The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ansal case echo in Andhra encounter

Hyderabad, Dec. 3: A minority religious association has claimed that two men killed in police encounters after the recent Sai Baba temple attack are innocent, evoking memories of the twist to Delhi’s Ansal Plaza shootout.

The Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Musalmeen (MIM), comprising six groups, has demanded a judicial inquiry into the deaths of Mohammed Azam and Syed Imran alias Aziz, allegedly involved in the Sai Baba temple attack. The two, said to be ISI-sponsored terrorists, died in two separate encounters with the city police.

Parallels have been drawn with the encounter at Ansal Plaza, Delhi’s trendy shopping centre, in which two alleged militants were killed in a shootout. A doctor who claimed to be an eyewitness said the two were killed in cold blood.

The MIM, the Congress and the Left parties had launched a campaign here claiming Azam and Aziz were innocent. MIM president Sultan Salauddin Owaisi, who led Monday’s delegation that called on Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, demanded a judicial inquiry into the encounters and the temple attack.

The MIM submitted a memorandum to the state, saying the police claim that the men belonged to militant outfits lacked “credibility”. According to Owaisi, Azam, a father of three children who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, had no criminal record. The Rein Bazar police station, he said, didn’t have any complaint against him.

Azam was found dead in the Parvatapuram forest, near Uppal, two hours after his arrest.

Owaisi asked why Azam was not handcuffed if he confessed to being a militant after reportedly being arrested near a city police checkpost. “More incredible is the police allowing an arrested terrorist to dig out material he had allegedly hidden.”

Aziz’s death was more astonishing, Owaisi said. According to the MIM leader, a local Urdu newspaper, Siasat, had reported that Aziz was in police custody and would be bumped off soon in an encounter.

“Almost everybody knew Aziz was in custody for over two weeks,” Owaisi said.

The police, he said, revealed their ignorance in using an Urdu pamphlet showing the Ramazan timetable for iftar and sehri as “proof of (Azam’s and Aziz’s) links with terrorists”.

The MIM memorandum charged elements in the state police with trying to target Muslims at the behest of Hindutva forces. “Their attempt is to create an atmosphere of hatred and animosity against Muslims to give grist to the BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s anti-Muslim campaign in the state,” the memorandum said.

The MBT, an MIM splinter group, had joined hands on the issue with a united Opposition. Later, human rights groups, too, joined in. Even the PUCL and PWG raised their voices. Human rights activists have now demanded exgratia for the families of the two men.

The encounter has triggered public concern, especially because of the approaching sixth anniversary of the Babri masjid demolition. The same day would mark the last Friday of Ramazan. Fearing trouble, Hyderabad police have already put its men on red alert.

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