Mumbai: Probe Muslims who travel
Seema Mustafa and Sanjay Basak
Asian Age - 8 August 2006
New Delhi, Aug. 7: The Maharashtra government has issued a directive to the state police to thoroughly investigate every Muslim who travels abroad.
Senior executives in multinationals are being visited at their residences by police inspectors asking questions, demanding to see copies of their passports and insisting on letters from the executives’ employers certifying the travel.
A vice-president of the largest multinational in India, living in a posh colony of Mumbai, told this newspaper that he was at home when two police inspectors visited his residence demanding to see him. When they learnt he was not there they left instructions with his family that he should visit the police station with details of his passport and travel abroad. However, before entering his house, the policemen questioned his staff outside the residence to find out his movements.
Well-placed sources said that a directive had been issued by the government and the state police had to act on it. Every Muslim, the sources said, was under close watch and had to provide proof of his travel as well as letters justifying it as and when approached by the police. Social activists in Mumbai claim that "thousands" of Muslims have been arrested from different parts of the city in the wake of the Mumbai blasts with the police refusing to give details, or even the proof required for the detention.
A group of 18 MPs, cutting across party lines, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently to draw his attention to the large-scale arrests and urged his immediate intervention. Prime Minister Singh is reported to have shared their concerns and, according to the MPs, said that if Muslims were indeed being harassed in the manner suggested by the MPs, it was "a very serious matter". He said that the hands of the terrorists would be strengthened if innocent Muslims were humiliated. He said he would take up the matter and urged the MPs to meet Union home minister Shivraj Patil. Nothing has come of this till date.
It could not be ascertained if the directive covered Muslims travelling to all parts of the world, or just to select targeted countries. The Americans already have a system in place where the airlines have to supply them with the passenger list and details of those travelling to the US as soon as a particular flight takes off. Sources said these rules have been made more stringent now.
Social activists from Mumbai, who did not want to be quoted at this stage as they would come under "needless pressure", said there was fear and anger amongst the minorities over the large-scale arrests and their total inability to seek justice. "The arrests have not led the authorities to solve the Mumbai blasts, but that has not stopped them from rounding up any and every one whose only crime might be that he did not grease the hands of the beat policeman," the activists said.
Muslim executives, who are furious with the attitude of the police, have been told that there is little they can but do but "cooperate" in the face of a government directive. Senior police officers also expressed their inability to do anything with every Muslim living in the state now being flagged as and when he travels abroad. The only concession that the police can make, the sources said, "is interrogate them at their residence instead of getting them over to the police station".
Mumbai police commissioner A.N. Roy has confirmed a large number of arrests, but refused to give an exact figure when questioned by journalists. Despite the arrests, the anti-terror squad of the Mumbai police remains clueless about the identity of those who carried out the seven serial blasts on July 11, 2006.
The Mumbai police has openly admitted that Muslim men who visited West Asia were suspects. Several such men have been picked up with little more proof except that they visited the "suspect" region on work. The sources said that employees of smaller companies, when questioned or detained, could, and were, losing their jobs.
8 August 2006