The Muslim community in Hyderabad’s old city had just woken up for the Sahar prayers during the holy month of Ramzan on Wednesday when news broke of the arrest of five local young men on terror charges.
The early-hour swoop shocked family members of the arrested youth but local residents said the arrests are part of a broader pattern of police picking up young Muslim men on flimsy grounds and putting them behind bars for years.
“Whenever there is a terror attack, the Hyderabadi Muslim is a vulnerable target. Except in a few instances, police could not prove cases,” Ayub Ali Khan, a columnist told HT.
He is not wrong. After the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts, police took hundreds of Muslim men into custody and named 21 in a chargesheet, keeping them in jail for 18 months. All were acquitted in 2009 with the government paying `1 lakh to each of the 70 arrested men. The same year, police arrested more than 50 Muslim men from the old city after twin blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat. But charges against them could not be proved.
After the February 2013 blasts at Dilsukhnagar, police and the NIA picked up local Muslim youth but released them later for want of evidence. Local residents fear that the men arrested on Thursday for being alleged Islamic State sympathizers will meet a similar fate.
“Earlier, police used to link these youth to outfits such as Students’ Islamic Movement of India, ISI, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Indian Mujahideen. Now, they take the IS name to arrest Muslim youth. This is atrocious,” said Latif Mohammad Khan, president of the Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee fighting against the targeting of Muslim youth. “I am sure police will not be able to establish cases but the youth may be in jail for four or five years. Who will give back their lost life?”
None of those arrested had any background of participating in protests, let alone militancy, local residents said, arguing such arrests increased insecurity among the community.
They said Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani (30) was an engineering graduate and had worked in an e-commerce company. His brother Ilyas (24) recently completed his graduation. “Both of them are very quiet and friendly. Both lost their parents at a young age,” his uncle Parvaiz Quadri said.