Sisters-in-law squabble over burnt-out bakery

Read more below

By BASANT RAWAT in Vadodara
  • Published 21.09.03

Vadodara, Sept. 21: Nineteen months ago, it was a mute witness to a bloody massacre. Today, it has become the centre of an ugly family drama.

Two sisters-in-law of Zahira Sheikh, the main witness of the Best Bakery massacre, are now fighting over the bakery’s ownership claiming to be “legal wives” of her brother Nafitulla.

Twenty-one-year-old Yasmin, who went to live with her parents in Chhotaudepur after Nafitulla married Kailashben Vasava, has suddenly surfaced in Hanuman Tekri, 18 months after she left the city following the massacre during the Gujarat riots last year. She claims she saw the carnage and wants to be a witness.

Yasmin has not come alone. Escorted by her mother Rashidabibi and eight labourers, she has started renovating the bakery, which she wants to run. She wants to live here, too.

Yasmin’s appearance, a day after Zahira’s elder sister Sahera left for Mumbai to join her sibling, has annoyed Nafitulla’s second wife, who has vowed to stop the repair work.

Kailashben does not want the “greedy woman” to lay her hands on a property that does not belong to her. But is the 24-year-old sure of what she wants to do with the bakery? “Nothing,” she says. “We want to leave it as it is — a monument to hate. We neither want to renovate it, nor sell it.”

Her husband, she makes it a point to add, fully agrees with her.

But Yasmin says she is renovating the bakery because that is what her husband wants. She claims that Nafitulla called her up four days ago and asked her to come back and repair the bakery. Nafitulla denies calling her.

The claims and counter-claims have sparked off a war of words between the two women who have never got along. Kailashben, who lives in a one-room rented house in Mehboob Nagar with Nafitulla, accuses Yasmin of lying. She says some BJP leaders have given money to Yasmin to use her against Zahira, whose plea for retrial in the case made the Supreme Court intervene.

On the face of it, Kailashben’s accusations seem true. Asked where she got the money from, Yasmin is not entirely convincing.

She admits that the money was not given to her by Nafitulla with whom she has had no contact for the last 18 months. Nafitulla, in fact, says he is about to divorce her.

Nafitulla has gone to Mumbai to meet his sister. He also plans to shift his family there. Contacted over phone, he said he had not called Yasmin and that he was planning to move court to stop the renovation of the bakery, which is owned by his mother.

Nafitulla also dismissed Yasmin’s claim and thinks she “is playing into the hands of vested interests who want to use her as a weapon against Zahira”.

Nafitulla says two persons, Lal Mohammad and Rahmattulla, went back to Chhotaudepur to bring Yasmin and gave her money to repair the bakery.

Mohammad — who is originally from Basti in Uttar Pradesh which is also the native place of the Sheikh family — is the right-hand man of Madhu Srivastava, the man whom Zahira accused of forcing her to turn hostile in court. Her refusal to testify before the trial court led to the acquittal of all the accused.

Mohammad was one of the witnesses in the Best Bakery case who had turned hostile in court. He owns property in Hanuman Tekri, on the outskirts of Vadodara, and has to keep Srivastava in good humour.

Srivastava insists he has nothing to do with bakery case and that he does not know any of the members of the Sheikh family.

However, Mohammad has provided two rooms in Hanuman Tekri to Yasmin and her mother to live in till the bakery is fully repaired. It belies Yasmin’s claim that Mohammad was not instrumental in bringing her to Vadodara.