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Ten years on, Mosque blast victims remembered in Hyderabad

Under tight security, families of victims and others mourn and recite prayers

Gulf News

Hyderabad: As the faithful, sporting skull caps or covering their heads with cloth, make their way through the arched entrance of Hyderabad’s historic Makkah Masjid, near Charminar, the beep of the door frame scanner and security guards frisking visitors bring back grim memories of the past.

It was exactly on this day ten years ago that a deadly bomb blast ripped through the rows of worshippers, killing nine.

As the fearful and panic-stricken people ran helter-skelter, another ghastly scene unfolded on the road outside as police opened fire on a group of people protesting against the blast.

Five more died as gunfire from automatic weapons drowned the city into terror, anger and dismay.

It was May 18, 2007 when, soon after Friday prayers ended, the bomb connected to a cell phone and kept under a marble bench in the courtyard of the mosque exploded.

The toll could have been much higher, had the assailants succeeded in triggering two more devices kept at other places in the mosque.

On Thursday, as families of the victims and others mourned and said prayers, police had made elaborate arrangements in the old city particularly in the immediate vicinity of the mosque.

More than a thousand policemen were deployed in sensitive areas of the old city, under the supervision of top police officials, to prevent any protests or untoward incidents.

Additional Commissioner of Police Swati Lakra, who supervised the security arrangements, said the situation was totally peaceful.

However the occasion brought back different memories to different people. For the family of Irfan Shareef, who died in the bomb blast, it was yet another day of toiling as the family’s never ending wait for the promised government jobs continues.

“He could have been 27 years old today,” said 60-year-old Osman Sharif remembering his eldest son. “The government had promised us a job but so far it has not been fulfilled. I am running from pillar to post but no official seems to care”.

In another part of the city Dr Ebrahim Junaid sat reminiscing the day when plainclothes policemen picked him from Yakutpura Railway Station.

While being taken blindfolded to an unknown location policemen told him he was picked up in connection with the bomb blast at Makkah Masjid.

At the detention centre every protest and denial by Junaid, then a second year medical student, brought another round of torture, beating and electric shocks on the private parts.

“They would crush my face with boots when I recited Quranic verses to seek strength,” he recalled with a shudder.

He was not alone.

With an unlikely theory that the blast at the mosque was the work of Muslims, police had picked up around 100 minority youths from different places and subjected them to third degree torture to extract confessions.

After several months of public outcry and judicial intervention, they were released on bail, and the courts eventually acquitted them.

It was almost three years after the blast that the CBI unearthed the involvement of Hindu terror outfit Abhinav Baharat, with the arrest of RSS leader Swamy Aseemanand and others.

Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Bhai and Rajinder Chowdhary were among those arrested in connection with the blasts in Makkah Masjid, Ajmer and Malegaon.

While the case was moving in the court at a snail’s pace all the accused have been released on bail. Swamy Aseemanand has recently come of jail as he was also granted bail in other cases.

Prime accused Sunil Joshi another accused was murdered by unknown person in Madhya Pradesh. The tenth anniversary of the blast also became an occasion for the police and the administration to review the security arrangements at Makkah Masjid.

“We are installing more cameras in and outside the mosque and strengthening the security”, said Abdul Qadeer Siddiqui, the superintendent of the mosque.