The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drive against another bomb
- Raids spread disquiet, clerics call for calm

Mumbai, July 15: Muslim clerics in Mumbai are trying hard to ensure the investigation does not do what the blasts could not: create a communal divide.

As police hunt for Students’ Islamic Movement of India (Simi) contacts and round up hundreds, nearly all from the minority community, it is a tough challenge they face.

“Why do we have to suffer each time things like this happen'” asked Sabina, a resident of Nayanagar slum in Mahim, after a police swoop.

The raid began at 6.30 am and ended at 10.30 am, with over 300 people detained, of whom all but seven were let off. Even those seven were held for past offences.

“The rest have been let off but not without generating a feeling of harassment and humiliation which innocents go through on being rounded up by police,” said Suraiyya Khatun, a social activist.

On Tuesday, after the blast at Mahim station, residents had rushed to help the injured and the stranded.

Today, Nayanagar residents said the policemen barged into homes and dragged out the men and they believe the reason is that most of them are Muslims. “Why Nayanagar and not the other shanties'” asked Kalu, a Bengali-speaking labourer.

But clerics said this was a pill that had to be swallowed to get to the militants.

“We know most of the combing operations are being carried out in Jogeshwari, Malvani, Padga, Cheetah Camp in the suburbs and Mahim, Bhendi Bazar in town, where many Muslims live. But we are asking our brothers not to get provoked. The police have a job to do. We hope they too will be a little restrained,” said Maulana Abdul Jabbar Azmi of a mosque in Byculla.

Retired IPS officer Y.P. Singh said police are sometimes high-handed during searches.

Senior inspector Joe Gaekwad insisted they have been careful. “There are Hindus and Christians along with Muslims among the detained.”

At a meeting of 150 city mosques, the All India Ulema Council, led by Maulana Athar Ali, directed clerics not to issue sermons that could incite people. “The need of the hour is peace and brotherhood. Quran says killing an innocent is akin to the massacre of humanity. Imams can play a big role in spreading this message' through daily prayers.”

Yesterday, a special Friday prayer was organised in 150 mosques for the blast injured.

But the Samajwadi Party’s Abu Azmi fanned the anger: “Muslims are made to feel as if all of them are terrorists. I would like to tell the government if 20 lakh Muslims pour onto the streets, it will be very difficult to control the situation.”

His was a lone voice.

Popular Urdu writer Salam Razzak said: “Mumbai has seen enough riots. It does no one any good. There is a general feeling tensions should not be made to rise at any cost.”

But as 600 policemen rounded up 1,000 people in the state and then let many off, there was no denying the unease in the community at being put under the scanner, again.


Police veterans suggest the following measures to make combing operations less offensive:

  • Checking should be random. Don’t limit it to particular groups or communities

  • Raid homes only if you have specific information

  • Sensitise people to the indispensability of raids after blasts

  • Make people aware of the difference between detention and formal arrest

  • Inform relatives how they can get the whereabouts of the detained suspects
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