The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minorities cower from police knock

Ahmedabad, April 23: Since the murder of BJP leader Haren Pandya late last month, police in Ahmedabad have been randomly picking up Muslims for questioning.

Around 300 Muslims have been detained — many of them for over a week — without being produced in court. Several tax-paying businessmen with no crime record are among the detainees.

“I wish my parents had migrated to Pakistan after the Partition,” says Afzal Memon, a leading social worker, who is afraid he could be next on the police hit list.

To be a “visible Muslim” in Ahmedabad, he says, is to live in perpetual fear — the fear of being detained for “questioning” for a crime you have not committed, of being branded an ISI agent and of being booked under the anti-terror law.

Inamul Iraki, a prominent businessman and social worker, who was the main organiser of a large relief camp for riot victims, was recently picked up for “questioning’’ over Pandya’s murder.

Last year, Iraki could muster the courage to confront civil supplies minister Bharat Barot when he tried to pressure him to shift the relief camp, the second largest in the city.

But that was last year. Now he does not want to talk about his “detention” and “questioning” by the crime branch.

Muslims living in minority-dominated localities, such as the walled city and Juhapura, have become familiar with the sight of a dozen jeeps full of armed policemen suddenly pulling up in the neighbourhood and taking away youths at random.

When Maulana Imitiaz was picked up, his family did not know for days where the police had taken him. He was released after seven days of intensive questioning.

State home minister Amit Shah, however, says Muslims have no reason to be apprehensive. “No innocent person is being picked up,” he says. “All those arrested have been produced before court. There is nothing illegal about the police action.”

A delegation of Muslims met former chief minister Amarsinh Chaudhary yesterday, seeking his help for the release of innocent detainees.

Chaudhary did not meet chief minister Narendra Modi, but he called home secretary K. Nityanandam and director-general of police K. Charkarthy to convey the community’s feelings.

“It is really sad that the police have raided the house of some retired professors and government officers,” the Congress leader said, adding that he was helpless. “I cannot do anything as I’m not in power,” he stressed, offering to join any protest that the community organises. The leaders are meeting tomorrow to decide their course of action.

Questioning the CBI “breakthrough” in the Pandya case, advocate Mohsin Quadri alleged that the community was being targeted even though the victim’s father Vithalbhai Pandya had told deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani that the murder was “politically motivated”.

Trial shift call

An umbrella group of Muslim organisations today demanded that the trial in the Pandya case be shifted outside Gujarat, saying justice will not be done in the state, adds PTI. The Joint Action Committee of Muslim organisations also sought a judicial probe into the killing.

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