Why no one in Beed knows Zabiuddin
Suspected Indian link to the 26/11 Mumbai carnage Syed Zabiuddin's family in Beed, Maharashtra, ostracised by its own people, is trying to come to terms with their son being labeled a terror mastermind. rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore travelled to Beed in an attempt to unravel the terror trail. This is the second in a three-part series.
A frail woman in her late 60s answers the knock on Syed Zabiuddin Syed Zakiuddin's home in Beed's Hathi Khana mohalla (locality), where people of various communities live cheek-by-jowl across narrow lanes.
"Is this Syed Zabiuddin's house?" you ask. She nods.
"Can I speak to Syed Zakiuddin, Zabiuddin's father?"
"He's not at home now and even when he will be home, he won't talk to you (the media)," answers the lady hidden behind a half-closed door. She dashes every effort to strike a conversation that would help this correspondent talk to Zabiuddin's father.
Ever since their son's name emerged as one of the top accused in the Aurangabad arms haul case, Syed Zabiuddin's (that's what the most wanted fugitive's -- wanted by India's top intelligence agencies in Mumbai 26/11 case -- real name is) family has been hiding from people from their own community as well as the cops and the media.
"Why don't you people understand the trauma that the family is going through? Why are you making these old people pay for the sins of their son?" asks Shahbaz, a young lad in his mid teens, who stays right opposite Zabiuddin's house.
"The old man and his wife are already feeling let down by what their son has allegedly done and don't even talk to people in the neighbourhood lest they be branded as a terrorist's parents," Shahbaz says angrily about the ordeal of his old neighbours.
"What do you want to hear from him now? Please let the family leave in peace," he pleads. "Hadn't he made himself clear in his last TV interview in 2006 that his son should be hanged if found guilty?"
Unlike Shahbaz, not many of his neighbours with whom rediff.com spoke, spelled out anything on the matter, lest they be harassed by the police. Some even cast aspersions that Zabiuddin must be sending them money for the family's upkeep.
"We hardly see Zabiuddin's mother and two sisters in the locality," said a grocery shop owner, who lives just 15 feet from their house, refusing to reveal his name for this story.
Syed Zakiuddin's family consists of five sisters and one son, who the neighbours claimed, had not been seen in the locality since 2005. Shahbaz fails to remember how Zabiuddin looked like because, says he, he was only 10 then.
While three of his sisters are married (one who was married in Aurangabad was divorced after Zabiuddin's name emerged in the Aurangabad arms case) his two sisters, one an MSc and the other one a BSc graduate, stay with their parents. Nobody has any information if they are employed or not.
Image: Syed Zabiuddin's home (in pink with closed doors and windows) in Beed's Hathi Khana area; Shahbaz's house (red stripes) opposite Zabiuddin's house
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore
'We don't know any Syed Zabiuddin'
It is this lack of information about the family's source of income that made one neighbour allege that Zabiuddin must be sending them money from wherever he is. "We guess that their son must be looking after them financially. After all, it is claimed that family of those who join the terrorists' ranks are looked after well by them," he said.
No wonder the family feels like outcasts in their own backyard trying to keep their social interaction with the neighbours to the minimum. "What's the point in talking to such neighbours who disown you because one of the family members has been alleged to be a terrorist," says Shahbaz in defense of the family.
It seemed like Shahbaz was the only one who is supporting the family emotionally in their hour of crisis. Trying to scuttle too many questions from this correspondent, he said that Zabiuddin's father visits the house only once or twice in a month. When told that Zabiuddin's mother said that he was staying there but was not willing to talk to the media, he still stuck to his point: "He comes here only once or twice in a month, as he travels between Gevrai and Beed."
Not many people in Gevrai, near the famous Swami Narayan temple where the Syed family lived till 2000 (some say they moved to Beed in 1995) happen to know much about Zabiuddin.
Zabiuddin's family still have their ancestral home in Gevrai, a small but prosperous town, 35 kilometres from Beed on the Aurangabad-Beed National Highway 211.
"We saw his father in Gevrai about ten days back," said a neighbour requesting anonymity. "I don't know much about Zabiuddin or his father as they left Gevrai 10 years back," said another.
The fear of being hounded by the police to ferret more about Zabiuddin and not wanting to get bracketed with a family that has added the 'terrorist's family' tag to itself, were some of the reasons offered by the neighbours for not wanting to speak on record.
This is perhaps the reason why most of the people whom rediff.com spoke to, asked, "Kaun, Syed Zabiuddin? Kaun hai woh?" (Who, Syed Zabiuddin? We don't know any Syed Zabiuddin!"), in an attempt to disassociate themselves from the family or the 'misdeeds' of their son.
Ironically, it is not only the neighbours who have turned their back on the family. Even Zabiuddin's mother wants to stave off unwanted attention.
"Please go back. We have nothing to say. We don't know which Zabiuddin you are talking about," she says, as she sadly slams the door.
Image: Beed's Bal Bhim College, where Syed Zabiuddin studied in Class XI and XII.
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore