Azamgarh labeled Atankgarh

New Delhi: Previously known as cradle of culture and literature for having produced giants like Rahul Sankratayayan and Shibli No’mani and more recently Kaifi Azmi, Azamgarh is very much in news but for totally different reason. It has acquired infamy as den of terrorists – nursery ground for spoiled brats. As if one Abu Salem Azmi was not enough - there are now half-a-dozen names – Dr. Shahnawaz, Sajjad, Shadab, Chhota Sajid, Saif to name a few. The MHA dossier on IM has eight names from Azamgarh out of 31 in the whole country. Engineering student Ariz, who is said to have escaped during Batla House encounter in 2008, carries a reward of one lakh whereas Shahnawaz has an Interpol red corner notice to his name.

However, the angst has caused a lot of sorrow and disgust among the residents. The moment a blast is reported anywhere in the country, police begins raiding homes and hamlets in the district. The recent Varanasi blast resulted in the arrest of 15 from one single village – Sanjarpur. Days together police parties from different states continued to raid homes and harass relatives. It has caused immense agony and resentment among the people. Sick of being constantly suspected and harassed they have now decided to protest on streets.

Suspect Asadullah’s father, Dr. Javed argues, prove my absconding son’s crime and punish him if he is guilty. So does Dr. Shahnawaz’s father, Shadab Ahmad, who weeps bitterly. He does not know whether his son is even alive, yet his name props up promptly after each blast.

Azamgarh’s name figures in every blast since 1993. A community is maligned by an ever alert media. Before the police begins investigation, electronic media leads the charge. The locals do not know whether IM is a fact or fiction. If it is a fact, they accuse intelligence agencies of their incompetence and failure to nab and bust the gang. If a fiction, they want to be spared of bearing the eternal yoke of notoriety.

Some people feel that Congress wants to keep the issue alive. With 2012 elections in sight, it wants to encash on the misery of people by keeping the communities in hostile temperaments. Digvijay’s visit did not earn him much kudos; on the contrary, Vinay Katiyar and Surya Pratap Sahi demand action against him.

It is interesting to examine contradictory statements of police of different states about the Varanasi blast. While Pioneer could sniff the conspiracy hatched in the Middle East and executed by Azamgarh module, Mumbai police holds the Bhatkal brothers responsible for it. Mail Today reports that Pak helped the conspirators escape and provided them Pak passports.

Disgusted with constant persecution, local people tried to settle the issue politically by founding Ulama Council. The party, formed in the aftermath of Batla House encounter, could not make any dent though its candidate was a runner up in Lok Sabha election at one place. Maulana Amir Rashid Madani, who founded the party was harassed by having his son arrested at Nagpur by Maharashtra ATS.

Since we have become conditioned to propaganda of Muslim roles, we have stopped looking elsewhere for culprits. Raj, one of “the most wanted” by the UP police was arrested by Delhi police, first on a simple charge of theft. However, later interrogations revealed his involvement in dacoity, murder of four persons, attempt to blast Thakur’s vehicle (in rivalry between the Thakurs and Pasis) in 2008.

As long as police does not fully establish the real facts about IM, Azamgarh and Muslims of the district shall remain in unending fear of persecution and harassment.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2011 on page no. 11

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