Bhatkal and the terror tag - Riyaz's mother breaks her silence
Daijiworld Media Network - Bhatkal
Bhatkal, Mar 25: The peaceful town of Bhatkal belies the tag of 'terror hub' it has notoriously earned ever since three persons (Riyaz, Iqbal and Yasin) from here were linked to terror blasts some years ago and were termed as founders of Indian Mujahideen by anti-terror squads. Even seven or eight years after the disappearance of brothers Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal alias Shahbandari, suspicions remain, adding to the increasing questions which the intelligence agencies have failed to answer and the media forced to ignore.
Even though the Intelligence Agencies insist that Riyaz and Iqbal have fled on their own and are alive and still at large, their distraught mother, in a rather baffling revelation, has disclosed that when they were in Bhatkal, Intelligence Agencies had put pressure on both of them to flee.
Riyaz and Iqbal
"About 7-8 years ago, both my children were in Bhatkal. Police and Intelligence officers frequently visited them and questioned them. The Intelligence officers themselves had urged Riyaz, and then after a year, Iqbal, to flee. Now they are branding them as masterminds of blasts occurring in the various cities of the country and defaming Bhatkal town," she says.
Speaking to media persons, a pained Shahbandari expressed her deep resentment towards the biased media and police saying that within minutes after any blast, they frame her children. "How can they possibly know who is behind those blasts in such a short time?" she questions.
"Before the blasts they know nothing and as soon as the blasts occur, they name the so called 'Indian Mujahideen' as the culprits. This is a deep rooted conspiracy against Bhatkal and its people," she alleges.
"My sons were born and raised in Mumbai, it is completely wrong to connect their names with Bhatkal and defame the whole town. It definetly smells like a deep conspiracy."
Admitting that she has no knowledge about their whereabouts, she says, "The police and the media seem to know better where they are, sometimes they say that intelligence agencies have killed him, then later they accuse that he is masterminding bomb blasts sitting in Pakistan.
"My son never killed even a rat in his life. Will he kill innocent people? We had brought him up as a good person and had educated him properly. We had made him a loyal and responsible citizen of our country, such a nice boy was defamed as a terrorist by the media, Intelligence agencies and police. Not only was his name spoilt, the name of the whole Bhatkal town was disgraced," she said.
When asked what she felt might be going on with her children, Shahbandari replied that either they are in police custody or they have been already killed by them. Speaking about Iqbal she said that he was residing in Bhatkal since long and kept himself busy in social work before he was made a suspect. When his name started appearing in the media, the intelligence officers themselves urged him to flee, she claims.
"I dont know where he might be, I just pray that may he is fine, wherever he is. What more can a mother wish for her child?" she adds in a choked and tearful voice.
"Even our relatives have distanced themselve from us while the neighbors fear to socialize with us. We have become prisoners in our own home. We are going through such a deep mental torture that only Allah is our helper." The agony and despair is clear in her voice.
She expresses her sorrow on the fact that Riyaz and Iqbal were once again blamed for the recent Hyderabad blasts, without any evidence, within minutes of the blasts. "Intelligence Agencies had prior knowledge of the blasts. Even in several earlier blasts my children were blamed, later it came to light that other people had carried out those attacks. If the Intelligence officers carry out their duties honestly, it will become clear that the people being arrested are innocent and the real culprits are other people," she says.
Shahbandari says that those are carrying out the terror activities by killing innocent people should be given the most severe punishment, but blaming innocent people, targeting Muslim youth and jailing them is a part of a wide reaching conspiracy, she alleges.
What may perhaps seems strange yet is true is the fact that despite the popular claim of 'terror activities' going on in Bhatkal, there have been no cases of communal clashes since 1993, nor is there any religious or political enmity. Though Muslims are the dominant community, BJP enjoys good support from them and the centre of attraction in the town is a large statue of Shiva. In fact, former BJP minister Shivanand Naik himself told a daily newspaper recently that there were no instances of Islamic terrorism in Bhatkal and Congress MLA J D Naik supported the same view and claimed that Riyaz, Yasin and Iqbal hardly lived or did anything in Bhatkal.
With such claims made and such agony being faced by the people of Bhatkal, perhaps it is time to have re-look at the quiet town and experience it in its true essence.