“Jealousy and religious differences” led Ayaz Saiyed – the lone accused-turned-approver in the July 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case – to testify against the co-accused, said three of the 38 convicts awarded death sentence.
In their deposition before the court, while three convicts have explicitly mentioned Ayaz’s “hostile” behaviour towards them, the rest have denied the approver’s testimony.
Accused number 4, Ahmedabad native Shamshuddin Shahabuddin Shaikh, who was handed a death sentence, had told the court that Ayaz, who was later identified as Prosecution Witness 1141, had named him only “out of sheer personal enmity and jealousy, which he nurtured… since our police custody”.
Shaikh also told the court that the two belonged to different sects of Islam as Ayaz was a Sunni Barelvi and Shaikh was not. “He (Ayaz) was Sunni Barelvi who believes in fateha and dargah, while I am Sunni non-Barelvi who does not believe in it; these differences further increased his hatred and enmity towards me. In November 2018, on Eid Miladun Nabi, he offered me some sweets of fateha that I kindly declined. This led to a big verbal quarrel between us during which he threatened me.”
Shaikh also narrated an incident when the two were in DCB custody in November 2008, when the police officers allegedly “instructed” them “to submit whatever amount we possessed for tea”. While Shaikh handed over all the money he had to the officers, complying with the orders, Ayaz retained some money and faced the consequence. “The officer was so enraged he slapped him hard, scolding and abusing him, and at the same time, praising me for following the instruction.”
In addition to the religious differences, Ayaz turned bitter over the years due to Shaikh’s academic achievements, which the former could not match to. “During our eleven years stay in Sabarmati Prison, for most of the period, we were lodged in the same barrack… He came to know about my command over English. We used to play carom board, volleyball, etc, and also participated in the Gandhi Vichar Exam organised by Navjivan Trust. I used to beat him in every field — sports or academics, which increased his jealousy,” Shaikh said.
“Whatever he has said in his deposition about me is false, untrue and fabricated, and added in such a way so it could corroborate deposition of other witnesses, which too, was tutored by DCB officers,” Shaikh said, adding, Ayaz “vented out his prolonged hatred” through the “false and exaggerated deposition”.
Another convict on death row, Mohammad Arif Iqbal Kagzi, also described two incidents to support the claim about Ayaz’s “grudge” against him.
Kagzi said that when the accused were lodged in Barrack Chota Chakkar, Ayaz would tease undertrials pursuing courses from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) about getting a television into the jail and watching it in “high volume” to trouble them. Kagzi tried to convince him against doing so. “But he became angry and abused me. He said no one can stop him from doing what is his choice. Incidentally, the jail authorities did not provide television to us in our barrack for security reasons… Ayaz assumed that it was because of me.”
In another incident, when Ayaz’s father chastised him after Kagzi communicated to a relative that he was not willing to sign the applications made jointly by the accused to the court, Ayaz, told Kagzi that he would “follow his choice irrespective of the results.”
“On May 3, 2019, Ayaz deposed as a witness and narrated false and fake stories after 10 years… because he has a grudge against me. During these years of our judicial custody, he assumed that he will not ever be free from jail; so, he became the approver,” Kagzi told the court.
Interestingly, Qayyammudin Kapadia, a death row convict from Vadodara and one of the prime accused in the conspiracy, whose deposition has been partially barred from publication by the court, had in a written statement to the court detailed his “chats with Ayaz” before he turned approver, the order noted. Kapadia told the court that officials of the Crime Branch as well as ATS Head Constable Gopal Sharma allegedly threatened and tried to lure the accused to turn approvers.
“Ayaz turned approver following the coercion, threat, and enticement by the police… Before he turned approver, his chats (with Qayyamuddin) have been submitted to the court in detail,” Kapadia said.
Initially, Ayaz was accused of allegedly planting bombs in bicycles and AMTS buses in the Naroda area of Ahmedabad city. The bus blew up near Sarkhej. Arrested on September 4, 2008, Ayaz was later declared “innocent” by the court.