Azamgarh once again shot to infamy on Thursday morning after the arrest of Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi from Sunauli at the Indo-Nepal border along with IM leader Yasin Bhatkal.
The last time the small and sleepy town in eastern Uttar Pradesh hit headlines was when local youths involved in terror activities were killed in the 2008 Batla House encounter in Delhi.
Thursday’s news of local lad Asadullah’s arrest brought relief for neighbours and relatives in both Azamgarh, where the family now lives, and in Bairidih, the ancestral village in Lalganj tehsil in the same district.
“At least now we will have a sound sleep and neither the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) nor the state police will harass us,” said an old man from Bairidih village who did not want to be identified.
Unlike Azamgarh, people in Bairidih have no sympathy for Asadullah. But they empathise with the father, Dr Javed Akhtar. “Javed always wanted Asadullah to become a good person. But all his efforts to discipline the lad went in vain,” said another villager.
At this ancestral home, Fahim, younger brother of Akhtar, lives with his family. Fahim, most probably knew about Asadullah’s arrest, as there was no one in the house barring a teenage girl, a distant relative.
The rest of the village was unaware, but soon after the news of arrest broke, people welcomed the turn of events in hushed tones.
“Asadullah brought a bad name to Bairidih. We are hounded by the ATS whenever there is any terrorist activity in the country,” village head Nadeem alias Guddu Pradhan told HT.
In Azamgarh, people were more sympathetic. Understandably so, as their young sons being implicated in terror cases many other families’ fates cross paths with that of the Akhtars.The famous orthopaedic doctor of Azamgarh was unaware of his son’s arrest till journalists reached his home at Gulami Ka Purwa early on Thursday. He first refused to comment and within minutes switched off his mobile, too.
He had once told HT: “I was not aware that Asadullah was hiding in Nepal since he had no contact with the family since September 2009. The UP as well as Delhi police were harassing the family members. Raids were conducted on my clinics and home by UP ATS. I have urged the state government to stop the harassment.”