Dayanand Patil’s case is a sad commentary on the state of Indian terror investigators who let preconceived notions and assumptions guide the probe than the evidence at hand. A year after the serial low-intensity blasts on Jangli Maharaj Road, Atikh Rashid travels to Basavkalyan in Karnataka looking for Patil, the humble tailor and the only person injured in the blasts, who spent two months in police custody as a “prime suspect” before being let off.
THE blasts on Jangli Maharaj Road were said to be of low intensity, but they were strong enough to devastate the life of the sole injured – Dayanand Patil (32), a tailor who worked at a shop about 200 metres from the blast sites. A year after the August 1 incident, shockwaves of the blasts are still felt at Patil’s house in Kohinoor village in Bidar district of Karnataka, around 420 km from Pune.
The old stone-built one room house, which the five occupants fear can crumble any moment in this year’s strong monsoons, stands testimony to the family’s hardships. According to Janabai Patil (70) Dayanand’s mother, the blasts for which Dayanand was initially blamed — not only ruined his reputation but also rendered him unemployable, thus worsening the financial situation of the poor family dependent on farming for survival.
A year ago, Patil (32), who worked as tailor at a local dye-cleaning shop and stayed at Uruli Kanchan in city outskirts, had shot to infamy after eye-witnesses of the serial blasts on Jangli Maharaj Road claimed that one of the bombs had gone off in a bag carried by Patil. The “possession of the bomb” had led to local police and the anti-terrorism squad seeing him as the prime suspect in the blast conspiracy.
Later, the investigators exonerated Patil and booked four other persons who were arrested by Delhi Police for the planning and execution of the blasts. ATS charge-sheet in the case names Patil as a witness. Police would later reveal that Patil who had initially maintained that he had picked up the bag “mistakenly” told them later that the polythene bag, lying unclaimed at the protest site, contained a cake box and he had picked it hoping to take it home to surprise for his three-year-old daughter.
For two years before the incident, Patil stayed in a one room tenement in Mhetre Chawl in Uruli Kanchan – about 40 kms from his workplace on Shirole Road, with his wife Satyakala, daughter Kirti and niece Deepali. He would take a train from Uruli to Shivajinagar and then walk to reach h reach Namrata Laundry where he would do ‘rafoo and alter’ jobs for clothes that came for washing and ironing.
Patil was detained by the police immediately after the blasts and a couple of teams would swoop down Mhetre Chawl in Uruli looking for evidence. They would pick up Satyakala for inquiries, leaving behind Kirti and Dipali with neighbours. (She was dropped back home a day later) After two weeks of active interrogation, ATS claimed that Patil was let go. But he wouldn’t reach home for much longer.
“He was with the police for a total of two months, while all kinds of false stories were circulated about his role in the blasts,” Jijabai Patil, Dayanand’s mother tells The Indian Express, a year later. As per Jijabai, during her son’s two-month detention by police, he was kept at a lodge near Gunjan Theatre in Yerawada.
“For around a month, we had no clue about his whereabouts. After a month of detention Dayanand demanded that the police allow him to meet his family once. It was then that an ATS team came to our village and took me, his father, wife and brother to the lodge,” said Jijabai.
Post-Diwali, ATS men dropped him home and told them that he was not responsible for the blasts.
“For months he refused to step out of the house for fear that people would taunt him over his terror links. We advised him to visit our relative’s houses. But people knew about it everywhere. He would stay at home and refused to talk,” says Jijabai.
According to his cousin Venkat Patil, Dayanand sat idle for two months but the family could not afford it. “We sent him to Basavakalyan to find work. However, his newfound notoriety made sure that nobody offered him a good job. He did some petty work but couldn’t earn to sustain the family. This went on for six-seven months. About a month ago, his Mumbai-based sister invited him there to find a job,” said his mother.
Patil’s family refused to share his Mumbai address or contact details of the sister with whom he was staying. The family also requested Express not to contact Patil as it “would disturb him and may also jeopardise his employment”.
‘Worshipping an Islamic saint, having Muslim friends’
According to Patil’s family, during the early stages of the investigation, the police and anti-terrorism squad suspected that Patil was a Muslim convert “and hence” could have had possibly played a role in the low-intensity blasts, led to harassment at the hands of the police and media and remains a stigma which the family still struggles to come out of.
According to Patil’s family, there were several ill-fated co-incidents which led police suspect Dayanand’s role in the blast during initial stages of investigation including –apart from picking up the bag with the bomb – recovery of a passport which showed that Patil had visited Jordan for nine months a few years ago, that almost all persons he was close to were Muslims hailing from Karnataka—home state of notorious terror operatives Bhatkal brothers– and that a before and after the incidents Patil he had received several calls from his Muslim friends.
Ramzan Shaikh, one of the friends who stayed in the same chawl, told the Express that he was picked up by the police the same night. He had called Patil at 8 pm, the time when bombs were going off on Jangli Maharaj Road. “Although both of us come from Karnataka, I got to know Patil only after we got acquainted in Pune. We used to take the Daund Passenger of 8.05 pm daily to return to Uruli after work. If anyone of us got late he used to call others to check if the train has left the railway station. That day I was getting late so I called Patil on his phone. It seems this raised suspicion and the Police detained me. I had nothing to hide so I told them everything,” said Ramzan.
According to Dayanand’s mother Jijabai, one thing which triggered the “conversion theory” was a discovery made by doctors who performed a medical check-up on him soon after he was admitted to Sassoon Hospital for the burns injuries he had received from the explosion.
“After he was dropped back home by the police, he told us what had triggered the speculations of his conversion. He said during his medical examination at the hospital soon after the blasts the doctors had noticed his circumcised genitalia which raised police’s suspicion especially in the light of the Muslim company he kept. His explanation that it was ‘natural’ did not satisfy the police. And it’s one explanation we have given to hundred times to the police team and the media personnel.”
From the family’s description, it appears that Patil had a rare congenital abnormality called Aposthia in which the thin skin that covers the penis – the prepuce – is missing.
The family had to provide clarifications for several others things, such as the fact that why they, A Hindu family, worshipped a Muslim saint.
Venkat Patil, Dayanand’s cousin and a teacher, said, “This was another question which came our way repeatedly: Why we being Hindus worship a Muslim saint? People would overlook the fact that Madar Sahab was our village deity and that every family in the village worshiped him. That no new work started without taking his blessings. But all the coincident: Dayanand’s visit to Jordan, his Muslim company and circumcision coupled with the possession of the bomb bag led police and others believe that he was a Muslim convert with possible terror links. We had to clarify it over and over.”
As per Venkat, despite the Dayanand’s eventual exoneration, the family still continues to struggle with the the shadow of ‘converted Muslim with terror links’ story.
“In the villages the social stigma develops very quickly. When the blast occurred these speculations were making rounds and were being broadcasted through TV and newspapers. Police teams carried out searches at our houses and interrogated the relatives. This amount Dayanand got for planting the bombs. They even linked with the Bhatkal brothers taking since they were also from Karnataka. Because of all this, when Dayanand returned home after spending two months with the police he would refuse to step out of the door. The embarrassment was overhelming. Even today nobody in the Basavakalyan Taluka is ready to employ him and hence he had to go to Mumbai to look for a job,’’ added Venkat Patil.
Another thing the family finds difficult to comprehend is the media behaviour. They said that when his name cropped up immediately after the blasts scores of media men rushed their house taking sound bytes on ‘possible reasons for his act’, however when his name was “cleared” by police months later none of them showed up.
“All we wanted them to tell the people that Dayanand was innocent. So that our neighbours and relatives would have believed that we were not involved in any wrong doings,” said Venkat.
According to the neighbours, the financial situation of the household was so bad that his comparatively well-to-do in-laws took away his wife and daughter Kirti a few months ago. Satyakala has been staying with her brother Ramesh Wadekar in Wadarga village.
“It was difficult for me to stay in that house. I came here so that Kirti could go to kindergarten,” said Satyakala.
Dayanand Patil and his family is only one of the hundreds who have been condemned to live a life of social exlusion and stigma after being picked up for terror charges by police and anti-terrorism agencies of the state. The agencies sometimes do not charge the individuals they pick up, sometimes they are charged but acquitted by courts, however the loss to the reputation suffered by these individuals is never compensated.