Acquitted by court in blast case, Maqbool reunited with family

Srinagar: When Mohammad Maqbool Shah, a 15-year-old, left home for a fortnight-long vacation in Delhi, he could never have imagined that he would see his family again after 14 years -- spent in a jail as accused in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast case.

Acquitted by a Delhi court, Maqbool has finally been reunited with his family but the grief of losing his father and sister while he was away has overshadowed the joy of regaining freedom.

On reaching his home at Lal Bazar here yesterday, Maqbool went straight to the family graveyard, hugged the graves of his sister and father and wept. His brother Syed Hassan Shah introduced him to his children and other members of the family who were born when he was away.

Holding sister Hadeesa's son in his lap, Maqbool was again in tears while his brothers tried to console him.

Maqbool's father Syed Mohammad Shah died a year after his arrest in 1996. In 2005, his sister Hadeesa Bano insisted on seeing her brother. The 24-year-old died within months of meeting him in jail.

Maqbool was 15 years when he was picked up by Delhi police in connection with the Lajpat Nagar blast. He was kept in juvenile jail of Tihar for first two years and later lodged in the main jail.

Dilawar Shah, another brother of Maqbool, said that he was the only person who would regularly visit Delhi to see his brother. But after some time, they could not meet the expenses.

The family closed down its business in Delhi. The police had seized all their documents including their bill books, he said.

Along with Maqbool, Latief Ahmad, who is among the four Kashmiris to be acquited in the case, also returned home.

However, for Mohammad Shafi Khan, a resident of Nowpora in old city whose son Farooq Ahmad is among six persons convicted in case, the nightmare continues.

When they could not reach Farooq on phone, Khan recalls that they were under the impression that he had reached Dubai, where he was planning to set up a crapet showroom.

"However, the family was shocked when they saw the photograph of Farooq in a magazine captioned 'one of the key accused in Lajpat Nagar bomb blast on May 21, 1996 that killed 13 persons and left 38 injured".

Living in a dilapidated house, Khan said his son Farooq left for Delhi 14 years ago in connection with his business and later proceeded to Nepal.

However, Farooq had to return to Delhi in connection with his business where the special cell of Delhi police arrested him, Khan said.

Khan still claims that his son had no connection with any militant outfit.

He was the sole bread earner of the family and in his absence the entire family is starving, he said.

A Delhi court had on April 8 convicted six out of ten suspected militants of Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front in the case and will hear arguments on quantum of punishment tomorrow.