Dangerous Minds by Hussain Zaidi and Brijesh Singh – An Excerpt

Dangerous Minds delves into the complex and intricate lives of some of the most talked-about terrorists of the country. What drove them to such violent designs? What were their compulsions? Can a human being be so ruthless and heartless, and why?

Hussain Zaidi and Brijesh Singh explore the lives, early beginnings, careers and sudden transformations of such persons into merchants of death in this book.
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The police had managed to arrest the accused, but the mastermind Nasir was still at large. The entire city police force was hunting for the absconding Nasir. On 12 September, a police team received a tip-off that he was likely to visit Dadar with an aide. The unverifiable story that was later narrated was that Nasir came in a blue Maruti 800 along with an aide. The police officers claim they asked him to surrender and, like all criminals who are destined to be killed in an encounter, Nasir refused to pay heed to the warnings. According to a press release, the police were left with no choice and opened fire on the accused. Nasir and his aide were fatally injured. At KEM Hospital, both were declared dead on arrival.

That left Zahid Patni. Savdhe had been making the rounds of his Mira Road residence, asking the family to persuade the son to return and cooperate in the investigation. It was not clear whether it were the police’s threats of implicating the entire family in the case or Zahid’s own conscience, but he did return to the city. Evidence recorded in the Mumbai POTA court stated that Zahid began to feel guilty after he saw the massacre at Gateway and Zaveri Bazaar. He had not anticipated so much bloodshed. Restless, he went to the local Masjid in Dubai and confessed his crime to a priest by the name of Mufti Jaafar Sahab. The priest told him it was a sin to kill innocent people. An apparently remorseful Zahid then decided to surrender to the Mumbai Police. He returned on 1 October.

Zahid decided to turn into an approver and testify against the others.

The Mumbai Police’s investigation of the twin blasts failed to answer some important questions. For instance, how could Nasir procure such a massive quantity of explosives so easily? How, despite working in Dubai along with Hanif and Zahid, was he an expert bomb-maker? If Nasir was based in Mumbai and his family was in Hyderabad, why have they remained untraceable? In fact Nasir was too much of a conundrum for the investigators. Ultimately, Zahid’s interrogation and subsequent investigations threw light on hitherto fuzzy details.

Nasir was actually a top confidant of the notorious terrorist Riyaz Bhatkal. Together, they had formed a large network of terrorists and volunteers in the country. It was secretly called the ‘R-N Gang’, R for Riyaz and N for Nasir. The duo had formulated the preposterous formula of committing robberies to fund bombings. They justified the act of robbery, considered a cardinal sin necessitating the amputation of hands according to sharia law, by terming it Maal-e-Ghanimat (the spoils of war), thus making robbery booty eligible for utilization in jihad. Nasir’s actual name was Abdur Rehman and he had told Zahid that he had been to Pakistan frequently, where he was trained in making bombs and explosives. Nasir had also shown him a credit card from Citibank Pakistan and also his various covers that he used for his multiple identities.

It was through Dubai-based Pakistanis that Zahid was exhorted to join the Lashkar-e-Taiba in August 2000 after which he was introduced to Nasir. The conspiracy meetings were held among Pakistanis and Indians like Nasir, Hanif and Zahid. The Pakistanis who were members of Lashkar urged them not to live in Dubai but to move back to India and spread terror through bomb blasts.

Judge M.R. Puranik, who presided over the trials for over six years, finally passed a judgement in the case on 6 August 2009. He observed: ‘. . . not awarding death penalty to accused no 1, 2 and 3 will be mockery of justice . . . they did not do the acts out of emotional outburst but their act was well-planned and pre-designed  . . . they have shown total disregard for human lives by enjoying the act of killing innocent persons.’

About Fahmida, Judge Puranik noted, ‘.  . . participation of accused no. 3 [Fahmida] in causing the bomb blast was not the result of her helplessness on account of dominance of her husband but it was her well-designed action with free will. Since the accused persons are bloodthirsty, therefore there is no scope for their reformation and rehabilitation.’

‘They shall be hanged by the neck till they are dead.’

As required by law, the trial court referred the matter to the Bombay High Court for confirmation of the death penalty. Three years after the conviction by the trial court, on 10 February 2012, the Bombay High Court upheld the verdict on all counts.

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