Sohail’s family alleged that during the funeral ceremony, the police kept pestering them to complete the ceremony in 30 minutes. They said despite their requests to remove Sohail’s handcuffs, his hands were not freed during the entire procession.
Sohail’s younger brother Raheel, who works in a fabrication firm, said that their mother died of a heart attack in the wee hours of Wednesday. Later in the day, the Shaikhs informed the court in Mumbai about the death and requested it to send Sohail for the last rites.
“Three years ago our father died. However, at that time, the court did not give permission to Sohail to attend the funeral. But this time the court accepted our plea and Sohail bhai was brought to Pune around 10.45 pm,” Raheel said. “The Mumbai police team which brought Sohail started pestering us to complete the funeral quickly. They told us that the court had granted only half-an-hour’s time. It was practically impossible to perform the funeral in so little time, so we had to request for some extra time as there were several rituals which were necessary.”
Raheel also alleged that the police team had kept Sohail handcuffed throughout the funeral ceremony. “I told the police officers that my brother won’t be running away from the spot as he is innocent, but they did not pay heed to my request. The police team did not allow him to offer namaaz at the masjid, which is mandatory in our religion before the burial, and took him directly to the burial ground,” he said. “As we have been living in the area since our childhood, a large number of relatives and neighbours had gathered to attend the funeral. However, some police personnel reprimanded us that why we had summoned so many people.”
One of the relatives of the Shaikh family said that when the body was brought to the burial ground at Dulha-Dulhan kabrastan, some of the police officials started questioning the gravedigger.
“They were asking him his name and from whom he had procured permission to dig the grave,” the relative said. Not true, say cops Senior Police Inspector Sushma Chavan of the Pune Cantonment police station denied the charges levelled against the police officials. She said that they were there only to maintain law and order as the Mumbai police had instructed them.
“When Sohail was directly taken to the burial ground, some of his relatives and friends came to me and expressed displeasure over not allowing him to offer namaaz at the masjid before the burial. I told them that it is not in our hands to grant permission and asked them to approach the police officer who was heading the Mumbai team,” said Chavan. “As far as large crowd is concerned, nobody from our police station questioned them about the large gathering, as it was expected that people would be coming to attend the funeral.”
A team of the Mumbai police, comprising nine officials, had brought Sohail to his residence at 10.45 pm near Babajaan Dargah in Pune Cantonment from Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai.
Sohail was arrested on July 26, 2006, from his residence and is accused of providing logistical support to the bomb planters, who had executed the July 11 bombings in Mumbai.
Life in shambles
According to Raheel, after Sohail’s arrest, their lives have bee in turmoil. He said that he was fired from 10 different jobs. Raheel, who has two daughters, alleged that the police are responsible for this, as every time he approached a new employer, some of the police officials would threaten the employer against hiring him.
“After Sohai bhai’s arrest, our family has been labelled as a terrorist’s family. I was thrown out of more than 10 jobs, as police used to approach the employer and order the owner not to hire me,” Raheel said. “My younger brother, who is now eligible for marriage, is not getting a suitable bride as every time we approach any family, the police meet them and spoil the matchmaking process. My nephew and Sohail’s son, who is now 21, had applied for a passport. However, his application was rejected by saying that he was the son of a traitor.” Raheel, however, reiterated that his brother is innocent and will be back home soon.