The arrest of Syed Zabiuddin Syed Zakiuddin Ansari alias Zabi alias Abu Jundal alias Abu Hamza and subsequent naming as the man behind the 26/11 Mumbai attack has had repercussions in his hometown, Beed — silence. His house in the Muslim locality of Kagzi Darwaza in Hathi Khana stands locked, his parents have left, failing to answer the media’s myriad queries, and the neighbours refused to have even known the 30-year-old.
“He never came home. In the last 6 years, we have not seen him. Even his parents never spoke about him,” Rehana Shaikh, a neighbour stated. “Zabiuddin’s parents are very simple people. His mother is always worried about something, but she never talks about it, and knowing the situation, people have stopped prodding,” Ms. Shaikh said. She said they left the house on Monday morning, after TV channels started airing news of the arrest. Police and journalists continued to crowd the narrow lanes leading up to the house. “People asked us what we know about him. Everyone is scared to say anything, nobody wants to land up in trouble,” she said.
At the Indian Technical Institute, where Zabiuddin trained to become an electrician, the teaching staff said Zabiuddin was a sincere student, something that reflected in his work: he was hired to do the main wiring work in important public offices, including that of the office of the Superintendent of Police.
With his arrest, talk of Beed as a possible breeding ground for terror has arisen again. Mirza Himayat Inayat Baig, arrested in connection with the German bakery Blast in Pune, is said to have been trained by Zabiuddin. Baig, too, hails from the Hathi Khana area in Beed. Baig’s brother, Tareekh Baig, denied having known Zabiuddin. “We have been troubled enough with Himayat. Please don’t ask us questions we have no answers for,” he said.
Thirty kilometres away, at Dhangar Galli in Beed’s Georai district where “Zabi,” as he is known there, spent his childhood with his five sisters, people close to him claim that he was “clean” as long as he was in Georai. “He was a quiet boy, never picked up fights, never even spoke to anyone,” Zabiuddin’s brother-in- law, Ayyub Baagwan, stated. “He always kept to himself, avoiding trouble. We don’t know what changed him after he shifted to Beed,” Mr Bagwan stated.
Aman Qazi, Ansari’s family friend and a local reporter, stated that Zabiuddin’s father suffered a heart attack only few days ago. “When I interviewed him after Zabi’s name cropped up in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case, he categorically stated that if Zabi was found guilty he should be hanged. He urged Zabi to come out in the open and be honest,” Mr. Qazi stated.
Sibgatullah Hoseini, a neighbour, said people of all communities lived together in Dhangar galli. “In his childhood, Zabi witnessed Hindus, Muslims and Jains coming together for all festivals. It is impossible to point out where the quiet galli boy who refused to even swear at anybody became the face of the terror we see on TV today,” Mr. Hoseini said. It is perhaps this question that the investigation agencies will seek to answer.