those 10 years, we had to make several trips to Mumbai, each trip costing us two-three thousand rupees. We managed because we shared the expenses with Waqar’s family.”
For Waqar, now 34, it’s all about rebuilding his life in Majalgaon, a sleepy town that was shaken up by the arrest. He plans to start teaching. Waqar had just finished his BEd and was waiting to get a job as a teacher in the local Urdu-medium high school when he was arrested. “For days, we were kept in the dark about his whereabouts. The police said my son harboured terrorists,” Nisar recollects.
“I firmly believed my son can never be a terrorist or do something against the nation.” Despite the arrest, Nisar, a retired head master, said his neighbours stood by the family. “My fellow villagers, Hindu and Muslim alike, were convinced Waqar had done nothing wrong.”
How Aakif’s story will end is uncertain. Adil recalls how his brother, the youngest of four siblings, was closest to their parents. “He would help my mother in the kitchen. Aakif always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Adil says.
Aakif was arrested the day before Adil’s wedding on May 18 on charges of keeping in touch with the other accused through encrypted emails. He was 22. “Some relatives criticised us. Others stayed away. We knew we had to fight our battle on our own.”
But Waqar’s family was always there for support, Adil says, as he remembers how they came to meet him at the court in Aurangabad a few days after the judgment. “It was fate that brought us together. Our lives are going on different paths now, but they were our partners in sorrow. We will always remember them.”
CONVICTION AND SENTENCING
On July 29, 2016, the MCOCA court convicted 12 of the accused, including 26/11 plotter Jabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, and acquitted 8
On August 2, 2016 Abu Jundal and seven others were sentenced to life imprisonment, two convicts were sentenced to 14 years in jail. The remaining were handed out an eight-year sentence