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Orphan bandh strikes a chord

Ahmedabad, Sept. 2: Residents of Dariyapur and Shahpur today observed a bandh to protest alleged “police atrocities against innocent Muslims’’.

No one knows who gave the call for the bandh, which residents termed spontaneous and voluntary. But the bandh was near total in the two areas, with shops and business establishments downing shutters.

Other Muslim-dominated areas like Juhapura, Kalupur and Rakhiyal also shut down in an expression of solidarity.

Last Friday, the police arrested five people from Dariyapur and Shahpur in connection with the September 2002 attack on the Akshardham temple in which 32 devotees were killed when militants opened fire in the complex.

Two of those arrested, Mufti Abdul Qayyum and Maulvi Abdullamiya, were running a relief camp for victims of the post-Godhra carnage in February last year. Both clerics were detained for questioning on August 16-17 and were formally arrested more than 10 days later.

The police today invoked the Prevention of Terrorism Act against all the five persons.

Today’s bandh was called to protest the detention and formal arrest of Qayyum and Abdullamiya by local crime branch officials. Residents claim the duo are “known social workers” and innocent.

Naznin Bastawala, the municipal councillor who represents Dariyapur, says she has no idea who gave the bandh call. “But definitely no political party is involved. We are not involved. There is no leader as such. It is a spontaneous reaction of the people against police atrocities,’’ she said.

Zakir Sheikh , a Dariyapur school teacher, says Muslims have no leader now that the clerics have been arrested. “Do the police expect us to keep quiet and tolerate everything, even if they brand us terrorists'’’ he asks angrily.

Yesterday, a number of pamphlets were circulated urging traders, shopkeepers and residents of the two areas to observe a bandh. But no one knows who distributed the pamphlets.

The bandh, which caught the local administration off-guard, kept police on tenterhooks right through the day. Security checks and patrolling was stepped up in all sensitive localities here. Police were relieved that the bandh passed off peacefully.

On August 25, a number of women living in Dariyapur had blocked Limidi Chowk over the detentions.

The demonstrators, led by Bastawala, alleged that 128 people from Dariyapur, Shahpur and Kalupur had been illegally detained by the crime branch.

“No formal arrests are being made and neither are any charges being framed. The crime branch is using this tactic to terrorise the community,’’ a local said.

Sheikh Amir, a Dariyapur resident, said the police were behaving like “a wing of the VHP and Bajrang Dal”. He felt that it was the VHP which was calling the shots in Gujarat.

In a related move, the BJP is now opposing the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s decision to hand over a municipal-run hospital to the Human Welfare Trust. This is because two of its trustees — Qayyum and Abdullamiya — have been arrested in connection with the Akshardham attack.

Another trustee, Sufiyan Patangiya, is wanted in a separate case.

Having supported the decision to hand over the Lokhandwala General Hospital to the trust in October last year, the BJP now alleges that the “hospital was a hub of anti-national activities during the (2002) riots’’. This is denied by Bastawala.

“The Congess has made it a point to help terrorists and reward them,’’ city BJP chief Mayaben Kodnani alleges.

But Congress leader Jayantilal Parmar, the standing committee chairman, says the trustees have only been arrested and no charges have been proved yet. He said there were chargesheeted politicians in Gujarat and at the Centre who hold important portfolios.

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