11/7 Mumbai train blasts verdict: The room where death was assembled
Yesterday, when 12 of the 13 arrested accused in the July 11, 2006, blasts case were convicted, mid-day revisited the 10X10 shanty in Shivaji Nagar, Govandi, where the terrorists assembled death. The pressure cooker bombs that were assembled in the hutment on July 10, 2006, went on to kill 188 people and injured 829.
The hutment would later prove to be a key piece in the puzzle as the police began to unravel the blast conspiracy. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The hutment itself would later prove to be a key piece in the puzzle as the police began to unravel the conspiracy behind the blast. It also gave the police vital evidence in the form of residue from the bomb-making process.
After the successful arrest of 13 accused involved in the blast conspiracy, the then Commissioner of Police A N Roy, while briefing the press, had claimed that the accused had bought pressure cookers which were filled with 2 kg of RDX and 3.5 kg of ammonium nitrate to a create a lethal concoction and the whole assembling process had taken place in Mohammad Ali Alam Shaikh’s Shivaji Nagar residence.
Roy had said that that after the bombs were ready, they were transported to Faisal Shaikh’s one-room tenement in the upmarket Perry Cross Road in Bandra. In 2006, the hutment in Govandi had provided vital clues to the investigators as the cops had collected residue from the bomb-making process from this 10X10 room that had later matched the residue from the explosions, collected from the blast sites.
‘How did they fit?’
The room is currently home to Alam’s wife and their 20-year-old son Sohail, who is pursuing engineering. As per the investigators, the bombs were assembled in this room and at least eight people had been engaged in the task inside the hutment.
When this reporter went to the hutment yesterday, however, he saw that the room only had a bed and a rinsing area and no more than four people can sit in the room at any given time. “If a guest comes to visit in any house in the area, everybody comes to know about them.
But, in this case, the cops claim that more than eight people had come and made bombs inside Shaikh’s residence, which is next to impossible as the room is very small and can hardly accommodate four people,” said a neighbour.
On September 29, 2006, Shaikh was arrested from his Shivaji Nagar residence and, since then, the lives of the family members have changed drastically. “He was the sole earner in the family and even the money to get an advocate was given by people staying in the locality,” said Shaikh’s son Sohail.
The mother-son duo has been been surviving on monetary help provided by relatives and friends. Sohail, who was 11 when his father was arrested, was born and brought up in the same room. Commenting on the allegation that Shaikh was an LeT operator and had visited Pakistan to get training, Sohail said, “I never asked my father whether he was involved in the bomb blasts because I know that he would never do something like this.
I know he is innocent and we will be appealing in a higher court and will try and seek justice for my father, who has been falsely implicated in the case.” Asked whether he was present in the hutment in July 2006 when the bombs were allegedly assembled, he said, “My father would go for his work and come home as usual but nobody from outside had come and made bombs inside our residence. I used to be at home all the time”.
He alleged that the cops would come week in and week out and question him and his mother. “But, after we filed a petition in the Sessions Court, the cops stopped coming to our residence and harassing us,” he added.
Neighbours said they remember Shaikh as a kind man and that they find it hard to believe that he would be involved in something like bomb blasts. “Shaikh was a kind-hearted man. He would sell pearl jewellery in the area and I don’t think he would do something like this,” said a neighbour. Shaikh’s nephew Ubed Shaikh, who lives in the area, said, “My uncle is innocent and the cops are falsely implicating him in the bomb blasts case.”
He died from his own bomb
According to an investigation officer, while planting bombs in trains, the 16 planters started their journey from Churchgate station and, after placing seven bombs in trains, all of them, but one, got off the trains at various stations before Dadar.
The chargesheet states that the planter, Salim, who did not get off was a Pakistani and he died in one of the blasts. “The bomber who died was not aware of the layout of the suburban network and did not know where to get off.
He also did not know how to deal with the crowds in Mumbai’s locals and could not manage to get down from the train. He eventually died from the explosion of the bomb that he himself had planted,” said an investigating officer.