I FEEL GOOD

Acquitted on Wednesday in the 1993 bomb blasts case after 14 painfully long years, Iqbal Sadam tells Rishi Majumder just what it means to finally be free

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

Iqbal Sadam, at his home in Navpada, Bandra.

Do you know Dawood or Anees?” M N Singh, Bombay blasts’ investigation chief asked me. When I said no a policeman swung into my ear with a knuckle duster. “How much do you earn?” I said Rs 7000 a month. “Then how come you can afford such nice clothes.” I said if he knew anything about clothes then he’d know that these were just the kind of cheap clothes Rs 7,000 a month would afford someone. Another swing, then another… “Bloody Pakistani.”

“I still have a hearing problem,” finishes Iqbal Sadam. The reason Sadam feels free to say this is because he has today been officially acquitted, along with 23
others, of charges involving the 1993 Bombay Blasts Case. News cameras hounded him as he walked out of the Byculla Court. “What do you feel Iqbal,” said one newsman, facing the camera with his arm around him. “Good,” he answered. The reporter said: “That was Iqbal Sadam, who’s been acquitted today. And he feels good.” “They too have to earn their rozi roti,” says Iqbal sympathetically, as if this is his little charity for our unfortunate lot. “I, in turn have affixed a standard answer as to how I feel today: good.”
Hasan Parve Ki Chawl in Navpada, Bandra, a dilapidated structure with open gutters, houses eight other bomb blasts accused. Sadam is the only one to have been acquitted. “My 17th Roza in 1993 was when they came here to take me away,” says the Std IV pass, able to remember dates only by an association to his religious fast. His fourth Roza in 2006 was when the promise of acquittal was delivered in the TADA court judgment. That having been made official on Wednesday, his name is cleared of all charges nearly 14 years later,
which is the suggested period for life imprisonment.
Arrested for allegedly travelling to Dubai and attending a meeting as part of the blasts conspiracy hatched by Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, Sadam says, “I went there for the first time, to buy clothes, because I have a clothes business. But what I don’t understand is how I was kept in custody for nearly two months without being presented before a magistrate.” This, he claims, was in the Mahim police station, before he was handed over to the crime branch. “Here I saw with my own eyes, a brother being asked to strip before his sister, third degree on ice slabs, men’s moustaches being plucked out, and a man’s feet being split across with his genitals being

stomped on…” Sadam begins to list. A document sent by blasts suspects to the UN called Voices: From The Draconian Dungeons and 47 (unsuccessful) petitions against the investigating team alleged far worse. “Which is my problem with Black Friday. The film didn’t show one instance of what the police actually did!”
Sadam’s mother, 70 years old, lies almost motionless in their 10 by 12 feet room. The room encompasses within the same area, a tiny bathing space and platform for a stove. Shooing a rat away from one corner, he said: “She can’t talk much because she had a heart attack four days ago.” He adds a presumable fact: that her health started declining with his arrest.
His younger brother, Javed Shaikh, emerges from the bath to speak: “Since our father’s death in 1982, he had become our father. So you can imagine what our family went through with his arrest.” Along with his clothes-stall business and his family’s reputation suffering, another obvious toll was on Sadam’s health: “I weighed 102 kilos when they took me in – all muscle. Now
I’m 67 kilos… with this.”
He shows us a medical certificate indicating severe diabetes. Still, Sadam is proud of having gotten his three sisters married. His brothers are waiting for him to tie the knot first. “I was about to have a love marriage,” he shrugs.
“But after my arrest — her father told her he would consume poison if she didn’t break off the engagement.” This was when he was 26. Now, at 40, he may start looking for a bride again: “You see, I couldn’t dream of getting married before this case was decided.” No one, he laughs, wants a bail certificate as dower.
The only decorations in the room are a line from the Kalma and photographs of the Kaaba and a dargah. “I don’t blame God for anything,” Sadam clarifies. “If something is in your naseeb, it will happen.” And Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind who still goes free?
“Dawood bhai is not a god but a human being – he can get caught easily.” Sadam then propounds on the reason Dawood isn’t being caught: “It’s because he holds the secrets of many state and business heads.” Much like Harshad Mehta wasn’t heckled, he continues, because his downfall

would bring to their knees many a government. Sadam smiles here. Despite all he has been through, he displays glimpses of pride on the fact that he’s a survivor. Like when he talks about the way he organised and presented his evidence: “The CBI was trying to tell the court that they’d arrested me in Delhi.” Sadam had been picked up – and released — before his brush with TADA for “extorting chanda for Ganpati”. “While it was outrageous considering I’m a Muslim, the records of that arrest proved my presence in the city,” he boasts. The CBI told him, supposedly, that this was the first time someone had proved them false in this case.
His mother wakes up in the middle of this to mutter out of context: “ Jo sachcha hai, uska hamesha jeet hoga” on her son being discharged of guilt well over a decade since his accusation.
A basic Latin maxim Homo praesumitur bonus donec probetur malus is better known as “One is innocent until proven guilty”. One wonders if it will make sense to her. Perhaps not, but today, post her son’s official exoneration, she too feels “good”.

This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/bfcm

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