Fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim’s influence still runs deep in India and a Delhi Police official has 40 CDs of his conversations with politicians and Mumbai Police officials highlighting this clout, according to death row convict Aftab Ansari.
“If these CDs come to light, there will be an earthquake in Indian politics,” Ansari, sentenced to death in the January 2002 attack on the American Center in Kolkata, has written in a 15-page letter to HT from Alipore Central Jail.
This is the first time Ansari, 42, has chosen to share his story with the media. The psychology graduate from Banaras Hindu University said the CDs were with an additional commissioner of police with whom “I share good relations”.
Ansari also said he knew where the Bhatkal brothers — Iqbal and Riyaz, elusive leaders of the Indian Mujahideen terror outfit — were. “How is it possible that the police do not know? But I do not think the Bhatkal brothers have the clout that the media and police claim.”
He did not specify the location of the Bhatkal brothers. The IM leaders as well as Dawood are believed to be in Pakistan.
Ansari also shared his views on Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged on February 9. Both had met in Tihar jail. “Everyone was happy after Kasab’s (2008 Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab) hanging, but I consider Afzal Guru’s hanging a big mistake. There will be long lasting effects of this hanging. It is the effect of Afzal Guru’s hanging that Sarabjit (Singh) is no more in this world.”
Aftab Ansari being taken to a jail in Kolkata after his arrest in 2002 for the attack on the American Center in the city. Subhendu Ghosh/ HT
Ansari spoke of having briefly met Omar Saeed Sheikh during the 90s in a jail hospital. Sheikh, among the three militants released by India in 1999 to end the Kandahar hijacking crisis, is linked to 9/11 hijackers and the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
“It never felt to me from any angle that this person could be a terrorist. An innocent face and sweet voice, who was ready to help,” Ansari said of his meeting with Sheikh.
Claiming he was framed in the American Center attack, in which five police officials were killed and 20 injured, Ansari said, “It (his case) is the Supreme Court, which will deliver a verdict on my role.” The Supreme Court stayed his execution in 2010.
Aftab Ansari, who is accused of attacking the American Center in Kolkata, is being produced in a Delhi court in this May 6, 2002 file photo. Kaushik Ramaswamy/ HT
Ansari, however, regretted the death of the five police officials in the American Center attack. “All top officials know how I was framed in this case. Any intelligent person cannot deem the death of innocent men as justified. In bomb blasts, only innocent people die. Jihad is a part of Muslim Iman. Killing innocent people, children and women is not jihad, but the work of a devil.”
Sentenced to life in 2009 in the abduction case of Khadim director Partha Pratim Roy Burman, Ansari said he would detail the American Center attack and the shoe baron abduction cases in his autobiography. He has started writing it.
Ansari said he had no links with any jihadi outfit, but admitted he was not a saint. “Every person commits mistakes and I too committed mistakes.”
He is pining for his son, who is with his wife in Pakistan. His son was born on February 9, 2002 — the day he was arrested after being deported from Dubai to Delhi. “I have never seen my son in these 11 years. Is there any bigger regret for a father than this?”
Ansari said his wife and son had applied for visa to India twice without success. He plans to plead with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee to allow them to visit him.
Aftab Ansari, the mastermind of the 2002 attack on the American Cultural Centre in Kolkata, has appealed to the Supreme Court against his death sentence. (HT file photo)