2003 Mumbai bomb blasts accused Saquib Nachan freed after 24 years

Updated: Nov 23, 2017, 19:07 IST | Faisal Tandel

A TADA case in the early 90s, 2002-03 bomb blasts and the murder of an advocate a few years ago - these were the cases that followed close on the heels of one another to keep Borivli resident Saquib Nachan incarcerated for a total of 24 years

A TADA case in the early 90s, 2002-03 bomb blasts and the murder of an advocate a few years ago - these were the cases that followed close on the heels of one another to keep Borivli resident Saquib Nachan incarcerated for a total of 24 years. Yesterday, he walked out of Thane Central Jail at the age of 57 a free man, having fought the 11 cases slapped against him on his own from behind bars and securing an acquittal in seven of them. He was convicted in two (both possession of arms) and two (one of them the murder) are pending in the Bombay High Court.

Respected in his neighbourhood in the Borivli-Padgha twin villages, where the majority population is Konkani, and known to be a helpful person, almost all of his neighbours and others from the locality turned up at his residence to greet him last afternoon. Even as relatives and well-wishers poured in, it was a tearful reunion for Nachan with his family - wife, two sons, their wives and children, and a daughter.

Superintendent of Police, Thane Central Jail, Nitin Vayachal confirmed that Nachan was released at 10.30 pm on Wednesday. Recalling the days leading up to his arrest in 2003, Nachan said, "Had the plan of Mumbai's top encounter specialists worked, I would have been killed in a fake one in 2003 itself. I thank god that they couldn't carry out their unholy designs."

Saquib Nachan
Saquib Nachan

The foiled encounter
Nachan said he remembered March 27, 2003, as if it were yesterday. He was sitting with his grandson after returning home post evening prayers when the six officers - Pradeep Sharma, Daya Nayak, Sachin Vaze, Sanjeev Gawade and PSI Vichare - stormed in and dragged him out. "Hearing the commotion, neighbours started gathering to find out what the matter was. Seeing the crowd increasing, they let me go and left without answering my question of why and for what they had planned to take me away," he added. "The 24 years I spent behind bars, my family has suffered a lot. My son was implicated in a MCOCA case. He was studying to become an engineer."
When questioned if he thought he would be free someday, Nachan said, "I was sure of it. I knew my appeal would stand in HC.
"Faith in the Almighty is what kept me going; the thought that I needed to go back to my family… Jise taqdir par aur Allah par barosa hai, he will always be fine," he added.

Nachan spent from 1992 to 2001 in jail in the TADA case. After his release in that the 2003 alleged encounter bid happened, shortly after which he was named accused in the Ghatkopar blast and the three blasts that happened in succession - at the McDonald's outlet at Mumbai Central station, in Vile Parle East and onboard a Karjat-bound local at Mulund station. While he was discharged in the Ghatkopar blast case in 2004 for lack of evidence, he failed to secure a release in the other one. Vindication came only last year, when he was acquitted in the serial blasts case. He was kept behind bars until now in another arms possession case; he was released after his term's completion.

Work behind bars
Even inside jail, Nachan was a busy man - he would start his day early with morning prayers, and read the Quran and other IPC books through the rest of the day. "I would pray a total of five times throughout a day. Besides books, I would also spend hours studying my case papers to prepare a better case for myself in court," said Nachan, who represented himself and helped the other inmates in their legal matters. "Jail officers themselves would send the other prisoners who needed help with their bail applications or other petitions to me." When asked about the reports that he never interacted with others inside for fear of an attack, Nachan said, "I was kept in the anda cell for a large part of my incarceration. There was no opportunity to interact with others. It wasn't by choice."

Nachan added that his conviction was illegal and that the "oppressive" system had framed him in the cases slapped against him.

Future plans
His locality, he said, has been unnecessarily given a bad name of youngsters being involved in terror activities. "It's not like that. Youngsters in my village are either engineers or businessmen. The only thing that niggles the police is that they are very religious, which is not wrong. Islam is a religion of peace and that's what we follow," said Nachan, adding, that he now plans to get his business back on track as well as go over his cases and prepare his side for the pending ones.

The case
Alleged to be a SIMI operative, Saquib Nachan was jailed for the triple blasts that shook Mumbai between December 2002 and March 2003 - three bombs had gone off, one in the McDonald's outlet at Mumbai Central station, one in Vile Parle East, and the third onboard a Karjat-bound local at Mulund station. Nine other arrested were convicted and three, including Nachan, were acquitted by the POTA court in March 2016.

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