Mother fights for son lost after blast arrest

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By SATISH NANDGAONKAR in Mumbai
  • Published 8.03.05
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Mumbai, March 8: The tired, bitter voice of Aasiya Begum reverberates in room number 470 in south Mumbai?s Gulf Hotel. She accuses police of killing her son, alleging that they concocted lies to cover up the murder.

The fatigue of her two-year legal battle has not weakened the urge to get to the bottom of the disappearance of her 26-year-old engineer son.

Khwaja Yunus was arrested in the aftermath of the Ghatkopar blasts in December 2002, and disappeared from police custody under mysterious circumstances on January 7, 2003.

Aasiya claims her son was innocent and had been wrongly implicated.

Yunus worked in Dubai and had arrived home to Parbhani for Id in December 2002. He had gone to Chikhaldara, near Amravati, on a picnic when the police arrested him and brought him to Mumbai, she said.

Aasiya is here today to attend hearings in the case that took a fresh twist last weekend when the state CID arrested four police officers in connection with Yunus?s disappearance.

The arrested policemen belong to the crime intelligence unit of Ghatkopar. One of them, encounter specialist Praful Bhosale, is an officer decorated with the President?s medal. The others are assistant police inspector Hemant Desai, inspector Rajaram Vhanmane and sub-inspector Ashok Khot. All have denied any involvement in the case.

The arrests have sparked a stand-off between crime branch officers and the CID and could snowball into a political controversy. Encounter specialists, like Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sharma, Vijay Salaskar ? who have been glamourised in films like Ab Tak Chhapan ? criticised the arrests as a move that will demoralise the officers who execute special operations.

The police claim that Yunus escaped from a police van when the vehicle met with an accident near Aurangabad. But suspecting that his son had died during custodial interrogation, Yunus?s father Sayeed Khwaja Yunus filed a petition in Bombay High Court in September 2003 demanding a probe.

Yunus?s co-accused Abdul Mateen testified in court that on January 6, 2003, he had seen Yunus being tortured and vomiting blood in the lock-up of the Ghatkopar crime intelligence unit.

After several hearings, the court directed the CID to treat Mateen?s statement as an FIR and re-investigate the case. The probe led to the arrest of Sachin Vaze, an encounter cop with the Andheri special unit, in 2004. The arrest seemed odd as Mateen had said Yunus was tortured in a Ghatkopar lock-up.

Vaze had first claimed that Yunus had escaped from the van while in his custody.

The crime intelligence officers are also upset that the Mumbai police top brass has not shown adequate support for its men. Police commissioner A.N. Roy was quoted as saying that ?the arrests do not demoralise the police force?.

The angry police officers have decided not to cooperate with the CID. Two officers, Ambadas Pote and Arun Borude, who were summoned for their statements did not turn up and are believed to have reported sick.

Aasiya has appealed to the state government not to protect the guilty officials. Her lawyer Majeed Memon said: ?The high court?s ruling to treat this as a torture leading to death has clearly established that this is a case of custodial death?.?

Memon has sought a Rs 1-crore compensation. ?The amount considers the fact that Aasiya Begum has not only lost her son but also her husband who died in April 2004 fighting the case.?

State VHP chief Vyankatesh Abdev protested against the arrest of police officers on the charges of custodial death of an alleged terrorist.

Although it has not made a formal statement, the Shiv Sena in the past has supported police officers with tainted records.