It was eight in the evening. Crime branch vehicles entered Shahpur Halim ni Khadki. It was not new for the residents to see police vehicles come and go. This was a sensitive area. Even if two cyclists collide, it could spiral into a stone pelting incident. In fact even communal tensions could simmer over minor issues like catching kites. Shahpur used to have equal population of Hindus and Muslims, but even though both communities lived together, they were always at conflict. The Hindus used to think that there has been a lot of Muslims around lately, while the Muslims would say that India is not just for the Hindus. During the worst communal riots of 1969, an SRP point was put up right outside Shahpur. Today even after 40 years, the SRP continue to camp there. Just like every colony had that one ruffian or goon leader, whom the police would come to catch frequently, residents of Shahpur were not surprised upon seeing the police cars enter their locality. People came out of their door with curiosity to see who police is going to arrest or detain now. They were simply curious, but not afraid. Inspector Jadeja came out of his vehicle outside Shahpur Halim ni Khadki and asked for Firoz's house at a shop outside the police. A kid came running and led Jadeja to a house inside the pol and shouted "Firoz chacha, police uncle is here" For a few minutes nobody responded. Then a frail man in his sixties came out. But he looked older. His facial expression had turned tense seeing Jadeja and his armed men outside his house. He asked, "Yes sir, what is it?" Jadeja replied with a question "Where is Firoz" A surprised look came on the man's face and he responded in a feeble voice, "Sir I am Firoz" Scanning him from head to toe, Jadeja was looking a bit surprised, as he was planning to get hold of Firoz by his collar and take him to crime branch.
But this was an old man. Just to clear his doubts, Jadeja asked, "Do you have any other house?" The old man went into thoughts. Trying to help him remember, Jadeja added "in Vatva?" Suddenly the man remembered something and said "Yes and pointing towards a direction he continued, "There in Yakubnagar I have a house, but I didn't like it there. So I left and came here in this house to live on rent." Meanwhile an old lady came and stood behind him looking at the policemen. Jadeja was thinking Firoz would be 30-40 year old man but this was an old person. Now Jadeja's tone of conversing too changed. So far he called him by his first name but now he began addressing him as Firoz chacha. "Chacha you will have to come with us to the crime branch, said Jadeja. Firoz had a curious expression on his face. Jadeja clarified our senior wants to talk to you" The lady who was standing behind him came ahead and asked in chaste Gujarati, "Sir, why do you want to take him to crime branch, what happened?" Meanwhile a crowd to gather outside the house watching what was happening in there. Jadeja almost gave out the real reason, but he stopped short seeing the sensitive situation that has arose. He said, "I don't know... Sir needs to talk about something. We'll drop him off in an hour or so" Firoz was wondering on why the crime branch would summon him at this age, "but because this police officer seems to be very loyal to his senior, he won’t budge until I come" He told his wife, why are you worrying. I am not some terrorist, sir might need to know something and that's why I am being summoned" He wore his slippers and slowly got outside his house. The policemen looked at each other in surprise when Firoz uttered the phrase, "I am not some terrorist"
Jadeja lent a helping hand to Firoz as he was getting out of his house. When he held his hand, Jadeja felt that this man cannot be a terrorist, his hand feels like that of a person who has worked hard all his life. Jadeja didn't learn all this in police school, but spending so many years as a cop, catching so many criminals and thrashing them. His gut feeling this time said that this frail old man might not have anything to do with this blasts. In fact, he was hoping this man would have no connections to the blasts. It was probably Jadeja's humane side that was giving such thoughts to him right now. He took Firoz towards his car slowly. He opened the door of his vehicle and made Firoz sit and he went on and sat on the other side of the car next to him. Everyone were watching them with curiosity on why would police take Firoz chacha away, he is a man of good nature and god-fearing too. Never spoke to anyone in rage or high pitch. Firoz had come to live in this locality about four-five years ago. Even the policemen had several questions looming in their head as they took Firoz away to crime branch. Firoz had an unknown fear in him as he was taking Allah's name in his mind frequently. He was praying that he has suffered all his life and now he has no energy left to suffer more. He was praying this should not be a fresh trouble for him.
This is the thirty-second part of the serialized novel Deewal-The Story of Sabarmati Jailbreak Attempt by Prashant Dayal, the editor of MeraNews.com