Azamgarh Muslims now book train to Lucknow

February 2nd, 2009 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Muslims from Azamgarh of Uttar Pradesh, encouraged by the response of a large-scale protest here last week, will stage a similar demonstration in Lucknow to demand an end to the alleged police harassment of youths from the town in the name of fighting terrorism.the Ulema Council has now decided to stage a similar demonstration in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow.

Over 3,000 Muslims from Azamgarh district, gathered at the Jantar Mantar Jan 29, protesting against “police harassment” of youths from the community and demanding a judicial enquiry into the shootout at Batla House in south Delhi last year, in which two alleged terrorists, both from Azamgarh, were killed.

“This time we want to send a message to Chief Minister Mayawati and besides the demands made in New Delhi, we will also ask the Uttar Pradesh government to stop the atrocities on our youths by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the state,” said Amir Rasadi, convener of the Ulema Council that is leading the campaign.

The council plans to hold the protest in front of the assembly complex Feb 20 and has booked two special trains to ferry its supporters to the state capital.

“One (train) will leave from Azamgarh and the other from Jaunpur,” Rasadi added.

Though the council refused to disclose the expenses for booking the trains, railway sources said Rs.1 million (Rs.10 lakh) were spent on reserving two trains.

The council had booked a train, named Ulema Express, to take its supporters to New Delhi for the protests, paying Rs.1.4 million (Rs.14 lakh) and a security deposit of Rs.300,000.

The council hopes mass protests using special trains will play an important role in deciding the 19 percent vote share Muslims and minorities have in Uttar Pradesh - which has the largest number (80) of seats in the Lok Sabha.

Rasadi’s son Talha Amir was arrested by the Mumbai Police ATS at the Nagpur railway station in December. Rasadi said Amir was innocent.

“The basic information about Amir was given by the Uttar Pradesh ATS (to Mumbai ATS). But they released him after 13 days after we pressurised them with the help of prominent clerics. They also dropped the charges framed against him,” Rasadi said.

“Neither (the state’s ruling) Bahujan Samaj Party nor the Congress or Samajwadi Party are our friends. Similarly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not our enemy. We would like to be close to those who agree on our agenda that is essentially against the wrong arrests and framing of Muslim youths,” Rasadi said.

The council has already decide to contest two Lok Sabha seats - Sadar and Lalganj in Azamgarh - and is working on the options of contesting other constituencies.

However, political analysts feel that a religious group cannot become a widespread political force.

“They (council) can win a couple of seats in Azamgarh or other Muslim-dominated areas but still they do not have the force to bargain or dictate terms with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) or any party,” said Ramesh Dixit, professor of political science in Lucknow.

They can, however, force the UPA government to initiate a high-level probe into the shootout and other similar incidents, Dixit added.

“On earlier occasions we have seen similar forces coming up during elections but they vanish equally fast,” he said.

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