Friday, September 29, 2006


Credit card fraud hits a new high

Data Used To Buy Air Tickets

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Over 100 people have approached the cyber crime investigation cell (CCIC) of the Mumbai police in the last one month and complained that someone had used their credit card numbers to book air tickets they had never sought or got.

A Dahisar resident last week approached the cell saying he had received an intimation from his bank that Rs

1.5 lakh had been used from his credit card to buy air tickets. Interestingly, the limit on the credit card was just Rs 90,000.

“He had instructed the bank not to clear transactions of over Rs 80,000 without his permission but the bank officials ignored his request and cleared an amount far more than his limit,’’ said an officer.

Police said that in most of the cases the online tickets were booked with GoAir, Air
Deccan and Kingfisher Airlines.

“The card details are mostly obtained from some restaurant, petrol pump or mall employees who swipe the card,’’ an officer added.

Last month, the D N Nagar police detected a case where a group of people booked air tickets on the internet using credit cards of card holders and later sold the tickets at a discount.

The accused, who had access to an individual’s card number, its expiry date and most importantly the VCC Code (the additional three digits at the end of the card number printed on the signature strip on back of card), logged on to websites of leading private airlines and used the details to book tickets. The airlines issue a confirmation, the printout of which can be exchanged for a boarding pass at the airport. The accused would then hang around at restaurants and bars and befriend frequent flyers. They would offer tickets at cheap rates and pocket the cash.

Though there are hundreds of such cases, the CCIC has been asked not to register the cases but send complainants to the concerned police stations. Sources said the cyber crime investigation cell officials have been asked “to just assist the police stations to solve a case’’.

The police have now directed the victims to report such cases to the police stations and take an acknowledgement copy from the police station and send it to the bank.

A few months ago, officials from the Bangalore cyber crime cell had arrested two persons from Vashi and seized 20-25 credit cards from them. The duo used to book tickets paying for them by credit card and collected money from ticket buyers in cash.

The Times of India, September 29, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

MCOCA makes bail tough for 7/11 accused

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: All this time the police had been facing a dilemma. How did one arrest suspected terrorists under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) if they had no previous police record? MCOCA stipulates that there should be at least two criminal cases against a person sought to be arrested under MCOCA.

Now, the police have found a solution. If the suspect can be linked to a person on whom MCOCA can be applied, the stringent law can be applied to the suspect as well.

This is how the police have justified the application of MCOCA against Faisal Shaikh, Dr Tanvir Ahmed, Kamal Ansari and Ehtesham Siddiqui, four of the nine accused in the 7/11 blasts.

According to the anti-terrorism squad (ATS), the four are linked to another suspect who is still at large and whose identity has not been disclosed. This man, a south Mumbai resident, provided shelter and logistical support to the other accused.

“We have got evidence of his involvement in the train bombing case and don’t want to reveal his identity since it will alert him. Once he is arrested, we will disclose the entire conspiracy,’’ said deputy inspector general, (ATS), Jai Jeet Singh.

Police sources said the wanted accused had also helped in hawala transactions which was routed into the city from Bangladesh and West Asia. He was aware of the entire conspiracy.

“His name was revealed during
the interrogation of another blast accused, Faisal Shaikh, who disclosed the same thing in his narco analysis test in Bangalore,’’ said an officer. The police had also questioned the wanted accused’s relatives a month ago.

Dr Tanvir had a few weeks ago submitted an application before a court and stated that he cannot be kept in police custody for each case he was being booked in. Dr Tanvir also applied for bail but the court directed the ATS to produce the evidence against him in court. Sources said the ATS booked these accused under MCOCA so that they could be kept in custody for a longer period.

Dr Tanvir was arrested in 2001 for his alleged association with the banned organisation, SIMI. There was no case against Faisal and Sid
diqui. According to the police, all the arrested accused had gone to Pakistan for terror training via Iran. Kamal, a resident of Madhubani district in Bihar, was accused of illegally carrying an AK-47 assault rifle in 2004. He is also said to have gone to Pakistan for terror training.

Criminal lawyer Satish Maneshinde was of the opinion that the police had been charging every accused under MCOCA, particularly those linked to the underworld on the basis of their association with an organised crime syndicate.

“In the stamp paper scam, the accused police officers were also charged under MCOCA since several other accused in this were also wanted in many other cases,’’ Maneshinde said.

New state panel to review intel inputs
In the wake of serial explosions in Mumbai and Malegaon, the state government has set up a standing committee and a task force to review intelligence inputs and recommend measures to prevent terror strikes in future. A formal order regarding the setting up of the 13-member standing committee and the task force was issued by the state home department on Tuesday. The committee will be headed by chief secretary and comprise top officials from the police, Intelligence Bureau, Coast Guard, customs and the Navy.

The Times of India, September 27, 2006

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bomb planter identified: ATS

7/11 PROBE

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has claimed to have identified Faisal Shaikh (30), a college dropout who calls himself an exporter, as one of the persons who had planted a bomb in Mumbai’s local trains on July 11.

Faisal, a resident of Mira Road, was arrested on July 27 along with his younger brother, Muzammil (26), a software developer.

ATS sources have also claimed to have managed to piece together all the missing links in the bombings that killed 200. Stating that the ATS had come across proof of the explosive being transported around the city, an officer said, “The material for making the bombs—ammonium nitrate and fuel oil—were bought from the city while the RDX was smuggled from
outside.’’ Police said Faisal’s “small export business’’ was a front for routing hawala money used to fund the terror attack.

Other vital information with the police included details of the place where the conspiracy was hatched and names of the persons who visited Mumbai before the bombings. “The aim of the perpe
trators of the attack was to create an atmosphere of hatred between Hindus and Muslims and sabotage the economy,’’ an officer said.

So far, nine persons have been arrested in the case. These include Dr Tanvir, Kamal Ahmed, Khalid Shaikh, Mumtaz Maqbool Chaudhury, Ehtesham Siddiqui, Sohail Shaikh and Zameer Shaikh. During investigations they revealed having been trained in the use of firearms and bomb-making at a terror camp in Pakistan. The accused have said all the trainees at the Pakistani camp were given code names.

Faisal told investigators that he visited Pakistan twice—in 2004, 2005—for weapons training and each time he stayed there for six months. He is also said to have met key ISI operative Azam Cheema, officials claimed, adding that,
Pune-resident Sohail has revealed having been allotted the job of finding out names, addresses and current postings of the hundreds of policemen who were deployed during the 2002 Gujarat riots but did nothing to stop the carnage.

Faisal was educated in a boarding school, Jamia-tul-Huda, at Malegaon in Nashik district. After completing his matric from Malegaon in 1993, he again moved to Mumbai and took admission at Maharashtra College but later quit studies. In 1994, he joined a technical course at Eklvya Polytechnik but quit that also.

“Faisal was instructed to gather information about Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), huge business centres, Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs), a few Maharashtra ministers and a top Gujarat politician,’’ police said.

The Times of India, September 24, 2006

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Train blasts: Narco tests put cops on track

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) grilled the 7/11 suspects for over five weeks but it was the narco-analysis test which provided a major lead. The report was submitted to the squad 10 days ago.

Four accused—Kamal Ahmed, Faisal Shaikh, Muzammil Shaikh and Dr Tanvir Ahmed—were subjected to a series of tests including narco analysis, brain mapping and lie detector tests at Bangalore’s Victoria Hospital and Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in the first week of September.

Soon after the police got the report from the FSL and answers to the missing links in the case, DGP P S Pasricha, police commissioner A N Roy and ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi briefed the home ministry about the development. On Wednesday, home minister R R Patil announced that the police had made a major breakthrough.

According to the police, the most important answers during the narco-analysis tests were those of Dr Tanvir and Faisal. “Tanvir revealed the conspiracy and their plans during the tests,’’ said a police source.

During the narco test, Kamal Ahmed reportedly said that he had met Azam Cheema, Lashkare-Tabia’s commander (training), in Pakistan during his monthlong training session. The forensic experts at the hospital are believed to have asked why they had targetted the first-class compartments. The accused said the module had targeted them since they were mostly used by the “rich and influential’’ people.

In response to a question about financing, one of the accused said Azam Cheema had sent money to Faisal’s brother Raheel in Dubai from where Raheel, with the help of his Puneborn friend Rizwan Dawre, sent it to Mumbai through hawala. In Mumbai, Muzammil received the money on behalf of Faisal. Police had recovered 15,000 riyals from Faisal’s residence in August.

Faisal, who has been termed as LeT’s western India commander by the police, visited the

terror training camp in Pakistan twice. He confessed during the narco test that he had also sent Dr Tanvir and Muzammil for training in 2004. According to a police source, Muzammil had arranged for a visa and air ticket for Dr Tanvir for the training in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Roy on Friday said that the police had got vital leads but disclosure of the leads would be “too premature’’. He said the police were connecting the missing links in the case.

The police chief also rubbished reports about the involvement of Al-Qaida in the blasts. “It is the handiwork of big organisations like LeT and Jaishe-Mohammed,’’ Roy said.

The Times of India, September 23, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

Malegaon’s looming disaster

RESIGNED TO FATE: Even if the residents get degrees from one of the town’s two colleges, they end up in jobs like being a supervisor of a powerloom unit

The Poor In This Textile Town Have Long Since Given Up Hope

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: Fifty-five-yearold Raheema Bi, a powerloom worker in this textile township, earns Rs 500 a week for her widowed daughter and four grandchildren. She can’t send them to private Urdu schools because the admission fee for most kindergartens is Rs 2,000, which is beyond her budget. She purchases only two new outfits a year, one during Eid and another at Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakr Eid).

Like thousands of others, she arrives at 7 am at the karkhana (powerloom unit) and works till evening. Assisted by her daughter, Raheema does a variety of jobs, from preparing raw materials to sweeping.

Over 62,000 workers in the powerloom town of Malegaon have similar stories. They live with unemployment or jobs offered to those with poor education. They have long since given up hope and are resigned to their fates. They don’t complain about politicians as they don’t think politicians will ever do anything to help the poor and downtrodden.

While the children of loom owners are able to leave the town and go to Mumbai, Pune or Aurangabad for further studies and better prospects, the children of labourers are stuck here. Even if they get degrees from one of the town’s two colleges, they end up in jobs like being a ‘mhetha’ (supervisor) of a powerloom unit, which
pays Rs 500 to Rs 700 a week.

Malegaon has not a single engineering, medical or technical college, a situation many blame on the war between two politicians, former MLA Nihal Ahmed and sitting MLA Shaikh Rasheed.

Though Malegaon is famous for raw materials like cotton and polyester, it has been facing a recession and other crises for over a decade.
The state or Centre have never thought of aiding the township. Residents have long wanted a Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) zone, so that electricity, water, land and so on can be got at cheaper rates.

While Ahmed, a socialist, opposed the loom industry during his 22-year tenure as MLA, Rasheed, a Congress
MLA, is a primary school dropout who many blame for not introducing any infrastructural, educational, textile or other schemes. While Bhiwandi, another powerloom hub in the state, has hitech looms, Malegaon still uses thousands of looms that are considered scrap.

Over one lakh powerlooms form the backbone of the city’s economy, providing
jobs to over 62,000 people. Including their families, upto five lakh people are directly dependent on the looms in this town of nine lakh people. Then there are the other industries operating alongside—raw material providers, transporters, porters, oil merchants, electricians and so on.

Load-shedding tops the city’s list of problems. “There is a power cut for four to six hours every day, which hampers production. In a week without load-shedding, a labourer can earn Rs 600 to Rs 800. His earnings drop 25% during load-shedding,’’ said Iftekhar Ahmed, an MBA from Pune university who is now running his family powerloom business. He said Rs 400 to Rs 500 is insufficient for a labourer to run a family.

The loom owners too have their complaints. With an average turnover of Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh a year, the owner of a 24-machine unit claims he makes a profit of only Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh a year, which is less than 2% of the turnover. The profit is even less if the unit has rented machines, is in a rented place, uses rented yarn and so on.

A section of loom owners are ready to pay more for electricity if they get continuous power supply and repairs are done promptly. “We have to wait for a day or two for the MSEB employees, so we have to call private parties to do the repairs,’’ said a loom owner.

The Times of India, September 22, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

2 more held for Nanded explosion


Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: The state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has arrested two more persons in connection with the Nanded bomb blast, which took place on April 6 this year. The bomb had gone off while it was being manufactured, killing two persons on the spot and injuring 12 others, two of whom died in hospital.

Yogesh Maruti Wagh, who is from Bajrang Nagar in Nanded, and Ravendra Deshpande (21), who is from Vaman Nagar in Nanded, were arrested four days ago. ATS chief

K P Raghuvanshi said, “We arrested Wagh and Deshpande after they were discharged from hospital. They had sustained injuries in the blast.’’

According to the police, all the 12 arrested for the Nanded blast belonged to the Bajrang Dal. While suspects from the Students Islamic Movement of India and the Lashkare-Taiba are under the scanner in investigations into the Mumbai and Malegaon blasts,
the ATS, saying it will leave no stone unturned, is also questioning members of Bajrang Dal in this regard.

“We are searching for the financier and the brain behind the conspiracy to explode bombs at religious places in Parbhani and other Marathwada areas. The arrested men say Naresh Rajkondwar, who died in the Nanded blast, was the mastermind of the blasts,’’ a senior ATS officer said.

The ATS is also probing blasts outside the Mohammedi Masjid in Parbhani, a mosque located in the Central Avenue area of Nagpur, a mosque in Jalna and another mosque in Porna. All the blasts took place on Fridays after namaaz, police sources said.

Incidentally, ATS sources also said Sanjay Chaudhury, who was arrested in connection with the Parbhani blast, had said during narco-analysis and brain-mapping tests in Bangalore that he had been assisted by Wagh and Deshpande. A court released Chaudhury on Rs 50,000 bail last week.

Rajkondwar and his friend, Himanshu Panse, the other man to die on the spot in Nanded, were office-bearers of Nanded’s Bajrang Dal unit, ATS officers said. The ATS has also questioned a chemical supplier, but refused to reveal his identity.

Investigators said that the accused were trained in connecting devices, timers, switches and detonators and using gunpowder on the outskirts of Nanded. The police said that a live pipe bomb, 1.5kg gunpowder, timers, switches and other devices were seized from Rajkondwar’s residence.

An FIR was registered against Rajkondwar’s father, Laxman, a retired executive engineer of the state’s irrigation department, at the Bhagya Nagar police station in Nanded.

The Times of India, September 21, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

MALEGAON BLASTS -RDX cocktail confirmed

THE SEARCH GOES ON: 38 persons were killed in blasts that ripped Malegaon

Hyderabad Lab Results Match Those Of Earlier Forensic Tests

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Hyderabad forensic science laboratory confirmed on Tuesday the findings of an earlier report which said that RDX was the main ingredient of the cocktail used by terrorists to detonate four bombs in the textile town of Malegaon on September 8.

“The second report has confirmed that the ingredients of the bombs are the same as stated in the first report. The use of RDX in the bombs has been confirmed,’’ said inspector-general of police Prem Kishen Jain, Nashik range.

The Hyderabad report, submitted to the Malegaon police, states that the bomb contained a cocktail of RDX, ammonium nitrate, nitrite and petroleum hydrocarbon oil. The earlier forensic report, from the Nashik laboratory, had listed the same cocktail. A third report, from the National Security Guard, New Delhi, is awaited.

Three bombs planted on cycles at the Bada Kabrastan and a fourth bomb planted at the Mushawerat Chowk area went off in Malegaon, killing 38 people and in
juring 297 others. The blasts took place in a span of five minutes—1.45pm to 1.50pm—on a Friday before the night when Shab-e-Baraat is observed.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the Malegaon police are still clueless about the identities of the bombers. With over 400 suspects questioned and the statements of all injured witnesses recorded, the police claim to have “concrete’’ information about the perpetrators. However, though the Malegaon police are reputed to have an excellent net
work of informants, they have been unable to make any arrest in the case. Six teams of policemen were sent out of the town in pursuit of leads and suspects, but they returned empty handed, police sources said.

Meanwhile, combing operations continue and all those registered in police records for petty crime are being picked up for questioning. Reports about the alleged torture of youths in police custody have been making the rounds. The Malegaon Jamiat-ul-Ulema has announced that the relatives of people questioned by the police should contact them if they have any complaint. The residents of Malegaon want the probe handed over to the CBI.

The residents are also unhappy that the police had no security deployed at the cemetery on Shab-e-Baraat, a day when over 1.5 lakh people visit the mosque and kabrastan to offer prayers.

On Monday, ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi visited Malegaon and met with investigators there.

There were reports that financial transactions worth lakhs of rupees took place before and after the blasts at a bank in the Camp area of Malegaon, but the police refused to confirm this.

The Times of India, September 20, 2006

Looking back in anger

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Many of the accused in the 1993 serial blasts case were in the 20-25 age-group 13 years back. Some of them spoke to TOI and looked back on what happened in 1993 with the experience of middle age.

Many of those TOI spoke to blamed their “young years’’ for what they did and accused the brains behind the blasts of taking “advantage of their immaturity’’. But a few justified the blasts, saying they just fought back in the only way they knew to “stop the continuing atrocities’’ on their community.

Niyaz Shaikh, for instance, who was 22 in 1993, would not call the blasts a
“crime’’. It was, instead, “just a reaction to an action’’, he said, explaining that the communal riots in Mumbai constituted the “action’’. “Won’t you react if you see people from your own community being targeted and killed on the streets? You stop atrocities on Muslims and the reaction will also stop,’’ Shaikh said, adding: “I was in my early 20s and never thought I would have to pay such a heavy price for it.’’

But Shahid Qureshi, who was also 22 when the city first tasted terror, had a different take. Qureshi, a class-XII drop-out who resided at Bandra and had gone to Dubai for a job, said many like him were “instigated’’ by the brains behind the 1993 plot who then “fled’’
the country. Qureshi, charged with aiding and abetting the blasts, allegedly received training in operating firearms that included AK-47.

“I was a lot more immature at that time and we participated in the plot as we were instigated into retaliating somehow for the killings of Muslims in the city and across the country after the demolition of the Babri Masjid,’’ Qureshi told TOI this August.

TOI spoke to others like Qureshi but they would not come on record. All of them agreed that they would not have participated in the blasts conspiracy had it not been for the “instigation’’ by the absconders and “provocation’’ in the form of atrocities on Muslims.

The Times of India, September 20, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mateen Hafeez | TNN Mumbai: Many of the accused in the 1993 serial blasts case were in the 20-25 age-group 13 years back. Some of them spoke to TOI a

Court Convicts Two Of Those Who Planted Bombs That Maimed Mumbai. But Some Uncomfortable Questions Remain

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The sisters of Shahnawaz Qureshi — who married a Hindu girl before becoming one of Mumbai’s first home-grown terrorists — have got a lot of questions to ask of the system.
Qureshi is accused number 29 in the 1993 serial blasts case. He was convicted of planting the explosives at Plaza theatre, which killed 10 and injured 36.

“The police caught our brother and the court convicted him. But what about those involved in communal riots, raping Muslim women, killing innocent boys, demolishing the Babri Masjid? What have the police done about all that?’’ Najma, the eldest of the 12 siblings, asked on Monday after getting the low-down on his conviction from the television. The sisters, residents of J J Colony in Bandra (W), work as domestic helps, each earning around Rs 1,000 a month; they also double up as zari weavers in their spare time. Their parents passed away — it was “trauma’’, the sisters said on Monday — and Qureshi went without a lawyer as the family had no
money. The family justifies Qureshi’s act. “Where was the government when hundreds of Muslims were killed in Surat, Mumbai, women raped and our mosque was demolished? Four of our relatives were killed in the communal riots. Is the police paid to arrest Muslims only?’’ another sister, Parveen, asked.

Qureshi married a Hindu girl, Chhaya (now Noor Jehan), and had a two-month-old son, Faisal, when he was arrested. The family, however, has not allowed poverty to ruin the boy’s future; Faisal, now called Babloo, studies in an English-medium school in Bandra (W). “My mother works as a domestic help and gets around 2,500 a month,’’ the boy, now 13 years old, said. But he does not know what his father is accused of.

But why did he plant the bomb? “He was provoked by his friends. The big men (the prime conspirators) escaped but the small fry like Qureshi were arrested,’’ Parveen said.

But the family has no photograph of Qureshi with it. “We tore and burnt all his photographs as we were afraid of police harassment,’’ one of the sisters added.

ASGAR MUKADAM Age: 45 Residence: Versova Did for a living: Worked as an accountant for Tiger Memon
The Charges
Facilitated the landing of arms and explosives at Shekhadi, Raigad, in February 1993 Attended meetings at a co-conspirator’s residence Transported RDX to Al-Husseini (building where Memons lived) on the night of 11 March 1993 Collected money from co-accused Mulchand Shah for disbursal among conspirators Planted explosives at Plaza
The Verdict
GUILTY: Of transporting RDX to Al-Husseini building, collecting money for disbursal among other conspirators and planting explosives at Plaza
SHAHNAWAZ QURESHI Age: 48 Residence: Nargis Dutt Colony, Bandra Reclamation Did for a living: Wholesaler of mutton
The Charges
Facilitated the landing of arms and explosives at Shekhadi, Raigad, in February 1993 Attended meetings at a co-conspirator’s residence Transported RDX to Al-Husseini (building where Memons lived) on the night of 11 March 1993 Had weapons training in Pakistan Planted explosives at Plaza
The Verdict
GUILTY: Of receiving weapons training, helping in transportation of arms to Mumbai and planting explosives at Plaza

The Times of India, September 19, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Malegaon labourer alleges police torture

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
: Unable to track down the perpetrators of the Malegaon blasts, which killed 31 people and left 297 injured, the police and the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) are now randomly picking up youngsters in the township, hoping they may provide some leads.

A 20-year-old powerloom labourer, Mohammed Irfan, an accused in a case of assault, is among those who have alleged that he was beaten up, abused and offered Rs 5 lakh by the cops in an attempt to coerce him into giving information on the conspirators behind the blast.

Irfan was arrested by the Malegaon
city police station four years ago in an assault case and since then he has been on police records. Though he claims that he has mended his ways, sources alleged that Irfan is still seen in the company of petty criminals in his locality.

Irfan, who resides at Firdous Gang in the eastern part of the city, said he was on duty in the powerloom unit on September 13 when three policemen came there. “They first took me to the Azad Nagar police station in an auto and later to the Chhawni police station. A team of policemen, led by Ghanaure saheb (assistant inspector Gyaneshwar Ghanaure), took me to an unknown place in a Tata Sumo and Ghanaure dragged me out of the vehicle by my hair,’’ said Irfan.

Irfan said the plain-clothes cops took him inside a hut where he was kicked, punched and beaten up. “They said they had evidence of my involvement in the blasts. Later, two persons were summoned to the hut who told the policemen that I was present at the blast spot. I could make out that they were trying to wrongly implicate me in the case,’’ said Irfan. Like his father, Irfan, a class VIII dropout, earns Rs 500 to Rs 600 a week. “The policemen told me that if I provide information about the perpetrators, they will give me Rs 5 lakh. But, how could I say when I don’t know anything about the accused. My only fault is that there was a case against me,’’ he said.

On Saturday, when a delegation of Muslims in Malegaon met director-general of police P S Pasricha in Mumbai, they had mentioned Irfan’s case. According to one of them, Pasricha had promised that justice will be done. Later in the day, when eight Muslim MPs met CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, they handed over Irfan’s affidavit to him.

Malegaon Package’ essential, says panel
Mumbai: The state minorities commission recently apprised chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on the ground realities in Malegaon after its delegation visited this handloom town following the September 8 bomb blasts.

The commission urged the CM to establish a police commissionerate for Malegaon and stressed the urgent need for a ‘Malegaon Package’. The latter would include the planning and implementation of infrastructure development projects, besides exploring the possibility of declaring the town a special economic zone with concession in power tariffs and tax rebates as an incentive for industries to be set up.

The CM assured the delegation that a time-bound programme will be drawn out for the socio-economic development of Malegaon. He also assured that work on the longpending 200-bed hospital will begin before the month-end. The commission said it would closely monitor the progress of the various projects.

Commission chairman Naseem Siddiqui, vice-chairman Abraham Mathai and noted film director and social activist Mahesh Bhatt visited Malegaon on September 13. Commission members met several local residents and community leaders, visited the blast sites and met the injured in hospital. TNN

The Times of India, September 18, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

He wanted to earn money for family before Eid

Abdul Malik was severely injured in the Malegaon blast

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Malegaon: Twenty-three-year-old Abdul Malik made preparations for a week to sell pulau on Shab-e-Baraat. He hoped to earn some money that could be used to buy new clothes and shoes for the fastapproaching Eid-ul-Fitr. But festivities are the last thing Malik has on his mind now as he recuperates, in a semi-conscious state, at Shah Hospital in Dhule district.

Malik, a class-X drop-out, and his family’s youngest son, started earning by the time he was 16. Always eager to help the family out, he bought rice, oil, chicken and spices needed to prepare the Shabe-Baraat pulau; he knew that thousands of people would come to the cemetery to offer prayers and then stay back and eat till late into the night.

Unfortunately, the day he should have made money for the festive season turned into the worst of his life. “He decorated a mandap outside our house and borrowed Rs 5,000 from friends and relatives to buy chicken and rice. He told me the earnings would help the family during Eid. If he had
sold pulau for a night, he would have made a profit of Rs 1,000,’’ Malik’s mother, Kausar Jehan, said.

“He was about to enter our home after offering namaz at the nearby Rehmani Mosque when a bomb went off at Mushawairat Chowk. The splinters from the

bomb penetrated his skull. He was bleeding when we rushed him to the next-door Noor Hospital where doctors treated him initially,’’ she added.

But the bleeding did not stop, forcing the family to take Malik to the N N Wadia Hospital, where “no
doctor or nurse was present in the dressing room’’. So the family physician’s services were called in, but even he could not stem the flow of blood. Malik was then shifted to Shah Hospital in Dhule, 55 km from Malegaon, following medical advice.

An unconscious Malik was operated upon for two hours as doctors removed splinters from his brain.

The family has had no offer from the government for compensation. “We borrowed Rs 30,000 from relatives for the operation. At least one family member has to go to Dhule every day and that requires Rs 200. The expenses are becoming unaffordable,’’ Saeeda Bano, Malik’s aunt, said.

The Times of India, September 17, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

No headway in Malegaon blasts case

SNIFFING OUT TROUBLE: The bomb squad carries out a routine check in Malegaon on Thursday

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: The police have not yet got any concrete leads in the Malegaon blasts case and no crucial detentions have been made so far. “We don’t have any solid clues. It is the handiwork of someone who was aware of the namaz timing, the crowd and the location,’’ a senior officer said on Thursday.

The police have been questioning hundreds of people but are yet to get any concrete information, said P K Jain, inspector general, (Nashik range). “We have some clues and will soon make a breakthrough,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Rajvardhan, superintendent of police Nashik (rural), said the police had got a report from experts saying a timer device with a printed circuit board was installed in the four bombs planted at Mushawerat Chowk and the Bada Qabrastan last Friday. The blasts killed over 40 people and left 297 injured.

“An Orpat alarm clock was
installed with each bomb. We are checking records of all tho-se who bought this company’s clocks in the last one or two months,” Rajvardhan said.

He said over 25 people, all from Malegaon, had been detained for questioning. The police are also waiting for the forensic reports from Delhi and Hyderabad. Two more teams of the city police and
the anti-terrorism squad had been sent out of Malegaon for investigations.

The police have also been meeting trustees of mosques and temples in the city and asking them to appoint their own watchmen who could be trained by the police.

Authorities were also thinking of installing CCTVs at the entrance of several mosques. Night combing operations at lodges, hotels, slums and other places have been increased.

In another development, the city police station registered a case of mischievous act against an unknown person for Wednesday’s bomb hoax.A Hindu boy who was seen near the complex where the ‘bomb’ was found was questioned by the police. Rajvardhan said the boy, Chitte, who had applied tilak on his forehead, was on his way to his grandmother’s house.

Meanwhile, former MLA Nihal Ahmed said Friday would be observed as Black Day in Malegaon.

The Times of India, September 15, 2006

A family looks at a bleak future

BLACK FRIDAY: Shoeb, 11, suffered severe injuries

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: Six-year-old Sohail and 11-year-old Shoeb wanted to finish their Friday namaz at Bada Qabrastan as soon as possible since they were waiting to go to their grandfather’s house to celebrate Shab-e-Baraat.

However, the much-awaited Friday became a black Friday for the family. The kids not only suffered serious injuries in the blasts but also lost their father Laeeque Ahmed (34).

“Ahmed used to offer namaz at Bada Qabrastan every week with his two kids. That Friday too Ahmed offered namaz between the Hameediay mosque and the main gate of the cemetery. After the prayers, he took his children towards the main gate to leave,’’ said Nadeem, 22, the children’s uncle. “Suddenly there was an explosion near the gate. My brother tried to
escape from the Hameediay mosque route but seconds later, there was another explosion, this time outside the mosque, just 30-40 ft away from the main gate. Splinters from the bombs hit my brother who died on the spot. The children had to run to escape the stampede.’’ The children are recuperating at M G Hospital.

Ahmad worked as a labourer in a powerloom unit and
earned Rs 600-800 a week. “It’s the saddest thing to bury your young son,’’ said his father Shamsudduha (60). Ahmad’s youngest son, Faisal, is two.

At Ahmad’s house, a oneroom tenement in Ijtema Nagar, his wife is in iddat, a fourand-a-half-month term when Muslim women don’t speak to others after the death of their husbands. She had been preparing to leave for her mother’s house on Shab-e-Baraat when the family heard about the blasts. “We rushed to look for Ahmad and his children. We found Ahmad’s body at N N Wadia Hospital. By that time Shoeb (11) had reached home. He had blood all over his clothes and was rushed to a hospital,” Raees Ahmad, a cousin said. Shoeb has severe injuries above his right eye and on the forehead. Sohail was taken to hospital by locals and has injuries on his head, forehead, shoulder and chest.

The Times of India, September 15, 2009

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mud in a packet throws Malegaon out of gear

FALSE ALARM: ATS personnel wheel away the ‘bomb’ to the safety of an empty school ground, while another keeps watch

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: Already tense Malegaon went into a tizzy on Wednesday afternoon when news spread that a bomb had been found outside Mohmmadia mosque. However, six hours of intense search proved it was a hoax .

The bomb squad rushed to the spot along with a sniffer dog to check out the ‘bomb’ which was kept in an unclaimed package outside the mosque, located on busy Quidwai Road. The squad moved the package to the compound of a closed municipal school nearby to avoid any untoward situations at 2.30 pm. A team of NSG experts were called in from Nashik and it was they

who found that the ‘bomb’ was nothing but mud mixed with gunpowder and packed in a sweet box. Apparently the gunpowder, the kind used in firecrackers, fooled the sniffer dog.

Meanwhile, the Nashik city police arrested four persons on Tuesday and Wednesday and seized 11 detonators, gel
atin sticks and a revolver from them. The four were identified as Waseem alias Zakir, Feroz Khan alias Munna, Zoheb Khan alias Jojo and Sameer Shaikh from Nashik. Police sources said while Munna was arrested on Tuesday, three others, Zakir, a resident of Indra Nagar in Nashik, Jojo and Shaikh were arrested on Wednesday morning. Four others wanted in this connection are still absconding. “We are trying to find out why they were carrying detonators and who had supplied the explosives and the firearms. It seems they are attached to a group whose identity is yet to be disclosed. The police is also interrogating them about their reasons for carrying gelatin sticks and detonators,’’ said Param Bir Singh, deputy inspector general (SRPF), who holds additional charge of Nashik police commissioner.

However, Malegaon police sources said the cops had also picked up one Akram, who was carrying explosives. However, no further details were released about him. A team of anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officials has left for Nashik to interrogate the arrested accused.

“We have got some concrete clues about the Malegaon blasts but don’t want to reveal anything now. We would just say that the case will be opened soon,’’ said an officer.

Intelligence Bureau sources in Delhi view the Malegaon bomb hoax as a clear indication of the intent to provoke trouble in a city with a history of communal strife. They also see it as a clear pointer that the perpetrators of the atrocities last week have roots and/or safe houses in the city. TNN

The Times of India, September 14, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dead ‘Pak girl’ was from Malegaon’s Islamabad

The eight-year-old Sajeda was fromMalegaon's Islamabad

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad is over fifteen hundred kilometres away from this powerloom township, but a local area here also called by that name came into news two days ago, when a section of the media reported that a Pakistani girl was among those killed in the serial blasts that rocked Malegaon last Friday.

The fact, however, is that Sajeda Bano Rizwan (8), a resident of Islamabad—located in the southern part of Malegaon—was on her way to celebrate Shab-e-Baraat festival to her maternal uncle’s house when she went missing in the crowd near Bada Qabrastan and was finally found dead in the morgue of the NN Wadia Hospital on Saturday.

Media reports that Sajeda had come from Pakistan’s capital city to meet her uncle in Malegaon on the occasion of Shab-e-Baraat, led to much confusion and soon rumours
started doing the rounds that some Pakistan-backed militant outfits were involved in the terror crime. It took two days for the police to find out that took two days to find out that Sajeda was resident of Malegaon and not Pakistan.

With most of its population of around 12,000 Muslims, Malegaon’s Islamabad is surrounded by the Mausam river on its west and south. On its north is located the historic fort of Raja Narav Shankar. Abdul
Khalidque Sardar, a resident of nearby area, said, “Islamabad came into existence soon after the fort came into existence in 1600s.’’ While there are three Sunni mosques in the area—Kausar Masjid, Hayat Masjid and Nageena Masjid—the corner of Islamabad is home to Malegaon’s single mosque for Shias.’’ Partitioned on lines of the different classes living there, in Islamabad’s north live the textile merchants or the middleclass people, while the south is home to the poor and the labourer class that included Sajeda’s family.

Sajeda’s family said they tried to search for her for over two hours before the bombs went off but in vain. “People started running helter skelter shouting that there was blast. We saw people in a pool of blood and the vehicles being smashed. But we didn’t find our sister,’’ said 16-year-old Zainab, Sajeda’s elder sister.

A class IV student in a municipal school here, Sajeda along with her mother and other siblings, was headed for her uncle’s home. “Every year we go to my brother’s place for Shabe-Baraat. This time too, I was taking my six daughters, including Sajeda, there when three of them insisted that they wanted to see the stream of beggars who arrive from across the country for alms outside the mosques on the day. The main road and the by-lanes were heavily crowded and all of sudden Sajeda got separated from us and went missing in the huge crowd,’’ said a mourning
Rasheeda Bano, Sajeda’s mother.

The family lodged a missing complaint with the Azad Nagar police station and the next day the police asked them to come and see a girl’s body lying at the hospital. “I identified my sister’s body which was wrapped in a dupatta. It was divided into two pieces from her waist. Her legs had broken with multiple injuries. She was buried at the Bada Qabrastan on Saturday afternoon,’’ said Sajeda’s brother Irfan.

Sajeda was the eighth child among her six sisters and three brothers. While her mother is a widow, brother Irfan is paralysed and can’t work to earn. Her second brother, Nihal, works in Malegaon Spinning Mill on a salary of Rs 1,000 per month, while her two teenaged sisters work as domestic in Chunabhatti and Belbaug areas for Rs 60 per week. This family of nine depends on Rs 1,500 earnings per month, but Aarafa, another of Sajeda’s sister, claims, “It’s enough to support our family.’’

The Times of India, September 13, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Grave-diggers recall a 12-hour frenzy to bury 38 victims

REMAINS OF THE DAY: Hussain says scenes of grief are common, but never one so heart-rending

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: For the last three years, 18-year-old Muzammil Hussain and 20-year-old Raees Shaikh have been digging graves at Malegaon’s largest cemetery — one each a day. The Bada Kabrastan, among the largest Muslim cemeteries in the country, has a team of seven grave-diggers, each of whom earns Rs 125 per day by digging up a six-foot-deep grave.

On Friday evening, their schedule changed. Hussain and Shaikh were urgently summoned to dig as many graves as they could. And 12 hours later, they had done enough work to bury 38 of the victims killed in the blasts, without charging a single rupee for it.

“We were sitting at the Bada Kabrastan when we first heard some sounds and saw crowds running around in the cemetery,’’ recalls Shaikh, a class IV dropout from a municipal school. “We rushed to the main gate where we saw people lying in a pool of blood and bodies
everywhere. We were so scared we ran home.’’

The duo were called back to work around 4 pm by their supervisor Suleiman. And it was when they got back at the Kabrastan that the enormity of the tragedy hit them.

Hussain, the eldest of three brothers and the son of a powerloom worker, said he had entered the profession at an early age to supplement his father’s meagre monthly income of Rs 1,600. “When I was searching for a job, a grave-digger told me he would pay me Rs 200 for helping him dig a grave. I agreed because Rs 200 was enough to support my family and since then I have been digging graves. Now I earn around Rs 700 a week.’’

Hussain said he was inured to the sight of “people mourning everyday. It’s our duty to dig and we experience no emotion when we see people crying after performing the final rites of their beloved ones. But this time there were so many graves.’’

His colleague Shaikh said he too was used to the sight of death from
an early age, having seen his grandfather at work as a grave digger. “I used to come to this cemetery with my grandfather and saw him digging graves every day. I had left school and had no other job so I would help my grandfather. When he retired, he posted me in his place,’’ said Shaikh. Friday’s incident had left a deep impression on him, he said.

Given the enormity of the task, Shaikh and his colleague had to work non-stop for nearly 12 hours. “We were already told about a large number of people dying in the terrorist strike. So we were digging graves restlessly for over 12 to 13 hours.’’

Local youths too pitched in to help them. “Our job was to shape the graves partly dug up by the locals. Over a hundred youth had come forward to help us,’’ said Hussain. And at the end of it all, neither Shaikh nor Hussain hadcharged a single rupee for digging the graves. “So many people lost their lives in the terrorist attack and therefore we decided to dig graves free of cost,” said Hussain.

The Times of India, September 12, 2006

Clatter of powerlooms resumes

Nitin Yeshwantrao and Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Malegaon: The noisy clatter of the powerlooms and the streets milling with school children and burqa-clad women was proof that the tension was subsiding in Malegaon on Monday. However, a sense of unease and anger also continued to linger among residents four days after the serial blasts.

That the city was settling down to its everyday routine was evident from the absence of bystanders and gossipmongers, who were otherwise gathering at tea stalls and eateries on the days immediately after the blasts. Shops and cloth vendors on the busy Quidwai road in the eastern part of Malegaon also opened shutters after a partial close-down on Saturday and Sunday.

However, police presence remained visible at all corners and bylanes. SRPF personnel and the Rapid Action Force
was deployed all over the city, and though they looked relaxed, security personnel continued to question the odd pedestrian or take a closer look at parked bicycles and motorbikes.

Powerloom units reported full attendance by labourers on Monday after a three-day interrruption. “There was high tension but finally one cannot afford to sit idle. If we do not go to work we lose money. I earn Rs 500 per week. I cannot afford to let my family remain hungry,’’ said Jameel Ahmed, a labourer employed in a loom in Sangmeshwar region, which is largely aHindu-dominated area.

Clearly, though the blasts have left 38 people dead and rattled most locals, residents are now focused on the business of survival. The Muslim quarter, for instance, which is completely dependent on the powerloom and yarn trade, is keen to return to the routine of the 12-hour shift in the looms.

However, the grudge remains against the government and law-enforcers for “delay in the investigations of the blast’’ and the “partisan behaviour of the state government for doling out a mere Rs 1 lakh of rupees to the next of the kin of the victims.’’

On Monday, religious leaders, social activists and political parties continued to hold consultations with groups of Muslims on the issue. Maulana Madani, religious leader and president of the Jamiat-Ul-Ulema, was critical of the police but he also urged the community to observe restraint in times of crisis.

The Times of India, September 12, 2006

Bajrang Wadi remains oasis of calm in a riot-torn town

SECULAR AND IN THE FACE: Devi Mata Temple and Motipura mosque share the same wall

Mandir, masjid stand next to each other, Hindu and Muslim families observe prayer code daily

Nitin Yeshwantrao and Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Malegaon: Undoubtedly, it is a proud symbol of harmony in strife-torn Malegaon. The Devi Mata Mandir and the century-old Motipura Masjid, which stand next to each other, bring Hindus and Muslims in Bajrang Wadi together for celebrations of Id and Diwali.

The respect and reverence shown to each other’s faith is complete. Care is taken to ensure that the timings of bhajans and evening prayers in the temple do not clash with the namaaz. At the time of the azaan (the muezzin’s call to the faithful for prayers), temple officials shut down their speakers and refrain from playing the cymbals and the drums.

Even in these communally charged times, Bajrang Wadi seems far removed from the turbulence in the powerloom town. A constant stream of devotees continues to make its way to the temple everyday for evening rituals and bhajans, often passing in front of the mosque; on the other side, the crowd gathers at five different times of the day to offer namaaz.

``It is a sort of an unwritten and unspoken understanding between both the communities. We have ourselves framed the code of conduct and each one takes adequate care not to breach this code. Just in front of the masjid a Ganesh pandal is erected. But our Hindu brothers make sure that there is no cymbals chanting and drum-beating when we offer namaaz. There is proper understanding and it has worked well all these years,’’ said Fazalur Rahman Almohammadi, a local journalist.

Such is the cooperation and trust between the two communities that during the reconstruction of the temple about a year ago, water used for all the works came from the masjid. Rather than order tanker water, temple authorities found it convenient as the masjid had a well inside.

Hafeez Jamal, another resident and a regular at the Motipura masjid, said despite the several communal disturbances in the powerloom town over the years, Hindu families in predominantly Muslim Bajrang Wadi had continued to feel secure.

“There has been no trouble so far and god
willing, the same situation will prevail no matter whatever happens elsewhere in the town,’’ said Hafeez.

Although the temple and the masjid have been provided security cover of late with about 10-12 armed police personnel, policemen on duty too vouch for the secular credentials of people living here.

“There is no trouble here and it is business as usual but I think it is safe to have a police posse just in case some miscreants would want to disturb the peace,’’ an official on conditions of anonymity told TOI.

Almohammadi said there was an attempt some years back to create tension when a Ganpati procession from another area flung gulal on the doors of the masjid. “However, we arrived there in time and washed it all away with
out making too much of a song and dance about it. These things have to be ignored in the larger interest,’’ he added.

The Hindus, despite being in a minority in Bajrang Wadi with just about 50-75 families, say they have always felt safe despite the turbulence all around them. Pradip Bagul, a trustee of the Devi Mata Mandir, said he has been residing in the area for the last 40 years and never once has he felt helpless or insecure.

“Almost the entire neighbourhood is Muslim but I have no fear from them. I have grown up with them. There was no harm to us even in the worst of times. Even on Friday when the blast occured outside the Kabrastan, there was no tension here. We were all united in grief,’’ Bagul said.

Another local Sachin Shelar said their faith in Muslims in the neighbourhood is unshaken despite the frequent incidents of communal violence in the town.

“Here, there is perfect syncronisation between the communities. Our prayers are either after or much before the Muslim brothers start their namaaz. When the namaaz is in progress no one here rings the bells and beats the cymbals. We have lived in peace and will continue to live like one good family,’’ Shelar declared.

The Times of India, September 12, 2006

Malegaon may help crack 7/11

Two Suspects Identified; Modus Operandi Similar, Says Pasricha

Mumbai/Malegaon: In the first indication that the deadly blasts in Malegaon could have links with the 7/11 terror attacks, Maharashtra’s top police officer on Monday claimed there were vital leads in the powerloom town that could help solve the Mumbai train serial blasts case of July 11.

“From the modus operandi, it is assumed that the same set of militants carried out the blasts in Mumbai and Malegaon,’’ DGP P S Pasricha said on Monday.

At least two persons from a village near Malegaon who had given the perpetrators logistical support have been identified and will be picked up soon, a top police officer said. They were identified from sketches of the two men who bought cycles from a Malegaon shop three hours before the blasts last Friday.

Police also said the explosives used in Malegaon were a cocktail of RDX, ammonium nitrate and fuel oil—the same mixture used in 7/11. TOI was the first to report this on Sunday.

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has sent samples of the cocktail to forensic labs in Chandigarh and Hyderabad as
well as to a military forensic lab. The ATS has prima facie ruled out the involvement of Hindu fundamentalist groups in the blasts citing two reasons—first, that RDX is only available to Islamic terrorist outfits and second, Bajrang Dal activists so far have used only crude bombs, as seen in the Parbhani and Nanded blasts.

If the forensic evidence about the explosives used is corroborated by other leads confirming the role of a fundamentalist group in the Malegaon mosque attack, it will be the first instance of a terror atrocity on Muslims in the country.

Verdict in 1993 blasts case today
Exactly 13 years and 6 months after the 1993 blasts reverberated across Mumbai and killed 257 innocent citizens, special judge P D Kode is all set to roll out the verdict beginning today. The judge is likely to begin pronouncing the judgment individually for each of the 123 accused who stood trial. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said there was no legal hurdle in the way of the judgment now. P 4

The Times of India, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

IN MEMORY: People offer prayers at Bada Kabrastan in Malegaon where victims of the Friday blasts were buried

Cops claim headway in Malegaon

These sketches were made after police questioned cycle shopowners

Trace ‘Terror Cycles’, Make Sketches Of Two Suspects

Nitin Yeshwantrao & Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: Two days after the Malegaon blasts, amidst a public outcry over the terror acts, police officers leading the probe said they had made a breakthrough by tracking down the sale of bicycles used to park the explosives at various spots.

Police said they had questioned the owners of the shops from where the cycles were purchased on Friday three hours prior to the blasts and had used the information provided to prepare sketches of two suspects. The announce
ment came at a time when senior police officers were out on the streets in the Muslim quarter, meeting and assuring large groups of angry youths that the culprits would be nabbed very soon.

“Two cycles were purchased from two different shops in Malegaon. We are recording the statements of the owners about the description of the men who bought the cycles. We have also prepared two sketches,’’ said P K Jain, inspector general (Nashik range).

Investigators said tests were being conducted to verify the nature of the explosives, which were as yet unclear. “From the injuries sustained, where splinters have entered the bodies of the victims, we can deduce that high-intensity explosives were used,’’ said Jain. But he said it was “still not confirmed whether it was RDX or some other explosives’’.

A fragile peace prevailed in Malegaon throughout the day and although shops and powerlooms stayed open on Sunday, a sense of tension
kept the authorities on their toes. People continued to crowd the lanes and chowks in the eastern part of the township, discussing the explosions which killed 38 people and left 297 injured.

Despite the heavy deployment of armed SRPF and police personnel, the situation seemed volatile as Muslim youths began raising slogans against the police, demanding
speedy action against the culprits. But it was the timely and daring intervention of Rajvardhan, superintendent of police, Nashik (rural), which prevented the situation from spinning out of control.

Explosives found near Thane
Police on Sunday morning seized a huge cache of explosives found abandoned in an SUV at Thembha village off the Mumbai-Nashik highway at Shahpur. Eleven boxes, each containing 25 gelatine sticks, 50 detonators, 75 pieces of wire and five sacks of 50 kg of ammonium nitrate, were found in the vehicle. The driver and two of his companions fled from the scene after a scuffle with the villagers. P 7

Youths allege state bias

Malegaon: Superintendent of police (Nashik rural) Rajvardhan helped defuse a potentially explosive situation on Sunday. He waded into the mob with local religious leaders Mufti Ismail and Janata Dal corporator Hanif Kureshi to pacify the angry youths. He pleaded with them to maintain peace and allow the police to carry on with the investigation.

The youths, however, accused the authorities of dilly-dallying on the probe and showing prejudice in the treatment of blast victims from the minority community. “There is so much discrimination in distribution of relief. Victims of the Mumbai train blasts were paid Rs 5 lakh while our broth
ers who died were paid only Rs 1 lakh,’’ one youth shouted over the megaphone offered to him by Rajvardhan. “Also no arrest has been made so far despite the huge loss of life.’’

Muslim religious leaders, social activist Aasif Ali and others were also seen arguing with the crowd, making an attempt to dissuade them from taking to the streets. “These youths are in no mood to listen to anybody. They have scant respect for religious and political leaders and the police officer who is at pains to tell them that investigations are at an advanced stage. They are all interested in creating a riot situation,’’ said Ali. In contrast, the Hindu-dominated parts of the city seemed largely unaffected and it was business as usual there.

The Times of India, September 11, 2006

Cops faced public ire, mayor : came under mob attack


Nitin Yeshwantrao & Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Malegaon: Anger and a certain sense of relief is commonplace in Malegaon. The rage is directed against the local political leadership, the police and to some extent the TV media. However, the size of the toll in Friday’s blasts, locals say, is some consolation.

“Yes, we are somewhat relieved because the damage done, though brutal, was minimal. Had the blasts taken place in the night, it would have been a massacre. On this day, about one lakh people flock the street near the Badi Masjid and there was a possibility the casualty figures would have touched a hundred,’’ said Khalil Abbas, a 28-year-old who lives in Nayapura.

Recalling the gore on the streets moments after the incident, he said, “I heard a big blast and came out of my house to see people falling over
each other, scrambling to get to a safe place.’’ Abbas had rushed towards the spot. “The blast near the entrance created a scare and so namaazis gathered there rushed to the other exit which is narrow. However, before they reached there there were two more blasts. And people began panicking,” he said.

Ishtiyaq Ahmed (26), a law student from Malegaon Law College, said he was returning home after
prayers at the Rehmani Masjid when he “heard a big sound and shouts for help. I rushed to a building to get a view of the Mushawarat Chowk area. People were running and I saw several injured,’’ he said.

As news of the blast spread, locals gathered and public ire was directed at police vehicles. “At least two police jeeps were torched and six police vehicles were smashed. The local police officer of the Azad Nagar police station who tried to intervene was rushed to safety by some people before the mob could target him,’’ said Mujahid Ahmed.

The furious mob who had by then started stone-pelting turned wild when they saw mayor Asif Shiekh. “People attacked him and he was beaten up very badly. But I took him to the safety of a shop and downed the shutters. It was only after the police came in that the shutter was opened and he was escorted to safety,’’ said Abbas.

The Times of India, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Children bear the brunt of terror

STILL SMILING: Md Aasir lost two brothers and an uncle on Friday

There Was Blood All Around. I Cried For Help But No One Heard Me. I’ve Never Experienced Panic Like This’

Nitin Yeshwantrao & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Malegaon: “Nanha munna raahi hoon, Mein desh ka sipaahi hoon, Jai Hind, Jai Hind,’’ heavily-bandaged six-yearold Mohammad Aasir sings, sitting on his bed at Noor Hospital in Malegaon.

Aasir, a student of class II, was one of the children who saw death from very close quarters on Friday and lived to tell the tale. Death snatched away two younger brothers and an uncle as they were on their way to a cemetery to pray at their mother’s grave; she died two months back. But Aasir refuses to be cowed down, greeting visitors with a smile and a song.

Aasir along with his brothers, fouryear-old Ansab and five-year-old Azhar, were on a bike their uncle, Masood Ansari, was riding to Bada Kabrastan when the blast near Mushawarat
Chowk threw them off the bike.

“We offered namaaz at the Rahmani Masjid and were on our way to the cemetery when I heard a loud bang. Our bike fell and I saw my uncle and two brothers in a pool of blood. I cried for help but there was so much noise around that no one heard me. People were running all around the place and there was fear and panic that I had never seen,’’ he added.

The next thing he remembers is being treated at the hospital with blood all around the floor. Splinters pierced his head and they had to be removed surgically. The iron spikes were still there in his body but doctors said Aasir was out of danger.

His two brothers and uncle, however, were not so lucky. All three passed
away before they could be taken to a hospital.

Aasir, however, does not know about the deaths; he is told they, too, are undergoing treatment whenever he wants to meet them. But his family is not sure how long they can continue with this lie.

Thirteen-year-old Muzamil Saeed Ahmed is another survivor; but he appears scared and scarred permanently. Ahmed had gone to the Bada Masjid to offer the afternoon namaaz when he was hit by the splinters that flew around after the blast.

“We suspect he cannot hear with his left ear. He came home running, bleeding profusely, and just wanted to hide inside. We pleaded with him to come along to the hospital but he cried and cried and was scared there would be another blast. But I don’t blame him; he saw so many mutilated bodies and
so much blood,’’ aunt Rashda Salim, sitting beside him, said.
Ten-year-old Mohammad Arift, a student of class IV at a municipal school and son of a powerloom labourer, was injured in a blast inside the Bada Kabrastan seconds after he came out of the cemetery mosque.

It was Arif ’s first visit to the cemetery mosque. He was accompanied by four friends, two of whom — Saeed and Naveed — died.

“My friends said we would go to the cemetery to offer namaaz and also see a large number of beggars who had come in from outside Malegaon,’’ he recalled. “I fell down in the stampede and came around only at the hospital,’’ he added.

“He has never been admitted to a hospital and is always asking us to take him home,’’ grandmother Shamsunnisa said.

The Times of India, September 10, 2006

Doc-to-be packed bags for China, fate had other plans

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: Eighteen-year-old Sajid Ahmed wanted to be a doctor and was very close to realising his dreams. He was slated to fly to China on September 19 and the new clothes and shoes were in place to help him withstand the bitter winter in China. Everything, however, will remain unused now.

Sajid was one of those killed by the four blasts that rocked Malegaon on Friday. He died just a hundred metres from home, ensuring there would be no doctor in the family; that was one of the dreams that his father, Shafique Ahmed, thought would be reality in four-and-a-half years.

Sajid and his 16-year-old cousin, Shehbaz, were on their way to offer prayers at their grandparents’ graves at Bada Kabrastan when terror struck Malegaon.

They were among the 10 people who died a few dozen feet from the cemetery. But the rest of the family was lucky to escape death by about 50 feet on Friday.

“We were also on our way to the cemetery and barely 50 ft behind the two boys when we heard a loud explosion, saw people falling and a lot of blood all around. We reached the spot and took Sajid to Vaidya Hospital but could not find Shehbaz. Later, we saw hospital staff carrying in
another body; it was Shehbaz’s,’’ Shafique sobbed.

“My son would always tell me that he wanted to become a doctor and cure people since he had seen poverty in Malegaon and felt the lack of a proper civil hospital,” he said.

“I had also planned to construct a huge hospital for my son,’’ he added.

Pointing to a huge bag kept on the loft, a family member said: “We were all very happy and he had even finished packing his bags. He was supposed to spend the 10 days (till September 19) meeting friends and
relatives as he was going to come back a year later.’’

Sajid’s grandfather, Qayyum Saleem, chairman of the Malegaon High School and Junior College, said: “My grandsons were obedient and wanted to do something big in life. Sajid would help his father in his chemist’s shop, Saleem Medical Store, and Shehbaz would help me in my powerloom factory.’’

The mourning family had a stream of visitors on Saturday.

“He was a brilliant student and very disciplined. It is a loss for the nation. We would always tell our students that Sajid was a role model as a student,’’ one of Sajid’s teachers said.

“He was very ambitious and would always tell me: ‘Dada, ek din main doctor ban jaounga’,’’ grandfather Saleem said on Saturday, failing to control his emotions and breaking into sobs.

Friends of the two boys were also present at the Ahmed’s residence on Saturday.

“He had told me to come with him to Mumbai when he would leave for China,” friend Rizwan Ansari said.

“He was very popular among all his friends. Perhaps that was why no one wanted to believe the news of his death,” he added.

The Times of India, September 10, 2006

It’s 4 blasts now but that’s all cops can tell

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Malegaon: Just like in the case of the serial blasts on trains in Mumbai, investigators in Malegaon, too, have found little evidence at the site of the four blasts. The only “development’’ was police fixing the number of blasts at four and not three; there were two blasts at the masjid in the graveyard compound, officials said on Saturday.

But they admitted they could not find any evidence at the sites. Officials also refused to confirm the several detentions since Friday’s blasts.

Deputy superintendent of police Rajesh Pradhan said the possibility of bombs made from a cocktail of chemicals could not be ruled out. “Preliminary investigations indicate that the low-intensity bombs contained iron shrapnel, ball bearings, some unidentified chemicals and explosives,’’ he said.

“It seems that timers were used in these blasts since all the bombs went off within a few seconds. We are also exploring if remote controls were used in the blasts,’’ a senior police officer said.

Investigators said the bombs could have been made of several explosives and chemicals like those used in the 7/11 blasts. “We are studying the case and the modus operandi in the blasts. It would be too premature to talk about the outfit behind this,’’ Malegaon additional superintendent Anil Kumbhare said.

All the four bombs were
kept on the carriers of bicycles parked at the blast sites. Officials are now trying to trace the owners of the cycles.

“A special team of 10 members comprising officers of the anti-terrorism squad (ATS), Malegaon detection branch and officers on deputation has been formed to crack the case. This team will directly report to superintendent of police, Nashik (rural) and the ATS,’’ inspector-general (Nashik range) P K Jain said.

ATS officials arrived here late on Friday and inspected

all the four blast sites. The forensic experts along with the ATS officials collected debris from the sites and sent it for a chemical analysis to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Mumbai. Residents criticised the poor bandobast on Friday and blamed police for having no intelligence at all about the terror plans. But Kumbhare maintained: “Cemetery officials conducted a meeting with the police four days ago and made it clear that they did not want a single policemen to be posted there.’’

The Times of India, September 10, 2006

‘How do we tell her that she is an orphan now?’

Shehnaz lies in hospital, unaware of her mother’s death. Both had come to Malegaon from MP

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Malegaon: Friday, September 8, was a day that nine-year-old Shehnaz Bano and her mother Noor Jehan had been eagerly awaiting. Like thousands of other beggars, the two had travelled to Malegaon from their hometown Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh to get a slice of the generosity on offer during Shab-e-Barat—the auspicious day when Muslims pray to their dead and distribute clothes, money and food.

Destiny, however, had other plans. Shehnaz and her mother were severely injured in Friday’s blasts, and the little girl today lies on a hospital bed orphaned. “Her mother sustained severe head, stomach and chest injuries and was brought to this hospital bleeding profusely along with Shehnaz. She passed away on Friday evening,’’ says Dr Dhananjay Ahire, the medical officer at Vaidya Hospital on the outskirts of the city. The child, however, has not been told about this by the doctors and
members of the Bangalore-based Art of Living (AoL) group who have been attending to her since the blasts.

“After my father’s death two years ago, my mother and I have been begging,’’ says Shehnaz. “My elder brother works at a tea stall on a weekly salary of Rs 100, so we have to beg to feed ourselves. I had come to Malegaon’s Qabrastan to offer flowers at the shrine (of Sufi saint
Maulana Mohammed Ishaq) inside the cemetery.’’

The child has been crying constantly because of the trauma of the blast and the pain from her injuries on her right arm and legs.

Virtually swathed in bandages, she is being attended to by AoL’s Meena Jadhav and Nalini Pawar. “All she wants to know is where her mother is,’’ says Pawar. “She pleads with us to take her there. How do we tell her that her mother is no more and that she is an orphan now?’’

Festive mood turned tragic
Malegaon: Nine-year-old Shehnaz, who was orphaned in one of Friday’s blasts in Malegaon but is unaware of the tragedy, says her mother, who suffered from several diseases, had told her that if they got more money she would go to a better doctor for treatment.

“I came along with her so that I could pray for her health. She wants me to study and insists that I go to school regularly,’’ she says earnestly.

Art Of Living’s Meena Jadhav, who is looking after the child, says her group learnt about Shehnaz on Saturday afternoon and she has been by her bedside since then.

“She is unable to tell us her exact address but once we get
it, we will go and bring her relatives here,’’ she says.

The doctors at the hospital say Shehnaz will have to be at the hospital for at least another month.

Malegaon residents say that on the day of Shab-e-Barat, the entire township acquires a festive look and restaurants and roadside eateries remain open throughout the night. In fact, the event is so major that beggars from across the nation flock to the powerloom town as they are certain of not going back empty-handed.

“Fakirs from all over come here on this day,’’ says Dr Ahmed Riyaz, editor of a local newspaper. “In fact they come here a week in advance and mark out their begging spot on the road with chalk.’’

The blood mingling with the chalk this year will haunt the memories of Malegaon’s Muslims for a long time to come.

The Times of India, September 10, 2006

Saturday, September 9, 2006

A history of communal violence

Nitin Yeshwantrao | TNN

Malegaon:Malegaon is no stranger to communal violence. It is a township born in the shadow of violence—set up after thousands of Muslim families from Delhi fleeing the British suppression of 1857 relocated here. Others moved closer on to Mumbai and settled in Bhiwandi, its sister township where the sound of powerlooms dominates all else.

In Malegaon the majority-minority roles are reversed with three-fourths of 7.5-lakh township being Muslim, the majority of whom are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and many from Bangladesh. Ever since the first riot in 1963—sparked by clashes between two community processions for Ganpati Visarjan and Moharram, both of which happened to fall on the same day—Malegaon has taken several hits: in the sixties, the early eighties, in 1992, and worst of all in October 2001 when the army had to be called in to restore peace. Earlier this year, in May, the police seizure of a large consignment of RDX and weapons from an electrical shop accentuated the stigma of “terror town”. Locals found that families from other parts of the state were nervous about marrying their daughter into Malegaon, a place now marked by the acronyms of SIMI, LeT and RDX.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the township is unhealthily ghettoised with the Mausam river, more nullah than river, forming an unsanitary boundary between the two populations. But while the physical segregation seems almost complete, the lives of the two communities remain deeply intertwined by
the dictates of trade: the suppliers of yarn are largely Hindu, the weavers mostly Muslim. After the 1992 riots, the numerous mohalla committees set up have worked hard to bridge the divide, and the peace was won in 2003 when the torn pages of the Quran in a local mosque did not spark riots as feared.

In 2002, after the Gujarat riots, truckloads of Muslim families moved to Malegaon, among them the most iconic face of the Gujarat riots—Qutubuddin Ansari, the tailor whose desperate face haunted India after a photographer captured him pleading for mercy before a rampaging mob. Ansari worked in a garment factory in Malegaon till his picture was published in a local paper. His panic-stricken employer who wanted nothing to do with him, promptly asked him to leave.

No picture postcard, the landscape is a blight of small houses pressed up against each other on narrow streets. Swarms of pigs move around doing the job of absent drains and grim lines of handloom factories are packed with child labourers. Dim and unventilated with long working hours, the Factory Act seems to have left Malegaon unscathed.

Malegaon mayor had banned Vande Mataram
Malegaon: Malegaon locals are known to be a hardworking lot, slogging from morning to night in the textile and plastic factories. The average wage is Rs 300 a week, barely enough to feed the mostly large families. The five-day curfew during the 2001 riots reduced many workers to penury forcing them to depend on the charity of the local masjids to get by.

The Vande Mataram debate now being played out in the rest of India erupted here
many years ago when Malegaon’s mayor Nihal Ahmed, a senior Janata Dal leader, decided to ban the song from the civic body’s daily proceedings. The decision rocked the state assembly.

In 2004, Malegaon cropped up again in the controversy surrounding the gunning down of two youngsters suspected to have links with the LeT—Ishrat Shaikh from Mumbra and her friend Javed. The IB said the two who had made trips to Lucknow, Malegaon and Ahmedabad, all LeT strongholds.

In 1997, when J P Dutta’s Border was released, Malegaon had posters on the walls advising people not to see the film as it was ‘anti-Muslim’. The producer claimed the posters had not affected the turnout. Malegaon has an active film industry which churns out home-made films such as Malegaon ke Sholay and Malegaon ki Lagaan. The films run to full houses, especially on Friday which is the weekly off, when the streets are redolent with the smell of biryani. This Friday, sadly, was different.
The Times of India, September 9, 2006