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Zahira’s sister-in-law identifies 11 accused

Wednesday 17 November 2004

By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, NOV. 16. The fourth eyewitness in the Best Bakery case, Yasmin Sheikh, today identified 11 accused present in court as being part of the mob that attacked the bakery on March 1, 2002. She named all except one of them, at the re-trial of the case, which resumed here after the Diwali break.

Yasmin is the sister-in-law of Zahira Sheikh, the main eyewitness in the case. Yasmin confidently pointed out to the accused among the 17 who were lined up. Earlier, she explained the role each one had played during the riots. She also named four persons not present in court — Jayanti Chaiwala, Mafat, Munna and Rinku — who are yet to be arrested.

Yasmin was married to Zaheera’s brother, Nafitullah, in November 2000 and was living at the bakery since then. She has a daughter. Her husband has since left her and remarried.

At the end of the day, Yasmin told the Additional Sessions Judge, Abhay Thipsay, that her sister Shehnaz, who lives in Kavant in Chota Udepur, was threatened over the phone. The callers asked for Yasmin’s whereabouts and threatened to kidnap Shehnaz if she did not cooperate. Yasmin submitted that her sister was alone and very scared.

Mr. Thipsay then ordered that wireless and telegraphic messages be sent to inform the Director-General of Police, Gujarat, and the Superintendent of Police of Chota Udepur district to extend necessary protection to Yasmin’s sister.

Mob violence

Yasmin said she was present when a mob of 1200-1500 attacked the bakery on March 1, 2002, shouting, "Kill the Muslims." She was on the first floor of the house adjacent to the bakery and she saw her husband’s uncle, Kauser Ali, and another person, Lulla, pleading with the rioters who assaulted them with swords. She, along with other people, moved to the terrace of the house. She saw Kausar and Lulla being taken to the first floor below by the workers. However, later, she also saw their bodies being thrown into the fire below by the mob. She said that Sanjay Thakker (whom she identified in the court), Jayanti Chaiwala and Painter were leading the mob.

She said the mob threw stones, bottles and bulbs while she, along with some workers, Zaheera and others from the family, were on the terrace all night. They were allowed to come down in the morning after they pleaded with the rioters to let them go. However, after they came down by wooden ladders, one of the accused, Dinesh Rajbhar was there with a sword, and another, Sanabhai Baria, tied up their hands and legs.

"Two other accused, Jitu and Jagdish, were threatening to rape us and they were deciding on who will take turns doing this. One more accused, Ravi Rajaram Chauhan, snatched the chain from my neck," she recalled.

She also said she knew where the accused lived. Two more men, Mafat and Munna, were involved in planning how they would rape the women. She said the other accused, Rinku, who is Jayanti Chaiwala’s son, Harish and Pankaj were setting fire to the bakery. She and her four-month-old daughter were injured, apart from Zaheera, who was hurt on her forehead.

The mob had also set fire to the bakery and the neighbour’s house, apart from a timber godown and some vehicles — two tempos, one motorcycle and a scooter. Yasmin went to her native place in Chota Udepur district in Gujarat after the riots but she came back last year to live in the house next to the bakery. She was not called for the trial of the case at Baroda.

In the cross-examination, defence counsel Adik Shirodkar pointed out that in her first statement to the police on March 4, 2004, Yasmin had not named any of the accused. The defence said that police had recorded her statement twice after that last year and called on the prosecution to present these documents in court. Manjula Rao, the Special Public Prosecutor, said these two statements had nothing to do with the case as the investigating officer said he had not filed any supplementary statement or chargesheet after June 6, 2002. Yasmin’s cross-examination will continue tomorrow.

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