Train load of protesting Uttar Pradesh Muslims head to Delhi

January 28th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Jan 28 (IANS) Hundreds of Muslims, including clerics, converged in the Uttar Pradesh town of Azamgarh Wednesday and left for the national capital in a special train to stage demonstrations against the alleged harassment of youths by police on the pretext of tackling terror. “Muslim youths, especially those hailing from Azamgarh, are being targeted and falsely implicated in terror incidents,” Maulana Amir Rashadi Madni, convenor of the local Ulema Council, told IANS on phone just before setting out on the train journey.

They left in a train named the Ulema Special for which the Ulema Council had raised a hefty sum of Rs.1.1 million.

“A 22-coach train left Azamgarh at around 12.30 p.m. and will travel across Uttar Pradesh, picking up passengers along the way to Delhi,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police (Azamgarh city) Shailendra Srivastava.

The train will traverse from the state’s eastern corner to the western tip before reaching New Delhi Friday, covering a distance of more than 700 km.

“We have provided elaborate security on the route,” a state police spokesperson said.

The Muslims were particularly angry about the killing of three young men from Azamgarh in a shootout with the police in the Batla House area of New Delhi a few months ago. Delhi Police had accused them of being involved in the Sep 13 serial bombings in the national capital.

“Our foremost demand is that the government must initiate an impartial probe into the Batla House encounter at the earliest. Enough is enough. It is high time the police put brakes on their tendency to blame every terrorist act in the country on the youth from Azamgarh,” Madni said.

“Each of the three killed in the police encounter in Batla House were clearly victims of this very approach of the cops, but this must end now,” he added.

While about 2,000 people were said to be on board the special train, a larger number of clerics and students from Delhi-based madrasas are expected to join the protest at Jantar Mantar in the heart of the national capital Thursday.

The train passengers include the kin of the three youth, Atif, Ameed and Chota Sajid, who were killed in the Batla House shootout.

The family members of at least 10 others, who were picked up from their homes in Sarai Meer town in Azamgarh district and booked for the sensational terrorist strikes in Jaipur, Delhi and Ahmedabad, were also on board the train.

“Our objective is to make our voice heard across the country that the youth from Azamgarh are being targeted by the police of different states, who find it convenient to blame every terrorist attack anywhere on them,” said Madni, who is known to have organised the train journey.

Asked how was he able to fund the train trip, Madni said: “It is the people of Serai Meer and Azamgarh who have donated money from their personal earnings.”

Besides the train booking amount of Rs. 1.1 million, he had also mobilized Rs.300,000 for the security deposit.

Madni’s Ulema Council was formed sometime in November last year shortly after cops started picking up youth from Azamgarh for their alleged nexus with terrorists.

Significantly, Madni’s son Talha Amir was arrested by the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) 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 the police failed to produce any substantive evidence against him. He was granted bail by a Maharastra court earlier this month.

Asked if it was his son’s arrest that had prompted him to mobilise people, Madni said: “Certainly not, I had planned it (the protest rally) more than a month before they picked up my son. Of course, there is no doubt my son was also being implicated.”

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