Over 100 people — all of them Muslims — were detained by the Special Operations Group of Rajasthan Police after the May 13 blasts in Jaipur which killed 68 people. Each one was later released for lack of evidence, says a report prepared by the state unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
This development over the past few months has embittered Muslims and polarised community feelings across the state.
Among those picked up was 31-year-old software professional Rashid Hussein Engineer. Though released soon after, the wide publicity his detention got saw him not only lose his job with Infosys, but also acquire the label of a ‘possible terrorist’.
In contrast, Mohammed Sajid was not arrested, but the fact that he had once — before the organisation was banned — been president of the Rajasthan unit of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), keeps him on the run. He has given up his mobile phone and stays at undisclosed locations for fear he might he taken into custody any time.
“Policemen have been threatening Muslim youth, telling them they’ll be treated as SIMI activists,” said Kavita Shrivastava, head of the local PUCL.
“There is an effort to browbeat Muslims into thinking they can remain safe only if the BJP is returned to power,” said Salim Engineer, state president of the Jamait-e-Islami. “But Muslims will vote by and large for the Congress,” he said.
With the Congress taking a beating in the last assembly elections — getting 56 of the 200 seats against the BJP’s 120 — only five Muslims were elected. But this time the figure is expected to go much higher. Muslims comprise 11 per cent of Rajasthan’s voters and have a large presence in 25 constituencies and substantial ones in 30 others.
While Muslims are disenchanted with the Vasundhara Raje government, her party is trying to polarise Hindu votes. A high decibel campaign, highlighting the terror blasts, is already in top gear. “National security is of critical concern,” said Arun Chaturvedi, BJP spokesperson. “The kind of soft attitude displayed by the Congress towards convicted terrorists like Afzal Guru is unacceptable.”