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Fear stalks Akshardham suspect zone

Ahmedabad, Aug. 30: Dariyapur is again cowering. A pall of apprehension and helplessness has descended on the sensitive locality after police slapped the anti-terror law on five persons, including Dariyapur residents Mufti Abdul Qayyum and Maulvi Abdullamiya, arrested for allegedly providing logistics support to the two militants who attacked the Akshardham temple last September.

“We are helpless and scared. Even our community leaders, elected representatives are scared,” said Vashif Pathan, a social worker close to Mufti, also living in Dariyapur.

Every one in the locality speaks highly of Mufti, but no one, except his father, could muster the courage to meet him in police custody.

Mufti was reportedly picked up for “questioning” on August 17, a day after Maulvi was taken to the police station for interrogation. Police claim the five persons were arrested on August 28. “Had we gone to meet him, the police would have treated us as his associates and we too would have met the same fate,” Pathan said.

He claimed that even today over a hundred youths are in the custody of the city crime branch. But DCP (crime branch) D.G. Vanzara denied it, saying they (the Dariyapur residents) are known to exaggerate.

Naznin Bastawala, the municipal councillor who represents Dariyapur, recalled Mufti as a “fine human being” who, she claimed, could not indulge in such “unbelievable” anti-national activities. She believes the man who ran a relief camp, collected donations to help riot victims and who is running a hospital “cannot play into the hands of militant outfits”. Naznin recently organised a women’s protest against the arrest of “innocent Muslim youths, including Mufti”.

While both Mufti and Maulvi are known as social workers in the community, Mufti, though only 32, always played a more prominent role in community welfare.

A product of Davel Madrassa in Navasari, affiliated to the famous Deoband University in Uttar Pradesh, Mufti assumed an important social role, apart from making regular Friday speeches (Khutba) at the local Hazi Sakhi Masjid, especially after he set up the Human Welfare Trust to help riot victims.

Though initially meant to rehabilitate riot victims, the trust renovated the Lokhanwala General Hospital in January and began running it as the funds-starved corporation had virtually closed it. “They must have spent more than Rs 1.5 crore,” said Safibhai Memon, a community leader.

Memon, too, believes Mufti is innocent. But the police say he is “a radical preacher” belonging to the Tableequi-Jammat — a missionary arm of the Deobandi sect.

Memon feels that by arresting Mufti, the state government is trying to put pressure on the minority community, specially those who were involved in providing relief to riot victims and “helped expose the BJP government’s evil design”. Inamul Iraki and Memon, who ran relief camps, fear they might be picked up on some “fictitious charge” and branded terrorists.

State BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana said after the post-Godhra carnage, every terrorist act was an attempt to avenge the riots, a theory that does not go down well with his party. The Akshardham attack was executed with help from residents in an attempt to destabilise Gujarat, he added.

State police chief K. Chakravarthy expects the accused, who have been remanded in police custody for 14 days, to reveal something more “about the militant network” and operatives. Yesterday, police said their interrogation had revealed that the attack was masterminded by the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba in collaboration with the ISI.

Godhra case

A Godhra train carnage accused, Bin Yamin Behera, has retracted his confessional statement, based on which Maulana Hussain Umarji, a Godhra-based cleric, was arrested and named the main conspirator. The conspiracy case was also based on his statements.

Behera has told the anti-terror court in Sabarmati jail that the judicial confession recorded in his name was forced and he had not said any of the things.

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