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'Our relatives are traders not terrorists'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai
August 24, 2006 21:35 IST

"Is keeping beard a sin in this world?" screams Abdul Kadar Kolsawala, 70, on the top of his voice in his two-room apartment at Memon Colony in Jogeshwari, a north-western suburb of Mumbai.

"The terrorists get away all the time but it is only innocent Muslims who are caught," says Kadar.

"It has become difficult to move around with a beard. The police doubt your credentials all the time. My son is innocent and he has nothing to do with terrorism," he adds.

Kolsawala's son Ayub was detained by the Dutch police along with eight friends and two cooks at Schipol airport, Amsterdam, on Wednesday.

He was one of the passengers travelling by a Northwest Airlines flight to Mumbai on Wednesday, which flew back to Amsterdam after the pilot asked for help. The plane was escorted back by F-16 fighters.

"My son had gone with friends in connection with his garment business in Port of Spain in the West Indies," said Kolsawala.

According to him, Ayub must have been seated with his group, which probably raised the suspicions of the cabin crew. "Eleven Muslim passengers sitting together must have made the airline crew uneasy," says Kolsawala.

Ayub Kolsawala and with his group had gone to attend a trade fair and had been in Trinidad for the last 35 days. They go to different trade fairs abroad where they sell garments from India. They have been doing so for the last 10 years and have visited many countries.

"We knew they were on the plane which was grounded but were shocked to see their names in the detained list on television," said Shabana Batliwala, wife of Iqbal Batliwala, a friend of Ayub.

"My husband goes abroad regularly for business trips and he is a trader. He has nothing to do with terrorism. I am shocked that he has been detained," she adds.

Out of the 12 passengers, six are from Memon Colony in Jogeshwari, three from the nearby Behram Baug and three are from South Mumbai.

The entire neighbourhood in this colony of Muslims in Jogeshwari, is shocked to learn that their neighbours have been detained.

The Memons hail from Gujarat and are Sunni Muslims. They are mostly involved in trading or business.

The family members are also upset that no one from the Indian consulate in teh Netherlands or the Mumbai police had bothered to inform them about their relatives' detention.

Farzeen Chotani started crying when she came to know that her husband Shakeel Usman Chotani had been detained.
"My husband travels frequently. He has nothing to do with terrorism. I just hope he is released soon," said Farzeen.
Shakeel last called Farzeen on Monday when he told her about his travel plans to Mumbai.

"I thought he would arrive by Wednesday night. When I came to know that plane was grounded, I thought he would be a delayed by a day or two. Now, I am in shock to know that he is being labelled a terrorist," adds Farzeen.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai