Human Rights

Jama Masjid firing: IM hoax

New Delhi: Jama Masjid firing on 19 September resulted into a panic and brought conflicting police versions. The two Taiwan “tourists” (actually television journalists making a documentary about India) who were wounded while boarding their bus parked at Gate 3 returned home. While one was discharged from the hospital on the very next day; the other, who had to undergo surgery, was discharged a week later. Unfazed by the attack, Chiang Ko promised to come again.

Two motorbike-riders opened fire on the bus that injured two persons at 11.30 AM. A total of 10 shots were fired within two minutes. When a cyclerickshaw-puller Salim rushed to attack the duo and pelted them with bricks, they managed to flee (see box). Seven .9mm empty cartridges were found at the scene of action. Probably two weapons were used, as in addition to .9mm cartridges, 38 bore cartridges were also believed to have been used by the assailants. Their bike was bought from Sotiganj in Meerut and was reported missing from Mayur Vihar and had a police logo.

However, before people could heave a sigh of relief, a car burst into flames just meters away from the Gate 3. The black-coloured 800 Maruti is owned by JK Sharma. On the back seat were found wires, batteries, a timer and a pressure cooker and traces of ammonium nitrate. The positioning of the parked car was crucial - below a power transformer. It could have resulted in a big explosion and might have taken a huge toll of lives.

However, the climax was yet to come. An email received  hours later by the BBC Hindi Service allegedly sent by “Indian Mujahidin” (IM) claimed credit for the attack. The email warned against organising the Commonwealth Games, “Our bands of Mujahiddin love death more than you love life,” it said adding “we dedicate this attack to martyrs of Batla House.” The email expressed its anger over Kashmir “being soaked in blood.” It also claimed the attack to be “a tit for tat” for torturing Salman, an alleged IM operative now in Tihar Jail.

Claims and counter claims as well as contradictory reports leaked by security agencies make the mystery more perplexing. Let us first talk about the targeted place. Jama Masjid was chosen (like Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah) to take a heavy toll of Muslim lives as the area is always crowded mainly by Muslims. It was an ideal target for a number of reasons. First, it had already been in the hit list. On 14 April, 2006,  a Friday, there was a bomb blast in the courtyard of the mosque. According to Imam Bukhari, even in 2005 too such an attempt was made but was hushed up by police. Following the 2006 blast, 20 CCTV cameras were installed in the area. Soon they stopped functioning and were hence removed. Last month’s attackers probably knew this fact. They also knew that the metal detectors too were mere showpieces. In addition, they very well knew that the police presence in the area had thinned. There was only one man at that time at the place chosen by the attackers. A PCR van was at a distance of three kms from the place, getting a flat tyre repaired. What a perfect timing...

The email ID “alarbi 999123@gmail.com” used by the alleged IM seems to have been created days in advance. It was traced to a server in Norway and also in California. One version says that it was created around 1.30 PM on the day of the attack and was traced to a Mumbai market and talked of Muslim cause.

One wonders why IM should target a Muslim locality for “Muslim cause”. Only Hindutva terrorists have been doing this consistently. Investigators drew the sketch of a man in his twenties who bought a SIM card using false identity. It was registered in the name of a woman called Purva Shinde living in Lakhani Apartments of Borivali, a Mumbai suburb. Both were proved to be false. There is neither Lakhani Apartments in Borivali nor is there a trace of a woman called Purva Shinde. By the way, will a Muslim write al arbi (and not al arabi)?

Obviously, TOI, the most omniscient (more than the police which was yet to say something) jumped to stereotyped conclusions. Mail Today found a U-turn in police statements. Once they said it was a handiwork of local mischief-makers (Rajan Bhagat) and then toed the usual IB line that there might be a terror link. Home Minister P Chidambaram, had said on day one that there was no terror threat to games (The Hindu).

Media began suspecting brigade 313 of Ilyas Kashmiri (The Hindu). Hindustan Times reported that cops do not rule out that the attack was “terrorist.” They suspecte local criminals were hired by an external agency. Nav Bharat Times made it precise claiming that the attack was done by the local module of IM. Hindustan Times fixed the responsibility on LeT/SIMI saying that Vicar Ahmed/Vikaruddin tried it thrice in Hyderabad as an act of retribution. Nav Bharat Times (TOI) held don Amir Raja Khan operating from Pakistan responsible for the Delhi attack - a classic case of gangster-turned-jehadi. Amir Khan is accused of involvement in blasts in several cities to avenge his brother Asif Raja Khan killed in Gujarat fake encounter.

Nav Bharat Times also drew our attention to the arrest of a  person prior to the incident, claiming that a Pakistani module was busted by this arrest. Nafis from Bihar is claimed to have made a sensational disclosure: Salahuddin (a senior reporter of BBC) accused media of confusing by airing baseless theories. There was a claim about a Bangladeshi terrorist too. The loopholes in TOI versions can be seen by pointing out why foreign tourists were targeted for avenging Kashmir. Why did the attackers not attempt a blast targeting CWG where police was deployed in great numbers. Or why they did not target a politician.

While the police refused to link it to terrorists, Imam Bukhari of the Jama Masjid declared it to be a terror act by a saffron outfit. While he roared that the arrest of Muslims would not be tolerated, he proved to be a paper-tiger as close to 200 Muslim youths were arrested in the wake of the blast. There were 20 persons from D block of Jaitpur in addition to youths from Jafrabad, Batla House, Kotwali and Seelampur of Delhi. Asif Mohammad Khan, Okhla MLA, confirmed a few arrests. Several prominent Muslims from clergy, media and politics voiced their concern on one-sided arrests and tarnishing Muslims. Zafarul-Islam Khan, editor MG, held police attitude for such one-sided action. Maulana Syed Arshad Madni, Mahmood Madni, Qasim Rasool Ilyas, Ahmad Bukhari, Maulana Jalaluddin Umari, Dr Shakeel Ahmad (Congress spokesperson), Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Shamim Faizi expressed their concern over the en masse arrests of Muslim youths which is the typical police response after all such situations and even before anything is clear. They urged links with saffron outfits to be probed because like all alleged IM operations of targeting Muslim areas, the needle of suspicion should turn to those who targeted Muslim localities in Malegaon, Parbhani, Jalna, Hyderabad and Ajmer etc. Is it a sheer coincidence that Purva Shinde and Pragya Singh have common initials? Unlike the past, advance emails, this time an email was sent after the incident is also a question to be answered. How can this particular email be used as an evidence in Batla House case against an IM operative arrested two years ago? Did they arrest the accused with the optimism that a future blast would provide them with necessary evidence? There is, of course, a tug of war between ATS and Delhi Crime Branch while the Union home ministry prefers to maintain silence. Meanwhile, an award for Rs 10 lakh has been announced for giving clues to the identity of the shooters at the Jama Masjid gate no. 3.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2010 on page no. 11

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