A stunned courtroom looked on as a former employee of Best Bakery today pointed out seven of the accused present in court as being part of the mob that had burnt down the bakery in Vadodara during the post-Godhra riots, killing 14 people.
‘‘Mere saamne aayenge to pehchaan loonga (If they are brought before me, I will recognise them),’’ a nervous Taufel Sheikh had told the court. And he did just that, identifying Sanjay Thakkar, Ravi Chauhan, Dinesh Rajbhar, Jeetu Chauhan, Sanabhai Baria, Kamlesh Tadvi and Suresh Vasava.
Sheikh, who worked at the bakery for two years making biscuits and is still nursing injuries suffered in the attack, was deposing for the second consecutive day before the special court conducting a retrial into the case on the Supreme Court’s orders. Sheikh had not been summoned by the prosecution during the trial in Gujarat.
Yesterday, in response to queries from the prosecutor and after a word of assurance from the judge, Sheikh had hesitantly recounted the sequence of events leading up to the attack on the bakery.
Today, when special prosecutor Manjula Rao asked him if he could recognise any of the persons involved in the attack, he said there were some familiar faces, some of them he knew well.
‘‘Are they in court?’’ asked Rao. ‘‘Naam nahin maloom, par saamne aayenge to pehchhan loonga (I don’t know their names, but if I see them, I would recognise them,’’ he replied.
Sheikh showed signs of fear throughout the deposition, and was reluctant when Rao requested him to walk up to a stand on the far side where the 17 accused were seated, in order to identify them.
Judge Abhay Thipsay then intervened to say that the accused should be lined up before the witness so that Sheikh could get a better view without having to go up to where they were seated.
The 17 men were brought out of the dock and lined up.
Sheikh then said he would prefer to identify the men from the witness box.
After the judge assured him that he ‘‘needn’t be afraid’’, Sheikh, escorted by two plainclothes policemen, walked up to where they were standing and picked out seven of them.
Later, returning to the stand, Sheikh described the role played by each of them.
While three of them, Rajbhar, Jeetu Chauhan and Vasava, were part of the mob that attacked the bakery on the night of March 1, Sheikh said, the rest were part of the group that returned the next morning.
On the morning of March 2, he said, a mob converged on the scene and asked the survivors huddled on the bakery’s terrace to come down. ‘‘They swore they wouldn’t harm us,’’ said Sheikh. When the survivors came down, he said, their hands and feet were tied and they were attacked with torches. It was the arrival of the police just then that saved their lives, Sheikh stated.
The witness then showed the judge the injuries he had sustained, on his head, chest and legs. These included burn injuries on his face and legs and wounds from swords on his torso.