In the circles of police’s “SIMI investigations”, the name Maulana Naseeruddin comes up often. Sometimes he has been charged, sometimes his sons, sometimes his acquaintances. In one such case against an “associate” of his son, the Hyderabad police filed an affidavit before the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal calling Pakistan’s ISI a front of SIMI.
Asked by the tribunal to explain his claim, P Devender, then inspector in Saidabad police station, reiterated that “it is correct that in my affidavit when I referred to Inter Service Intelligence, I am referring to Inter Service Intelligence of Pakistan” and that the nodal officer of Andhra Pradesh will be “filing a secret note on the basis of which this statement has been made”.
DEVENDER’S affidavit, filed on June 11, 2010, was part of the government’s evidence to justify the continuance of the ban on SIMI. To substantiate his claim that SIMI was “functioning under various fronts like the ISI”, Devender cited a case registered in March 2008 at the Saidabad police station when he was an inspector there.
It concerned Moutasim Billa, 22, of Jevan Yar Jung Colony, Saidabad, who had been arrested on March 5, 2008, from near his residence. Devender claimed that Billa was arrested because he had been booked in an FIR (198/2007) at the Gopalapurram police station.
Devender also called him a close associate of “the son of Maulana Naseeruddin”, who is a “SIMI activist”. Naseeruddin and Billa’s father, Mohammad Aleem Islahi, are well-known clerics in Saidabad and their families used to be close then. Along with Naseeruddin’s, Islahi’s is the other address frequently at the centre of any terror investigation in Hyderabad.
At the time of Billa’s arrest, the Hyderabad police had claimed that it was in connection with two “rioting” cases registered against him, in 2004 (an incident involving the death of his brother) and in 2007 (for terror conspiracy and sedition, registered at the Gopalapurram police station). Hyderabad police had booked 21 Muslim youths including Billa for a terror conspiracy and subsequently linked them to the Mecca Masjid blasts. Billa and the other accused were acquitted on December 31, 2008. The Mecca Masjid blast case finally took a new turn after Swami Aseemanand’s confession in December 2010, which implied that these Muslim men had all been wrongly blamed. Eighty-two Muslim men had been picked up, interrogated or booked and all were subsequently acquitted.
In May this year, Billa was again named, this time in four cases of rioting and disturbance of peace, and shown as an “absconding accused”. “These recent cases were registered one after another in a single day,” said Billa, who recently earned a B Tech degree. “They have shown me as absconding, which means, ‘You can go on with your life till we want to take you away again’.”
THE 2004 rioting case against Billa, in fact, provides the context to this entire story. That October 31, Naseeruddin had gone to the DGP’s office along with his lawyer and a few other people to sign his weekly attendance, necessary because of an earlier case of communal violence. “Two months earlier, I had been arrested after police claimed I was going to plant bombs in a Ganesh temple. This absurd allegation came as a shock; I fell ill and was shifted to hospital. Our lawyer friends secured bail; this weekly attendance was a condition,” Naseeruddin said.
“That day, I reached the office late. My son-in-law Khalid, who is a lawyer, and a few others accompanied me. The CID officer who would take my signature asked me to wait, saying a senior officer wanted to talk to me.” Naseeruddin said he was taken to the IG, who told him a warrant for his arrest had come from Gujarat. A contingent of Guajarat Police led by then ACP Narendera Amin (now in jail over the murder of Sohrabuddin and Kousar Bi in a fake encounter) were waiting for Naseeruddin, “accused of a role in (former Gujarat minister) Haren Pandya’s murder”.
“People from our neighbourhood collected outside the gate,” Naseeruddin said. “They didn’t allow the Gujarat police vehicle to leave and there was a scuffle. Narendra Amin opened fire.” Mujahid Saleem, 26, Billa’s elder brother, was killed, protests followed, and the Andhra government promised a magisterial inquiry besides filing a case against Gujarat police. Police registered a case of rioting against Billa, too.
The maulana was taken to Gujarat and was initially arrested on charges of instigating Pandya’s killers, and subsequently booked in the Ahmedabad conspiracy case — an alleged conspiracy to avenge the Gujarat riots. On January 12, 2010, a designated POTA court acquitted the maulana along with others and he was released.
THE MAULANA’S SONS
“A lot had happened during those five years. My three sons had all been arrested,” Naseeruddin said. He said the two elder sons were framed but added that the youngest, without the family’s knowledge, had gone to Pakistan for arms training.
“When the Gujarat police shot Mujahid Saleem, my youngest son Raziyuddin Nasir was there. He saw Saleem die. This affected him deeply. When I was in jail in Gujarat, my wife told me he had to be taken to a psychiatrist,” Naseeruddin said. “After some time, he went for Umrah (pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia). He went missing for one-and-a-half years. During that time, he had gone to Pakistan for arms training. We had no clue,” he said. “We heard about him only when the Bangalore police arrested him (in 2008).”
He said his two elder sons, Maqeemuddin Yasir and Baleeguddin Jabir, were framed. “Yasir has three children and was the manager of our workshop while Jabir was a third year student at Deccan Engineering College. The police accused them of being involved in the Mecca Masjid and other blasts and arrested them, a year after the blasts,” he said. “They couldn’t show even a bit of evidence but didn’t release them. They were shifted to Madhya Pradesh where their names had been included in a SIMI case in Dhar. They had never been to Dhar.”
He said for the next few years, their case didn’t move. “The case was shifted to Indore where the trial concluded earlier this month; both were acquitted… This country is our home too. Why is there no justice for us?”
THE YOUNGEST SON
ON JANUARY 30, 2008, according to Satyapaa Sambha Khote, then DSP, Special Enquiry Squad, Bangalore, a youth named Mohd Asif was stopped by an inspector of Gokul Road police station, Hubli, for speeding with his motorcycle. “It was found that he did not have documents of the motorcycle. Hence the PI (inspector) seized the vehicle and filed a case,” Khote said.
Investigations allegedly revealed Asif’s “involvement” with SIMI. The police made 18 more people accused on March 20, 2008, including Raziyuddin Nasir. In the affidavit, Khote claimed that Asif, a medical student at Hubli, and two other accused had met in “Castle Rock, Haliyal Road farmhouse, and Soudatti Road Darga” in the last week of April 2008, “aimed inter-alia at Islamisation of the world by means of Jihad”. According to Khote, the three held another “conspiracy meeting” at Castle Rock in November 2007 where they decided to “damage the sovereignty of the government of India and to ignite anti-national sentiments… ultimately changing the elected sovereign government and establishing Islamic government”.
Khote went on to give a long list of their “targets” — Kaiga nuclear plant, Infosys in Bangalore, Dell, IBM etc. For this mammoth task, they were apparently armed with four country-made revolvers — three of these rusted and defunct — and homemade grenades with gelatin sticks.
Khote produced a “confessional statement” by Nasir to Karnataka police, admitting he had gone to Pakistan for arms training. In the statement, Nasir says he was disillusioned after his father’s arrest and the death of “our family friend” Mujahid Saleem during the protest. Nasir was later booked in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case and is currently in Sabarmati jail in Gujarat.
In his affidavit filed on June 11, 2010, inspector Devender said that after Billa’s arrest on March 5, 2008, the women of Billa’s family — whom Devender calls “SIMI support militant ladies” — led by Billa’s sister Huma Islahi and Maulana Naseeruddin’s wife Tasneem Fatima had “attacked” the police station. Thirty women and children were rounded up in March 2008, including one with her seven-year-old daughter. Seven of them were students, 15 aged 19. Nine of the women were sent by the court for age determination tests to check if they were minors.
While most of the women were from Billa’s family or his neighbours and there was nothing to link them to SIMI, the affidavit called it a “rare case in entire India where SIMI militant activists organised their lady activists and… assaulted police”. Devender admitted that investigation records do not show these women as SIMI members. “This is as per my knowledge while working in the department and as per intelligence sources,” he said.