After labeling their mother a murderer, sons in India now fighting to save her

S. N. M. Abdi
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Sheikh Morsalem and Sheikh Mainuddin were minors when they testified before a judge against their mother who was accused of murdering her husband. But today, the life mission of the brothers in their mid-20s, is to get Murshida Bibi released from a prison in Kolkata, capital of India’s West Bengal state, and bring her home.

“We were tutored by our relatives, particularly my deceased father’s brothers, to lie during the trial resulting in her conviction”, say Mainuddin, 25, Morsalem, 27,who are fighting tooth and nail to ensure Murshida Bibi walks free as soon as possible.


“Our mother is suffering from terminal lung cancer which has reduced her to a bag of bones. The doctors have informed us that her days are numbered. We are filled with guilt and remorse when we meet her in jail.”

“Even if she forgives us because she loves us unconditionally as we are her sons, God won’t pardon us unless we secure her release. Her last wish is to die at home – and our redemption lies in somehow getting her wish fulfilled.”

Stabbed to death

Murshida Bibi’s husband, Sheikh Ilyas, a tailor by profession, was stabbed to death one night in January 2003 in Howrah on the outskirts of Kolkata. Morsalem and Mainuddin say that the prime accused, Sheikh Altabur Ali, killed their father for refusing to sell the tailoring shop to him.

But Ilyas’s brothers, who intensely disliked Murshida Bibi because Ilyas had married her against the family’s wish, told the police that she was having an affair with Ali and had conspired in the murder. They brainwashed Morsalem and Mainuddin, who were then minors, into lying before the judge who gave her a life sentence in 2007.

Ali too was arrested but he hired a good lawyer who got him released on bail. On the other hand, there was no one to take up Murshida Bibi’s cause until her sons grew up and realized how they had been misled into destroying their mother’s life by their tutored deposition.

Tutored deposition

“The truth is that our mother had nothing to do with our father’s murder. The killer had tied her up with a rope before killing him. She is innocent but was framed with our help when we were children”, said Morsalem.

There is a ray of hope because under West Bengal’s laws a life sentence can be reviewed by a high-powered board of prison and police officials after a convict spends 12 years behind bars. Moreover, the Jail Manual empowers the government to grant freedom to convicts suffering from terminal diseases like cancer so that that they can die in peace after spending their final days with near and dear ones.

The brothers have petitioned West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathy, Jail Minister Abani Joardar and High Court judges to come to Murshida Bibi’s aid.

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