Hyderabad: A sense of uneasiness prevails among the Muslim community in Hyderabad as horrifying stories of police torture on Muslims youth arrested in connection with August 25 bomb blasts in the city are coming to light.
The indiscriminate arrests and the torture in police custody have sent shock waves in the community.
Urdu newspapers published in the city are carrying stories almost on daily basis on the illegal detentions of scores of Muslim youths. The stories describe in detail how the police were using third-degree methods to torture the youths.
According to these reports, the youths are being kept in torture centres run by police in the city outskirts where they are being given electric shocks.
Giving vent to this ire, a group of organisations on September 16 staged a dharna here, demanding that the arrested youth be immediately released. Editor of Urdu daily Siasat Zahid Ali Khan led the protest, in which all parties save and except ruling Congress party, BJP and Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) participated.
Zahid Ali Khan announced that he would provide legal aid for those in custody. He said the police were keeping several youth under illegal custody but showing them as absconding. The meeting resolved that habeas corpus petitions be filed in all such cases.
The Siasat editor alleged that the police were running torture cells on the city outskirts and announced that efforts would be made to trace all such torture cells and make the facts public.
Khan, whose newspaper is supporting Left parties in their attempts to gain a foothold in Muslim-majority old city, which is a traditional stronghold of MIM, alleged that MIM legislators were maintaining silence on the arrests of Muslim youth.
“At a time when legislations are being made for the rights of animals, Muslim youth are being treated worse than animals. We should have raised our voice against this in a more effective manner and hence I have come out,” said Khan terming the Congress government in the state as worse than Narendra Modi government in Gujarat.
Hyderabad police commissioner Balwinder Singh has however denied reports of illegal detentions and torture. He said some newspapers were publishing rumours.
Rajya Sabha member of Communist Party of India Azeez Pasha said his party was also against terrorism but this did not mean that the police could target innocent Muslim youth. He demanded that the police produce the youth in courts within 24 hours after their arrest.
Rajya Sabha member of Communist Party of India-Marxist P. Madhu, who is leading the movement to end MIM’s domination in old city, said people in the old city had no security.
Leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) and others participated.
Several Muslim women also participated in the protest meeting. They were holding placards.
“We don’t want reservations. We want our children,” read one of the placards. “Rajasekhara Reddy. Where are our children?” asked another.
Separately, Joint Action Committee comprising MIM and some other Muslim groups met Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy to submit a memorandum demanding immediate release of innocent Muslim youth. With pressure mounting from various quarters, the Joint Action Committee told the chief minister in clear terms that this is their last representation to him.
“We have made several representations in the past. The chief minister says one thing and the administration does something else. This was our last meeting. If the chief minister fails to keep his word, we will go to the public,” warned MIM president Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi, whose party has one MP and five members of assembly from Hyderabad.
These Muslim groups are facing criticism from Urdu dailies Siasat and Munsif and others for doing nothing to seek the release of Muslim youth. These groups are facing tremendous pressure as they had supported Congress in 2004 elections.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad has virtually turned into a fortress with the beginning of Ramadhan and 10-day Ganesha festival. This is after a gap of 27 years that the two festivals are being celebrated together.
Hundreds of policemen have already been deployed in the communally sensitive old city.
The 400-year-old city has a long history of communal riots during Ganesha festival. With the May 18 bomb blast in the historic Makkah Masjid and August 25 blasts in a park and a famous eatery still fresh in mind, the city remained on high alert.
Large scale checking of vehicles all over the city, intensified patrolling even in narrow lanes and bylanes, heavy deployment of forces around mosques and temples have turned the city into a fortress.
The blast at a Makkah Masjid had killed nine people while five more died in a police firing near the mosque. The twin blasts on August 25 had claimed 44 lives. Police blame terrorist groups operating from Pakistan and Bangladesh for the blasts.
The reports about the possible presence of some terrorists in the city and the failure to trace 10 kg of RDX allegedly brought into the city in February this year have further added to the worries of the police.