Book Review: A seminal novel

“The most difficult task an innocent man can face in life is to convince the world that he hasn't committed the crime he has been wrongly accused of.”

—Albert Camus, The Reflections on the Guillotine

While reading Mohammad Sultan Sayyed’s Death to one, life to another, Camus’ observation flashed through my mind and I tried to empathise with Sultan Sayyed and vicariously experienced the ordeal he went through for a crime he didn't commit.

Before reviewing the book, it’ll be in the fitness of things to state that nearly a decade ago, western crime reporters and investigative journos coined a word ‘Factofile’. This latest genre is based on facts and findings stated in a matter-of-fact way.

On March 12, 1993, India’s financial capital was shaken like a sodawater-bottle by a series of bomb-blasts that claimed innumerable lives and blackened the image of an entire community. Mohammed Sultan Sayyed, a former Superintendent of Customs, unfortunately belongs to that hapless community.

He was arrested and put behind the bars. How he intrepidly fought and proved his innocence is chronicled in this book which is a Magna Carta of judicial sections, facts, references and records.

The book also raises serious questions and doubts regarding the integrity and transparency of our government agencies, viz, judiciary, police force and law. Sayyed’s heavy tome reveals how he and many other individuals from his community were wrongly detained, tortured and false confessions were wrested out of them.

This is indeed chilling and blood-curdling. December 6, 1992 is an epochal date in the post-independent history of India. On that fateful day, Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was demolished by miscreants. The bloody events culminated on March 12, 1993 when serial bomb-blasts shook and shattered Bombay.

Sayyed was framed and implicated in the ghastly and insidious conspiracies and dismissed by the President of India because of his so-called involvement. But hats off to his courage, he almost single-handedly fought against the system and pleaded not guilty.

The main takeaway for the readers is to develop an impartial attitude towards a community that has been more sinned against than sinning.