The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Women in burqas rally for their men

Ahmedabad, April 26: Hundreds of women in burqas came out on Ahmedabad’s streets today in the scorching sun to protest the “illegal detention” of innocent Muslim youths in the Haren Pandya murder and other cases.

Several youths, picked up for “questioning’’, are in police custody for days. The police claim that the youths have not been arrested, only detained for interrogation.

“But for how long'” ask the women protesting on the busy Relief Road. Why weren’t they being allowed to meet their sons, brothers and husbands'

The women carried placards that read: “The real killer of Haren Pandya should be hanged”, “Hindus know better than us who the real killer of Haren Pandya is” and “Who is the real killer of Haren Pandya' Ask Modi”.

Seventy-three-year-old Kulsumbibi, from Panchkuva Mohalla, joined the protest because she strongly feels that the five youths picked up from her neighbourhood are innocent. None of them had a criminal background, she added.

Sobbing inconsolably, Shahidabano pleaded: “My son is innocent.” Her son Firoz, who runs a garment shop, is in police custody for the past 12 days. “The police came my house, saying they want to question my son. I called him up. When he came, the police just asked him to sit in the jeep,” she recounted. The mother was not even told where her son was being taken.

Fathimabibi’s son, 22-year-old Mohammed Sameer, has been in police custody for nine days. She has not been allowed to see him even once. This is a familiar story.

Atakila’s brother was arrested when he was on a date with his fiancée. “Somehow we managed to release the girl from police custody but she has been traumatised,’’ Atakila said.

Police were on the lookout for Shaminbibi’s elder son. They picked up her younger son instead. Now they want Shaminbibi to hand over her older son if she wants the younger one to be released. She will never do that, she says. She does not trust the police to keep their word.

The protesting women said they, too, were concerned about Pandya’s murder. “But we want the CBI to interrogate Narendra Modi,” said Shahnazbano. Everybody knows that Haren Pandya’s father has said the real culprits are still at large and that his murder was politically motivated, the women said. Why then are Muslims being singled out, they asked.

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