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Current Affairs

The Terror,The Threat, the Twist

The terror. The threat. The twist

Rana Ayyub examines the phenomenon of the Indian Mujahideen

Rana Ayyub        

July 30, 2011,


THE INDIAN Mujahideen are both a grave threat and a complex puzzle for this country. As recently as June-end, the Gujarat Police released the interrogation report of one of IM’s key operatives, Danish Riyaz, 29, a software engineer from Ranchi. The Crime Branch had arrested him on 22 June at Vadodara railway station aboard the Secunderabad-Rajkot Express after a tip-off. He was accused of sheltering Abdul Subhan Qureshi in Ranchi, allegedly a mastermind of the Delhi and Ahmedabad blasts of 2008. Under interrogation, (TEHELKA has a copy of this report) Riyaz said that at the moment, the organisation was lying low as most of its operatives were in jails across various parts of the country. He also maintained that with the few number of operatives left , it was a difficult task for the IM to operate in the country and generate any funds. However if news reports appearing on TV channels are to be believed , then Riyaz has now told investigators post the Mumbai blasts that many key IM members who had managed to flee India after the 2008 Batla House encounter were now in touch with the Taliban and were receiving training in Saudi Arabia and across Pakistan. A surprising variation from his earlier statement of the IM being on a backfoot.

“At this point, Riyaz has not said anything with which we can link him to the Mumbai blasts. But yes, what we found during interrogation gives a sense of how people are recruited and the modus operandi. I don’t think that he can be directly blamed at this time,” Ahmedabad Police Commissioner Sudhir Sinha told TEHELKA.

Mansoor , Subhan, most of the IM operatives are intelligent, suave, articulate, the kind of executive one sees in MNCs. In fact, Hemant Karkare, the slain ATS chief who made the first arrests of IM operatives after a string of bomb blasts across the country in 2008, was so perplexed by their profile that he had told this reporter, “What does one make of these men? Look at their backgrounds. Their academic excellence can put one to shame.”

The story of the Indian Mujahideen is both a riddle and a demystifier for the security establishment. Riddle because most of its recruits don’t fit the description of a typical madrassa-educated jihadi who subscribes to the obscurantist Wahabi or Salafi school of Islamic thought. Nor do they come from extremely impoverished and socially backward backgrounds, one in which the unemployed Muslim youth, often brought up in large and poor families, get lured by the quick bucks of the ISI agents looking for easy recruits.

Most of the IM operatives arrested in 2008 were not overtly religious and had been educated at regular public or convent schools. In fact, until they joined the IM, a majority of the suspects had almost no leaning towards Islamic learning and thoughts. Even after joining the IM, the burning desire to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Babri Masjid demolition, and not the pan global ideology of jihad, had been their main driving force.

Atif Ameen, the IM operative who was killed in the Batla House encounter and who was one of the founding members of the outfit, had a girlfriend. A day before the encounter, 12 IM operatives had assembled at the Batla House apartment and had pizza and Coke for dinner. Almost all of them were active on social networking sites, mainly scouring for new girlfriends. Their Twitter and Facebook accounts later proved to be an important source of information for the sleuths.

    Most of the IM suspects don’t fit the description of a typical madrassaeducated jihadi who subscribes to the Wahabi or Salafi school of radical thought

A spate of dreadful terror strikes between 2005-08, starting with the 2005 Delhi Diwali blasts and ending with the 2008 Delhi serial blasts, were carried out by a motley crew of college students, software engineers, mechanics, doctors, educationists and small-time criminals. After every blast, all of them used to return to their routine work — students back to colleges, professionals back to their salaried jobs and businessmen back to trading in commodities.

Their only glue was their alienation from the Indian society and disaffection towards government agencies, largely due to some real and some imagined complicity of the State in the anti-Muslim riots.

The counter-terrorism agencies in India had been trained to look for clues of blasts in the chitter-chatter of phone and email communication between Kashmiri militants and their handlers in Pakistan, in the telephone intercepts of ISI agents talking to their operatives in Dhaka and Nepal and in the interrogation reports of Pakistani or Bangladeshi infiltrators arrested from the borders.

Pakistan and the terror outfits operating from there were at the centre of all our counter-terrorism efforts. Though on and off, some of their Indian accomplices were also identified and arrested, the latter mostly performed the role of coolies or couriers for small monetary considerations. Or in the case of the 2006 Mumbai serial blasts, a few old members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were wrongfully arraigned along with seven unidentified and ficticious Pakistani nationals. The SIMI members were accused by the Maharashtra Police of providing logistical support to the unnamed Pakistani terrorists.

But the unravelling of the Indian Mujahideen in 2008 changed the narrative of Islamist terrorism in India. The Batla House encounter came as a rude awakening to the hard reality of homegrown Islamist terrorism for the law enforcement agencies.

Capital target: Police examine the debris at Delhi’s Barakhamba Road after the September 2008 serial blasts

Capital target Police examine the debris at Delhi’s Barakhamba Road after the September 2008 serial blasts, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

The boys who formed the core of this terror outfit did have some financial and logistical support from the ISI in Pakistan, but they were not the handmaiden of any foreign terror outfit or agency, being remote-controlled from across the border. The logistical and theological ties with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the ISI were incidental and tactical but not essential to their existence.

And because this new generation of jihadis had no previous criminal records (unlike the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts accused) or known radical Islamic leanings (like the office-bearers of SIMI), they managed to operate under the radar even as Indian agencies kept groping in the dark.

Bangladesh-based HuJI and Pakistan’s LeT were the primary suspects after every terror strike in India. And often when there was no Pakistani or Bangladeshi national to catch or kill in an encounter, the local SIMI activists were made the fall guy.

    The burning desire to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Babri Masjid demolition, and not the pan global ideology of jihad, had been their driving force

At least three major terror cases — the 2005 Diwali blasts, the 2006 Varanasi blasts and the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts — were wrongly attributed by the Indian agencies. In the Diwali blasts, Kashmiri militants were held accused, in the Varanasi blasts a Muslim cleric with known connection to HuJI was held as the main accused. While in the 7/11 blasts, some former SIMI members were accused by the agencies. Later, investigations revealed that the Indian Mujahideen was behind all these blasts.

GRAPPLING TO make sense of this new phenomenon, at a press conference to announce the arrests of the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts accused, then Gujarat Police Commissioner PC Pande had said rather superficially: “You remove S and I from SIMI and it becomes IM.”

But the IM and its foundation, much like its founders, is a product of complex communal configurations.

The genesis of the IM dates back roughly to the same time that the Hindu right-wing terror outfit Abhinav Bharat was formed. Hate is the trigger. While Abhinav Bharat wanted a Hindu Rashtra, the IM, going by its mails, wanted to avenge the atrocities against Indian Muslims.

Its founder was Aamir Raza Khan, alleged to be close to the Jaish-e- Mohammed (an organisation known for its operations across PoK and in Nepal). His brother Asif joined hands with Aftab Ansari, a small-time crook, to carry out various kidnappings, including the famous case of businessman Bhaskar Parekh’s son and that of Kolkata businessman Partho Roy Burman in 2000. A CBI report mentions that one-fourth of the Rs 4 crore ransom money was given to Mohammad Atta via Mullah Omar to carry out the 9/11 terror attacks and a part of the money was used in the Parliament attacks.

Stress proves fatal

Afzal Usmani was already in jail in Ahmedabad on suspicion of being an IM operative. His brother Faiz died of brain haemorrhage after he was picked up in the Mumbai blasts case

EVER SINCE investigations into the Mumbai blasts case began, there has been talk of a strong Gujarat connection. Generally, this is because most of the traders at Zaveri Bazaar are of Gujarati origin. This theory gained ground after crude bombs were found at a locality in Ahmedabad, which the Gujarat Police hailed as an important development — much like what it did post the 2008 Gujarat blasts. After the blasts in 2006, too, crude bombs were found at Surat and other places in the state.

Those in the know dismiss this development as being significantly linked to the Mumbai blasts, just as they dismiss the involvement of 42- year-old Faiz Usmani, the elder brother of Afzal Usmani, who is behind bars in Ahmedabad on suspicion of being an IM member.

Interestingly, the Mumbai ATS had just days before the blasts arrested two suspected IM members Mohammed Mobin Abdul Shakoor Khan alias Irfan, 32, and his cousin Ayub Raja Amin Shaikh, 28, for allegedly providing logistical help to Afzal Usmani in the Gujarat blasts of 2006.

Faiz, who was picked up by the Maharashtra ATS after the 13 July Mumbai blasts on grounds of being a conduit for his brothers Afzal and Riyaz Bhatkal, had been making frequent trips to Ahmedabad ever since his brother was arrested. When TEHELKA met him in an Ahmedabad court, Afzal said his brother had only been coming to Ahmedabad to bail him out, quite a plausible explanation.

But the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested Faiz and interrogated him. He was brought to the hospital unconscious and died after attempts to revive him in the ICU failed. The provisional post-mortem report (pending chemical analysis) says that the cause of death appears to be brain haemorrhage.

His family has demanded a investigation, saying that it believes he died due to torture by the police to extract a ‘confession’ about having played a role in the blasts or some knowledge of the plot.

Ruheda, his wife and mother of six children, believes that her husband died because he was hung upside during interrogation and hence the brain haemorrhage. An inquiry has been initiated by the CID into the death and also to ascertain if whether his arrest was a mistake by the state ATS.

His arrest has created the same kind of furore amongst the community as post the arrest of Samad Bhatkal and earlier Danish Riaz (a journalist, earlier arrested for being an accomplice in the Mumbai 7/11 train blasts). Both were released by the police after it was found that the arrest was a case of mistaken identity.

No wonder, the minority community is watching investigations into the case with great consternation, fearing arbitrary arrests in the wake of the blasts, especially what it considers face-saving exercises by the police to show that it is making progress.

A high-ranking Ahmedabad Police official, who played a key role in the encounter killing of Asif Raza Khan in Rajkot in 2002, feels it is possible that Mullah Omar, Aftab Ansari and Asif knew each other, but the money trail seems dubious. They were incarcerated in the same cell at Tihar jail during 1996-2000. While Khan was arrested for the possession of RDX, Ansari was held in a murder case and Omar in an abduction case.

It was to avenge his brother’s death that Aamir Raza and Aftab Ansari carried out the firing on the American Centre in Kolkata on 22 January 2002, believed to be the first attack carried out by the IM. Although the organisation did not claim responsibility, two groups rang up newspaper offices — one claiming to be from Bangladesh’s Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) and the other from the Asif Raza Commandos — a front for the LeT said to have been formed by Aamir Raza before he fled to Pakistan. Aftab Ansari, a law graduate from Benares Hindu University, is married to a Pakistani national and is alleged to have strong links with the underworld. He was arrested after he escaped to Dubai for the shootout at the American Centre and has been in custody in Kolkata since 2002. He had, in fact, boasted about his role in the attack.

Snuffed out : Atif Ameen, one of the IM’s founder members, was killed in the 2008 Batla House encounter

Snuffed out Atif Ameen, one of the IM’s founder members, was killed in the 2008 Batla House encounter, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

He is known to have worked closely for HuJI in India and has been responsible for operations in both India and Nepal. It is from this landmark year, 2002, that Aamir is said to have begun interacting with former SIMI members, as per the confessions of two of the accused, Sadiq Israr and Ansar Ahmed Basha, both residents of Cheeta camp in Turbhe, a Mumbai suburb dominated by Muslims from South India. But who introduced these SIMI members to Aamir Raza and how did the Indian Mujahideen then come into being? It is here, the agencies say, begins an important link. Intelligence agencies say it was the Shahbandari brothers Riyaz and Iqbal, now infamous as the Bhatkal brothers because they hail from a sleepy town in Karnataka with same name, who introduced Aamir to SIMI, an organisation that many Muslims turned to post the 1993 Mumbai riots. The brothers are being projected as the key faces of the IM.

Riyaz, a charmer, would tell friends that he was ashamed SIMI was so ‘spineless’, while SIMI office-bearers at Kurla disapproved of what they called his brainwashing of other boys. Iqbal, a bully who stammered, was unpopular in the Kurla bylanes and in the famous Manish market of Mumbai were he would sell perfumes. The Bhatkal brothers, whose father was in business, were not very pious. “They were your regular jeans-clad boys, no beards, not punctilious with prayers. In fact, they hardly had anything to do with religion,” adds one of their friends.

By 2003, the agencies say, the Bhatkal brothers had come in contact with most of the IM operatives. They were angry at the Jamaat-e-Islami, the parent organisation of SIMI, for not being more radical. They wanted to put up posters across Muslim hubs asking the brotherhood to come together. They were also angry that the perpetrators of the Gujarat riots were allowed to go scot-free. Soon an action plan was chalked out. Sadiq Shaikh (the prime accused in the Mumbai train blasts case of 2006, then behind bars and now absconding) and Abdul Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer were asked to identify boys from predominantly Muslim areas in Hyderabad, Azamgarh, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. A desire for revenge for the Babri Masjid demolition and the Gujarat carnage became a common cause.

The year 2007 was when the blasts started, a goal the IM — which no one had heard of before — had been working towards. The chargesheets say Atif Ameen and his Azamgarh module were responsible for providing manpower, Sadiq Shaikh did the liaison work, Iqbal Bhatkal looked after the media cell and Riyaz Bhatkal arranged bomb components and explosives. Brigades were formed: the Sahabuddin brigade to conduct strikes in the south, the Mohd Gaznavi brigade in the north and Shaheed al-Zarqaavi brigade to target VVIPs. Going by the confession statements of the accused and official papers submitted by a collective of Delhi Police Special Cell, Mumbai ATS, Jaipur SIT and the Andhra Pradesh Octopus, these are the statistics: More than 215 people have been killed in the blasts blamed on the IM, including the Lumbini Park and the Gokul Chaat Bhandar blasts in Hyderabad (25 August 2007); the blasts in Uttar Pradesh courts (20 November 2007), Jaipur blasts (13 May 2008); Bengaluru blasts (25 July 2008); Gujarat blasts (26 July 2008) and the Delhi blasts of September 2008. Since then, across the country, close to 65 arrests have been made and the accused chargesheeted.

Unusual Suspects

Yasin Bhatkal, 40

Yasin was identified by his brother Samad alias Mohammad Zaraar as the man with the cap and sling bag seen in the CCTV footage obtained after the German Bakery blasts in Pune. Yasin has been absconding ever since, and is rumoured to be based out of Karachi and Dubai. The ATS said it had arrested Samad in a case of mistaken identity but some officials maintain they had actually taken Samad into custody to get some leads.

Subhan Qureshi, 36

A student of industrial electronics, Qureshi was one of the most intelligent students at the Bharatiya Vidyapeeth technical institute, Mumbai, from where he obtained his degree. His brother works at a senior position in one of the most prominent PR firms in Mumbai. Starting out at Radical Solutions, a software company in upmarket Mumbai, Qureshi graduated to other organisations of repute. His friends believe that the soft- spoken, articulate man took part in the last official SIMI meeting in 2001, after which he resigned from his job, saying he wanted to dedicate his life to religion and spirituality. One fine day, he disappeared, leaving his family, wife and daughter behind. Qureshi is still absconding.

Mansoor Peerbhoy, 31

Slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare once remarked that Mansoor Peerbhoy was one of the most well-read and polished men he had come across. His residence was in an upmarket Pune locality, and he was one of the brainiest software engineers at the website Yahoo. His elder brother is a chest specialist in the UK while another is a wellknown architect. The family house is in one of Pune’s most cosmopolitan areas and his wife is a practising homeopath. After joining the Quran Foundation, he was allegedly persuaded to help the IM. He was responsible for sending terror mails by hacking the wi-fi accounts of unsuspecting targets, including US citizen Kenneth Haywood.

Sadiq Shaikh, 31

An alleged mastermind of the IM, Shaikh was arrested after a tip-off from a SIMI member. Originally from Sarai Meer in Azamgarh, Sadiq’s family runs a poultry business in Mankhurd, a ghetto for Muslims from south India. Police arrested him for the 2006 Mumbai train blasts but was acquitted by the Bombay High Court of those charges. He is now in custody of the Ahmedabad Police, where he awaits trial in the Gujarat blasts case in which he has been termed as a conspirator. His family, however, says that it can provide evidence that Shaikh was at his office at CMS Solutions, Mankhurd, the day the Gujarat blasts took place.

Absconders still run close to 50, with about 1,000 witnesses testifying. The modus operandi was similar: ammonium nitrate and cellphone alarms were used in all the blasts. This, too, was the case in the recent Mumbai blasts. But the emails were missing. Right after the other blasts, a mail would be sent by hacking into wi-fi accounts of unsuspecting residents, saying: “We the Indian Mujahideen take responsibility for the attacks. This is our answer to the brutal arrests and injustice by the police in the country.”

TWO YEARS ago, TEHELKA’s cover story (Chilling Confession, 8 August 2009) showed how the star witness in the Gujarat blasts case — on the basis of whose confessions the police arrested 22 people — backtracked. The witness (his name was concealed to protect his identity) said that most of the arrested were innocent, and the blasts were the handiwork of young Muslim boys who had come from outside. TEHELKA had in its investigation also ventured into the Sabarmati Jail and spoken to the accused, including the ever-changing ‘masterminds’ in the case. It was then that we raised questions on how, if the intelligence agencies were keeping a surveillance on former SIMI members, they could have managed to carry out the blasts.

Off the rails: SIMI operatives were blamed for the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, later attributed to the IM

Off the rails  SIMI operatives were blamed for the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, later attributed to the IM, Photo: Deepak Salvi

The same question can be raised now. The Mumbai Police had taken into custody two alleged IM operatives. One of them, Faiz Usmani, died in police custody last week (see box). Agencies interrogating him maintained that he was a conduit for his brother Iqbal Usmani, now behind bars for the Ahmedabad blasts, and Riyaz Bhatkal. If he was indeed part of the conspiracy, why was there no prior intelligence? Sadiq Shaikh too is in custody and his interactions should have led them to others. If Danish Riyaz, touted to be liaising with the Taliban and his Pakistan handlers, was arrested by the Gujarat Police last month, why was no intelligence gathered from him? During 5-18 June, the Madhya Pradesh ATS arrested 18 IM members. So if the activities of all former SIMI members and their regroupings are being monitored, how come no clues were picked up?

When TEHELKA travelled across three states in 2009 to get a perspective on the IM from the agencies and those arrested, it did not seem that there was any SIMI connection. The alleged members were all freshers, religious youngsters in their early 20s and 30s. In Pune, most of those involved were a part of the Quran Foundation; in Surat, it was the Khidmat group. In Delhi, it was Atif Ameen’s close-knit friends circle. In Andhra Pradesh, it was a group called Sarani, formed by a group of tech-savvy Muslim boys.

There did not seem to be any money flowing in or any financial lure — only a desire to fight atrocities against Muslims. Babri Masjid, Chechnya, Palestine were the touchstones. The youngsters had not personally suffered but empathised with those who had. For instance, the anonymous star witness who spoke to TEHELKA said he was traumatised by the bloodbath at Dani Limda, an area that saw the worst possible communal riots in the 2002 Gujarat carnage. Mansoor Peerbhoy, according to a friend at his company Yahoo, was an art lover, one of the smartest software executives he had ever known.

    If IM operative Danish Riyaz, said to be liaising with his Pakistani handlers, was arrested by the Gujarat Police in June, why was no intel gathered from him?

It does appear that those arrested are either at the bottom rung of the IM hierarchy or have been arrested for merely sheltering the accused. Key players — Riyaz, Yasin and Iqbal Bhatkal, Aamir Raza Khan, Alamzeb Afridi and Subhan Qureshi — are absconding. So is Atif Ameen, not yet absolved in the Delhi blasts. Qureshi was in fact in Gujarat a month before the blasts in Ahmedabad, a fact that has been proven by the statements of the accused and the witnesses. Yet he was not caught. If the Halol camp near Vadodara was indeed a meeting of former SIMI members and others like Qayamuddin Kapadia, then what was the state Intelligence Bureau doing? Gujarat Police have named 49 accused as being involved in the blasts in the state. Each police station is investigating the cases in its jurisdiction individually instead of clubbing them together. The names of five alleged masterminds have been publicised one after the other, but it is not clear on what basis. They are Abu Bashar Siddiqui, Subhan Qureshi, Sajid Mansuri, Yunus Mansuri and Mufti Haleem. Take Abu Bashar Siddiqui, a madrassa teacher from Bina Para town in Azamgarh, who was probably inducted by Subhan Qureshi.

Qureshi’s family, including his sister and ailing father, have been tortured, if the family is to be believed. His brother Noman Qureshi, an educated individual working for a respectable firm, says the family has not heard from him since he left home. “Our scars are still fresh… we have endured so much that I do not want to talk about it. My father is ailing,” he says.

Siddiqui has been spending time in jails of many states after his arrest, while his family and social justice organisations questioned the way he was arrested. His brother Abu Zafar said, “My brother was picked up… or rather dragged from our village on 14 August 2010. The entire village will vouch for that. But here the offcials are saying that he was arrested on the 16th from Lucknow. They have started the case with a lie.”

Terror trail: More than 50 people were killed in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, claimed by the IM

Terror trail More than 50 people were killed in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, claimed by the IM, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

ANOTHER IM ‘mastermind’ named in the past, Sadiq Shaikh, 40, was said to be behind the Mumbai train blasts and also acted as recruiter and conspirator in the Delhi and the Gujarat blasts.

Ironically, the Maharashtra ATS, which had till then maintained that the IM was not involved in the train blasts, found itself caught on the wrong foot when a video was released to a news channel in 2009 by the Gujarat Police. It showed Shaikh saying that he had carried out the train blasts at the instance of the IM. Maharashtra ATS did some damage control by saying that Shaikh was indeed the man responsible for the train blasts but had done so at the behest of HuJI. It was this contradiction that led the Mumbai High Court to acquit Shaikh in the train blasts case. But Shaikh is still behind bars in Ahmedabad, now for the Gujarat and Delhi blasts. In short, the police of these two adjoining states, which have held IM responsible for making their territories prime targets, have been unable to avert attacks allegedly carried out by it, or to name the kingpins.

“It’s the investigation and the manner of handling the case, the lack of coordination, that has gone against the agencies. There is no doubt that these men were involved but trying to put them in wrong cases to justify their arrest is what puts the agencies on the wrong foot,” says a Maharashtra home department official.

Originally from Azamgarh, UP, Shaikh stayed with his family at Cheeta camp in Mumbai. After having taken a course in refrigeration, Shaikh worked at a Godrej office for five years before moving on to a logistical company called CMS. His company records show that he was present in the city on the day of the Gujarat blasts. His brother Asad, who owns a poultry shop, says their father has been shocked into complete silence. “They tell us that he did the Mumbai blasts, the Gujarat blasts, that he went to Pakistan and Bangladesh… How could he go without a passport? He has always stayed with us or at Azamgarh — people there will vouch for it,” he trails off.

His family points out that Shaikh was taken into custody when he left for office on 17 August. When he did not reach, his company called twice asking for him. Later in the day, Shaikh called, saying he would be gone for two days. When he did not return, his sister-in-law called him. Sadiq picked up the phone and said he was busy and would be back in two days. He could not be reached after this.

His family came to know of his arrest only when the Crime Branch called them on the 24th saying that he had been arrested. The Mumbai Police called him the foreign hand responsible for forming the IM with LeT handlers.

Special Cell officials have told TEHELKA that the chargesheet has named al-Qama after Shaikh confessed to his involvement. If that was indeed the truth, then why is it that Shaikh missed out on his name in his confession to the Mumbai Police. The Mumbai Police which had officially stated that the handlers for the 26/11 attacks and that for the Indian Mujahideen were not the same surprisingly submitted a confession of Sadiq Sheikh in the IM chargesheet in which he has named Al-Qama as their operator, the alleged key LeT handler of the 26 /11 attacks.

IN HIS confession, a copy of which is with TEHELKA, he has said: “In Bahalwalpur, we were brought to an LeT camp where we met someone called Azam Cheema. From there we were sent to Muzaffarpur where we were given training in Umalpura camp for 25 days. After that we were sent to Bahawalpur where in a desert area we were taught how to make explosives… After that I was sent on a Pakistani passport to Kathmandu in March 2001. After that we reached our village via Patna. I stayed in Para for around two months in Sarai Meer. That’s where I met Arif Badar. We both had a SIMI background so we gelled well. We spoke about sending guys to Pakistan for training. I gave Arif Dadar a contact number for Dubai and then returned to Dubai.

“In 2003, Shahnawaz and Rashid (both absconding) reached Dubai. We made Pakistani passports and went to Karachi. We went to a training centre and I stayed in Defence Colony. It’s there that I met Colonel Aatif. He gave me two envelopes and asked me to give it to Aamir Raza. I gave it to Aamir in Dubai. Aamir Raza was given a lot of money by the Pakistani Army to create trouble in India.”

At the time of going to press, the Maharashtra Home Secretary told TEHELKA: “It would be too early to comment on the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen as far as the current investigation is concerned. We are considering other leads too. But yes, the Indian Mujahideen has been a cause of worry for us. It’s a serious threat and we have been working to crack down on the modules.”

In conclusion, one can say that it is too early to predict that the Indian Mujahideen is behind the blasts. But investigations into past terror incidents remain shrouded in controversy, with agencies contradicting each other. There do not seem to be any masterminds behind bars, only the operatives who carried out orders from above.

As for those behind bars, they continue to be undertrials for years on end because neither the Maharashtra ATS nor the Gujarat ATS have built a foolproof case against them. Nor has their being in custody proved fruitful from the point of view of eliciting intelligence and crucial information or to prevent further attacks.

On top of that, there is definite intelligence that fugitives like Yasin and Riyaz Bhatkal have been visiting their home in Karnataka. While the agencies have their handicaps, the practice of arresting easy suspects creates a false complacence and does not help to nab the real perpetrators. And the nation lives with the consequences.

Rana Ayyub is an Assistant Editor with Tehelka.


(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 8 Issue 30, Dated July 30, 2011)


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