If you do not accept the crime, we will pick up lots of other young Muslims- Police

Bangalore: Does one become a “suspect” for life for being associated with Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) when it was not a banned outfit? A group of Muslim men, who are residents of Gurappanapalya, have become targets of police investigation because of their brief association with the organisation a decade ago.

Three days after the blast, at 2 a.m. on July 29, 28-year-old Ismail (name changed) was rudely woken up by knocks on his door by a posse of 20 policemen. He was taken to the Mico Layout police station and later shifted to two other police stations and held for questioning for an entire day by the Central Crime Branch, Intelligence Bureau and the local police.

Ismail and three others were blind-folded and taken to Forensic Science Laboratory in Madiwala. There they were reportedly interrogated in separate cells for several hours. One question that came up repeatedly was: “Where did you make the bombs?” The four were asked to either “confess” to the crime or “give leads” to others. The “other option,” they were reportedly told, was that they would be “sent off to Ahmedabad.”

Ismail alleged that the 200-odd questions asked during the interrogation were punctuated with inflammatory remarks against Islam. “If you do not accept the crime, we will pick up lots of other young Muslims,” the police told Ismail, he said.

Ismail’s repeated insistence that he was at his office at the time of the blasts and he could produce proof of that was not heeded.

Ismail is not trying to hide the fact that he was at one time associated with SIMI. “I was with SIMI when it was not banned and we carried out educational and religious activities. It does not mean that we were planning anti-national activities,” he said.

Salauddin Mohammed, a human rights activist and a resident of the same area, said: “There was a time when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was banned. But that does not mean all those associated with it are suspected even now.” He said that the police had landed in the area on the day after the blast and wanted to take away the teacher at Madrasa-e-Munawwara without a warrant, but left abruptly when local people gathered.

M.R. Pujar, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) on being asked about the incident said: “This is not the right way of interrogation as this will alienate members of one community. The police conducting the interrogation should be secular and the matter needs to be looked into.”

The State Government is now contemplating invoking the controversial Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act (KCOCA) to crack down on culprits following the Bangalore blasts. But the residents of Gurappanapalya have reason to wonder if provisions of the Act have already been used selectively to question Muslim youth.

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