“I do not know how to explain to my parents what happened to my elder brother, or to his wife who is eight months pregnant, or even his two-year-old daughter,” says a teary-eyed Shakeel, the younger brother of suspected Indian Mujahideen operative Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, who was found murdered under mysterious circumstances in Pune's Yerwada Central Jail on Friday.

“Ever since the Delhi police arrested him last November, I had been consoling them in the belief that the court will eventually decide his fate, that we will get justice, and that he will be out of prison one day. Today when my brother is no more, my parents in Darbhanga village in Bihar are frantically trying to contact me. But I do not have the courage to attend their calls. What will I tell them?” asked Shakeel.

Shakeel said no one from the jail administration or the Maharashtra police had initially informed the family that Qateel had been killed. “We came to know about it around noon through media reports. Shocked, we contacted the Delhi Police Special Cell officials seeking confirmation. They initially expressed ignorance, but later confirmed that the information was correct. They asked us to contact the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad or the Pune jail authorities. We kept calling them, but it was only in the evening that they responded asking who would come to claim the body,” he said.

Qateel was arrested with some other alleged members of an Indian Mujahideen module for their suspected role in the Delhi's Jama Masjid shooting, Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts and Pune's German Bakery blast.

“The Delhi police had shown his arrest near the Anand Vihar bus terminal, three days after they picked him up from Paharganj in November last year. He was tortured while in police custody. His wife Fatima had once informed the court about the treatment meted out to him by the police,” said Shakeel.

Fibbed on whereabouts

Qateel's relatives alleged that they were never informed about his exact whereabouts. “His wife met him at Tihar Jail for the last time before he was taken to Bangalore. Then we learnt that he had been shifted to the Pune jail. We made several requests to the police officers to let us talk to him and it was about a month ago that he talked to his wife for a few minutes over the phone,” said Shakeel.

A couple of days ago, Shakeel again tried to contact his brother and was told by an officer that he was in Mumbai and that the family would come to know about him in two-three days. “It seems all this while my brother was lodged in Pune jail. Media reports suggest that he was strangled with a pyjama string, which is shocking. The circumstances in which he was killed smackof a well-planned conspiracy to eliminate my brother,” alleged Shakeel.

Demanding that the post-mortem be conducted by a board of doctors, Akhlaq Ahmad of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights said an independent investigation should be conducted to unearth the truth behind Qateel's murder. “We also urge the court to take suo motu cognisance and initiate an independent probe. The family should be given compensation and the government should also make arrangements for sending Qateel's body to his village,” he said.

Expressing his inability to travel all the way to Pune at such short notice, given that he has to take care of the entire family, Shakeel said: “I will contact a cousin who stays in Maharashtra to do the needful. What we want now is that the body be brought to our village where my parents and two younger sisters live. Although my brother was himself pursuing his studies, he also planned to fund my education and financially support the family. All hopes are now lost.”