In Sanjay's shoes, minus star support

Mumbai, March 25: Zaibunisa Anwar Kazi has a lot in common with fellow Bandra resident and actor Sanjay Dutt.

She has been sentenced to five years in the Bombay blast case for possessing weapons like AK-56 rifles and directed by the Supreme Court to surrender in four weeks and serve out the remainder of the term.

Like Sanjay's, her family is now a little unsure how to go about securing a pardon or remittance but has not given up hope.

But that's where the similarities end. Kazi is a 70-year-old homemaker with a kidney tumour whose daughter wonders how she will survive if sent back to jail at her age for another four years and four months.

Unlike the Bollywood actor who has celebrities and political heavyweights queuing to express support for him, Kazi has no one to speak for her except a daughter who is chary even of revealing her identity.

"It would have been different if she had to serve the sentence when she was 50 (that is, immediately after the blasts and her arrest). A tumour was detected in her kidney two years ago and requires regular screening every six months," said the daughter who spoke to The Telegraph away from her home to avoid disturbing or further traumatising her mother.

"How will she survive in prison at her age without being taken care of? The trial has taken a long time.... Hasn't she suffered for 20 years with the sword of imprisonment hanging over her head?"

The daughter, who didn't reveal her profession or address in Bandra, spoke of the family's disappointment at last week's Supreme Court verdict.

"We were hoping for an acquittal. I told my mother about the sentence on Thursday and she has been trying to come to terms with having to go to prison now," she said.

Kazi was one of two women whose conviction was confirmed by the Supreme Court on Thursday. Unlike Sanjay, who was freed of Tada charges and convicted under Arms Act provisions, Kazi has been convicted under Tada.

She spent four months in jail in 1993 and another four months after the 2007 trial court verdict before obtaining bail each time.

Kazi had been charged with storing AK-56 rifles and bullets as well as hand grenades brought to her home in 1993 by gangster and co-accused Abu Salem and Manzoor Ahmed Sayed Ahmed at the instance of fugitive accused Anees Ibrahim.

She was convicted on the basis of Ahmed's confession that he and Salem had handed over a bag containing the munitions to a middle-aged woman who opened the bag, saw its contents, closed it and took it inside the house. The watchman of Kazi's building then identified her in court as a resident.

The conspiracy charges against her were dismissed, though. "My mother did not go to school and has always been a homebound woman. She wouldn't have known the people she was accused of conspiring with," the daughter said.

She added that she was in her early 20s when her mother was taken to a police station for questioning after the blasts and returned only after four months.

"My mother knew Abu Salem as he worked as a real estate agent in our locality. I remember the police had come to inquire whether she knew Salem and she said he was an acquaintance," said the daughter, the third among five sisters.

Kazi and her husband had separated a few years before her arrest. By then their two eldest daughters were married. The youngest two have married since then but the daughter who spoke to this newspaper said she had chosen to remain single to stay by her mother's side through the legal battle.

"The case affected not only my personal life but my personality too. I lost the best years of my life but I wanted to be there for my mother," she said.

"I have been scared at every step, living constantly with fear. Now I am trying to come to terms with the possibility of having to live without my mother. More than that, I cannot imagine her in prison. I shall request Justice Markandey Katju to look into this case too."

Justice Katju, a former Supreme Court judge who now heads the Press Council of India, has openly appealed for mercy for Sanjay.

The daughter said the family had not formally approached the governor or any other authority seeking a pardon for Kazi. Senior counsel Sushil Kumar, who represented Kazi in court, said no decision had yet been taken on what legal course to follow next.