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The 16 who did not count

Chennai, Feb. 20: For Jayalalithaa, seven counted more than 16.

The chief minister’s head-long rush to free the seven convicts has wounded the families of the 16 who were killed in the suicide blast on May 21, 1991.

Rahul Gandhi, the son of the most prominent victim of the blast, voiced his anguish yesterday. Now others have started speaking up.

Among them figures Javid Iqbal, who was 17 when the explosion killed his father Mohammed Iqbal, a police officer and one of the 15 other victims.

League Mohan also lost his father, League Munuswamy, a Congress councillor whose prefix traced its roots to an annual sporting event he used to organise. Shocked by Jayalalithaa’s vow, the families of the victims are planning to petition the Supreme Court to make them parties to the remission case.

“We are planning to implead ourselves to challenge the remission when the case comes up on March 6. We are not against the death sentence being reduced to life. But their prison term should be for their entire life, considering how heinous the crime was,” said Mohan.

John Joseph, brother of inspector Edward Joseph, one of the nine police personnel killed in the blast, recalled his widowed sister-in-law’s struggle to bring up two children, aged five and three then.

“She was a government schoolteacher who single-handedly brought up the children,” John said.

Police officer Iqbal, SP of Kancheepuram, was head of Rajiv Gandhi’s security detail in Sriperumbudur. His son Javid recalled how he and his mother walked on the blood-soaked floors of the Kancheepuram government hospital where the victims had been shifted.

“It took years to recover from the shock. I couldn’t complete my engineering and dropped out. Congress leaders helped us get an LPG agency, which is our sole income now,” Javid said.

Another son grieved for his mother. “My mother would never come back, but the verdict of the highest court was being negated by politics,” said Abbas, who lost his mother Santhani Begum.


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