Coimbatore: Fakrudeen Ali Ahmed, the February 1998 Coimbatore blasts convict, was 16 when he became a terrorist.
His target that year was BJP Leader LK Advani, who had come to Coimbatore for a political meeting.
Fakrudeen missed his target but other members of his group did not. They triggered 12 blasts across the city killing 58 people and injuring 250.
They said that they avenged the communal riots that took place three months ago in November 1997.
Fakrudeen literally grew up in prison serving his sentence for 11 years. Today, he says, he is a different man, repentant that he ever took up arms.
''I deeply regret the blasts. I have realised that we ought to have avenged the riots in court. We should not have retaliated with violence. The law offered many provisions for minorities. We should have used them to get justice,'' said Fakrudeen.
Fakrudeen is among nine of the 53 convicts released early by the DMK government for good conduct.
The Coimbatore blasts was the first major terror attack in South India. It a was awake-up call that the South was not an oasis of communal calm.
Coimbatore had become a hotbed for moblisation by groups like Hindu Munnani and al-Ummah, said to be behind the 1998 blasts.
The victims' families are deeply hurt that DMK has pardoned these convicts as a goodwill gesture to coincide with the birth centenary of DMK founder C N Annadurai.
They call it vote bank politics. Families of victims are not happy and don't want to talk on camera.
Is this early release of the convicts a healing touch or an issue that would lead to more friction?