Thursday, February 12, 2009

Azamgarh clerics charter train to protest Batla House encounter

Islamic clerics of Azamgarh are leading a train-load of Muslims to the national capital New Delhi where they propose to stage a demonstration on Thursday to mark their protest against what they termed as "framing of local youth as terrorists" .

Their anger was particularly against the killing of four young men from Azamgarh in the Batla House encounter in New Delhi a few months back. And the protest rally is aimed at pressing their demand for a judicial probe into the incident.

And their feelings are so strong that the locally based Ulema Council has managed to raise Rs. 1.1 million to hire a 24-coach special train, titled 'Ulema Special', that will carry the group from Azamgarh to New Delhi on Wednesday evening.

"Our protest rally is slated for the Boat House at India Gate on Thursday," council convenor Maulana Aamir Rashadi said, just before embarking on his landmark journey from Azamgarh at noon on Wednesday.

"We want a judicial inquiry to be conducted by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court," he said.

Rashadi, who is known to have organised the entire show almost single-handedly, said , "It is high time the police puts brakes on their tendency to blame every terrorist act in the country on the youths from Azamgarh."

According to him, "each of the three young men, killed in the police encounter at Batla House, were clearly victims of this very approach of the cops; but this must end now."

While about 2,000 persons were stated to be on board the special train, a larger number of clerics and students from Delhi based madrasas were expected to join the demonstration.

Significantly, the passengers include the next of kin of the three youth -- Atif , Ameed and Chota Sajid -- who fell victim to police bullets in the Batla House encounter. Besides the family members of at least 10 others who were picked up from their homes in Serai Meer town in Azamgarh district and booked for the sensational terrorist strikes in Jaipur [Images], Delhi and Ahmedabad [Images] .

"Our objective is to make our voice heard across the country that the youth from Azamgarh is being targeted by the police of different states, who find it convenient to blame every terrorist attack anywhere on them," he pointed out.

Asked how he was able to fund a whole special train for which besides the booking amount of Rs.1.1 million, he had also made a security deposit of Rs.300,000, Rashadi shot back, "It is the people of Serai Meer and Azamgarh who have donated money out of their earnings."

Rashadi's Ulema Council was formed in November last year, shortly after cops started arresting youth from the district for their alleged terrorist nexus.

Significantly, his son Talha Amir was arrested by the Mumbai [Images] Anti-Terrorist Squad at the Nagpur railway station last month . The cops then claimed that Talha was the fourth "terrorist" who escaped from the Batla House, but eventually failed to produce any substantive evidence against him following which he was granted bail by a Maharashtra court earlier this month.

When asked whether it was his son's arrest that had prompted him to mobilise people for the Boat House protest rally in Delhi, Rashadi sought to clarify, "Certainly not; I had planned it more than a month before they picked up my son; though of course there is no doubt that he was also being implicated."

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh [Images] police was ensuring full security for the train that has to traverse across the eastern corner to the western tip of the sprawling state. "We have alerted every district to maintain a vigil all along the route of the train, which is scheduled to make the return journey from Delhi on Thursday night," said a police spokesman.

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