‘I am Atif,’ roar crowds in slain terror suspects’ village

September 21st, 2008 - 5:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Sanjarpur (Uttar Pradesh), Sep 21 (IANS) This village of 40,000 people is seething with anger and pain. Outsiders driving in are met with swarms of men, who cling to the car like bees. Every now and then, someone says: “I am Atif! I am Sajid!”Some say they want to take up arms, others say they will no more dream of going to the cities to build a career now that two of their village youths - 24-year-old Atif and his 17-year-old cousin Sajid - have been killed as suspected terrorists by Delhi Police.

“I am Atif, but I have stopped dreaming of going to Delhi to make a career now,” said a voice from a crowd that surrounded the car this reporter was in.

Yelled another youth: “Any attempt for a modern and decent life by us are frustrated, why do you ask my name? I am Atif.”

Sanjarpur, which is part of the Sarai Meer block of Azamgarh district, close to the ancestral home of actress Shabana Azmi, is over 260 km from Lucknow and 750 km from national capital New Delhi.

Atif and Sajid, both of whom have been linked by police to the Sep 13 July blasts in Delhi that killed 24 people and were gunned down in Delhi Friday, obviously had a clean image in this village.

Police sources here told IANS that Atif and Sajid had no criminal history in Azamgarh.

The majority of people here are Muslims who are handloom weavers, and the non-Muslims mostly work as grocers and traders.

Prosperity in the village is evident what with at least one person from every family here working in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

At the moment, the atmosphere here is surcharged. Policemen say that mediapersons should go there at their own risk. To an outsider, it soon becomes evident why.

One voice from the crowd says: “If they are going to shoot our innocent people like this, we will also shoot.”

Most residents want journalists to go back instead of asking “frustrating questions”.

The villagers simply cannot believe that their boys could have terrorist links.

Atif was a post-graduate in history from a college in Jaunpur and wanted to go abroad after completing his B.Tech education from the Jamia Miliya Islamia University in Delhi.

His cousin Sajid was in the second year of the intermediate course and had gone to Delhi with the hope that he would learn to speak English fluently. He simultaneously wanted to join coaching classes with the ultimate dream of becoming an engineer.

Sajid had left home for the first time July 10. “Is there someone who can explain to me how my son, who was in front of my eyes for 17 years, became a terrorist within two months?

Delhi Police say Atif was the brain behind the Delhi blasts and part of a 13-member terror module.

“He has never killed even an insect in his life for 17 years and all of a sudden, Delhi Police came up with the claim that he possessed an AK-47 and waged a war against the nation,” said Ansar, Sajid’s father who is a ‘hakim’ or medical practitioner.

Atif’s father Mohammad Amin loses consciousness every now and then.

“Although my son was doing B.Tech from Jamia, he used to live mostly in the village. Only four months ago, he told me that he would not be able to clear his examination if he didn’t attend classes,” Amin said explaining why he had let Atif leave home.

Shadab Ahmed alias Mister, who is a local Samajwadi Party leader and the father of Saif, who was arrested from the suspected terror hideout where Atif and Sajid were killed, told IANS: “I have two children, one is Saif and my other son is a photographer with a prominent media house.”

For now, this village has failed to understand how its boys came to be branded terrorists.

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