An eerie silence greets visitors in Sitiyo village in Dhurwa, two days after one of its residents, Mohammad Imtiaz Ansari, was arrested as a key suspect in Patna bomb blast.
Signs of life eluded the village with most of the residents remaining indoors. The silence is more pronounced in the non-Muslim area, where tribals form the majority.
The only sign of life were visible around the local mosque, where the afternoon prayer was being offered.
“Imtiaz was interested in religious activities and studies,” said Imtiaz’s father Mohammad Kamaluddin Ansari. “If he is guilty, he should be punished. I am not aware about his involvement,” he said.
Imtiaz was arrested while trying to flee Patna Junction after the first of the series of blasts went off inside a toilet at the railway station at 9.30am on Sunday. The low-intensity blasts targeted a huge rally addressed by BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s in Patna.
The Ansari residence, a palatial two-storey house comprising 30 rooms stands out in the rural landscape. Allegedly, it was here the blasts were planned by tech-savvy Indian Mujahedeen’s (IM) Jharkhand chief Mohammad Tehseen Akhtar and Imtiaz.
Villagers said they were shocked to know about the alleged IM’s presence in the village. Some of them who spoke to HT believe the other suspects from Sitiyo named in the blasts— Imtiaz’s nephew Mohammad Taufique Alam, Mohammad Noman and Mohammad Tarique have been tricked by Tehseen.
“Imtiaz must have some role, if the police have picked him up,” said Haseem Ansari, a local businessman.
Kamaluddin said, “Imtiaz used to regularly go away from home for religious programs. He was bit of an introvert and did not mix around with people like his brothers do.”
Imitiaz, a class 10 pass-out, was the second youngest of his six brothers who are contract workers at the Heavy Engineering Corporation. Barring Taufique, the other two suspects belong to poor families, the villagers said.
Most shops remained closed in the village, which has 600 households, and people were exchanging information and gossip besides making small purchases at paan shops, especially the ones around the mosque. The residents were making fervent appeals that the village should not be defamed for the faults of a few as it has a 250-year-old history of peace and amity.
The recovery of improvised explosive devices and Jihadi literature from Imtiaz’s home has made life difficult for its residents. Rumours about new raids and frequency of police patrol jeeps have raised their anxieties.
“I hope this stops and our village returns to normalcy,” said Mansoor Ali, 95, a villager.
“Sitiyo comprises tribals, Muslims and Christians. We live in harmony. This incident is unfortunate but our social fabric is strong,” said village head Shankar Kachhap.
Shafiq Alam, an ex-HEC employee, said, “We are ready to cooperate with security agencies in the investigations. But we appeal that innocent people shall not be persecuted.”