Exhaustion is etched deep into her face and her eyes droop from the fatigue. It has been a manic, bewildering and exciting week for Anita Uddaiya, 47.
A key witness in the Mumbai terror case – she was one of the first people who saw six of the terrorists land on the evening of November 26 – Uddaiya mysteriously disappeared on Sunday morning, leading her daughter to file a missing person complaint, only to reappear in the early hours of Wednesday, equally mysteriously.
In an interview to this newspaper on Tuesday, Uddaiya’s daughter had said that American investigators had taken her mother to the US, a claim that was rubbished by the Mumbai Crime Branch which further said that Uddaiya was not even a leading witness in the terror case.
Upon her return to Mumbai, Uddaiya was stunned to find a posse of policemen at her Machchimaar Colony home and a larger gaggle of mediapersons waiting to hear her story. In panic, she told the policemen that she had just gone to Satara to visit her relatives, and she evaded the media by leaving home for a day-long pilgrimage to Jeevdaani at Virar.
But finding that Crime Branch was questioning her credentials as a witness, Uddaiya decided to come clean. In an exhaustive interview to this newspaper, conducted over three sessions through Wednesday, she spoke about her mysterious disappearance. “I did not disappear. I had informed my husband. There were some foreigners who had been in touch with me from November 27. They heard my story, about how I saw those boys come in, they met me at least thrice before telling me that they would like to take me abroad for a day or so. I trusted them, I wanted to help them, so I said ok. I did not go to Satara, I went to America. I told the police I went to Satara because I panicked.”
Uddaiya is an illiterate woman, she cannot specify details, there are many holes in her narrative, and she has no papers to prove her claim.
She is also an extremely sharp, observant woman and there are things she says which lead us to give credence to her story.
If true, this is a a sensational story of a covert intelligence operation, if false, she is one heck of a story teller. You decide.