Ranchi, Oct. 28: Md Imtiyaz Ansari is religious-minded and his father says the family has never supported terrorism.
Ansari, 28, and a 14-year-old boy were once beaten up for trying to preach some hardline principles but fellow villagers never gave the incident much thought.
Their ages ranging from 14 to 15, the boy who was thrashed and two others under the scanner are “mere children” to Sithio, a village 20km from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand.
Sithio is now finding itself pitchforked into unfamiliar territory, unable to come to terms with an allegation by police that four of its boys are suspected of planting the bombs in Patna yesterday.
Ansari is the oldest of the group and is now in police custody in Patna, villagers and local police said.
Two boys aged 14 and 15 are missing, prompting the police to suspect that they accompanied Ansari to Patna to plant the bombs.
Another 14-year-old, a school dropout, is said to be the one whose belt blew up while he was wrapping it around his waist yesterday morning at the Patna railway station. Jharkhand police say the boy is dead but Bihar police say he is grievously injured.
All four lived at Hethakocha Toli in Sithio, a village most of whose residents have been displaced by various industrial projects over several decades. The projects include one by the Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC), the Hatia dam and a railway project.
The villagers now largely sustain themselves as day labourers, doing odd jobs ranging from painting houses to handling building materials.
Md Kamaluddin, the father of Ansari, had retired from HEC. Since then, Kamaluddin has been running a ration shop. The landed family is among the relatively more affluent in the village. Ansari passed Class X from Jauhar Academy, a school in Dhurwa, on the outskirts of Ranchi.
Ansari used to associate himself with religious activities, police officers quoted Kamaluddin as telling investigators who quizzed him today.
B.N. Singh, the officer in charge of Dhurwa police station, said the septuagenarian was not aware of the full activities of his son. “My son often used to go outside the state without giving any other information. He used to take an interest in religious discourses and literature. But as far as his links with terrorists is concerned, I do not have any idea. We do not support terrorism,” the officer quoted Kamaluddin as saying.
“If you want to go to the village, go at your own risk. No one can guarantee what the mood of the villagers will be,” Singh told The Telegraph this afternoon.
At Sithio, around 4pm, some residents were huddled together in small knots.
Approached, one man said: “The media are giving out wrong information. The boys never killed a bird, they were so mild-mannered. Police recovered wires, a pressure cooker and a few marbles from Ansari’s house and ‘established’ his link with terrorists.”
Another added: “Our village is being defamed.” A third said: “I am a guest here, I know nothing.”
Only one man identified himself — Sajid Ansari, the husband of Sithio’s deputy mukhiya Sajda Khatoon, said: “It’s a matter of shame that the names of four youths, one of them dead, from our village are being bandied about as terrorists. Over 500 Muslim families live here with 1,500 tribal households. Sithio was never known for terror links.”
He added that the three boys were “mere children”.
Gradually opening up, a villager recounted how Ansari and one of the 14-year-old boys got into trouble. “Once Ansari and the boy were beaten by villagers when they started spreading the tenets” of a section considered to be hardline and inflexible, the villager said.