A former town councillor arrested on charges of instigating violence between Sikh and Muslim groups in Saharanpur that left three people dead is a muscle-man who made money off land disputes and extortions, HT has learnt.
Moharram Ali, alias Pappu, and his five associates were arrested on Wednesday and slapped with 75 charges, including attempt to murder, arson, and abetting violence.
Pappu and his seven brothers wield considerable influence in the area. Pappu, who had eight cases against him, thrived on land disputes and created one if there was none, a senior police officer said.
“After his arrest, many people spoken to us about his high-handed ways,” the officer said.
To widen 'influence', Pappu entered politics through the local civic body where he made friends across the political spectrum.
Some leaders even used his muscle power to get even with opponents, said sources.
The row over the piece of land abutting a local gurdwara that led to rioting on July 26 was his doing as well, said the officer who didn’t wish to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Describing him as an extortionist and a land shark, the officer said the former BSP councillor would often get involved in land cases, offering to broker a deal for a price. He wouldn’t hesitate from litigation to dispute land ownerships to extort money.
HT wrote on July 30 that three years ago some members of the local gurdwara committee met Pappu to settle the land row. Money was also offered to him but the deal fell through.
One Abdul Wahab had challenged gurdwara’s claim over the land and told the court he had done so at the behest of Pappu.
Though the court ruled in favour of the gurdwara committee, Pappu demanded money to “allow” construction, sources said. “When he was refused, Pappu gathered a mob and incited passions,” a Sikh community leader said.
The police back the claim. Pappu was responsible for a mob laying siege to a local police station when two sides were talking out the dispute, they said.
A senior official described Ali as an extortionist who would meddle in land disputes, or create a problem if none existed, to extract money from both parties.
He added Ali, a former councilor of the local municipality, and his seven brothers had created fear among the local residents.
Both Guru Singh Sabha and BJP have been demanding Ali's arrest for the past several days.