For nearly a decade, the Muslim-dominated Sanjarpur village in Azamgarh has battled the perception that it is a terror hub. The perception gained ground after the Batla House encounter in Delhi on September 19, 2008 against suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists in Delhi.
Two suspected terrorists, Atif Amin and Mohamed Sajid, were killed. Two other suspects Mohd Saif, Salman and Arif were arrested. All of them belong to Sanjarpur. The village is 26.5 kilometres from the Azamgarh district headquarters.
Three successive elections (2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well as the 2012 state assembly polls) saw politicians visiting the village and promising to remove the terror taint which haunts the villagers but they don’t vote on this issue.
Before the 2009 general election, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav demanded a judicial probe into the matter. Senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Shivpal Yadav visited Sanjarpur in the last week of September 2008. He claimed the arrested Sanjarpur youths were innocent. In 2010, Congress leader Digvijay Singh too visited the village.
“The leaders made promises and went back. But the stigma is still there,” says Mahisuddin Sanjari, a social activist from Sanjarpur
“People in other cities raise their eyebrows as soon as they come to know that one is from Sanjarpur. They look at the Sanjarpur natives with suspicion,” he adds.
With the assembly election due early next year, Sanjari knows that it’s time for senior politicians to start visiting Sanjarpur again.
“They will come and go back. They will make tall claims and big promises laced with sweet words. But in the last eight years, the people of Sanjarpur have learned a lot and moved forward with the passage of time,” he says.
Even the local youths have learnt to distinguish between the real and hollow promises.
“One more election is ahead. During the past elections, many politicians visited the village. We merely got hollow promises from them,” says Sarfaraj Ahmad who does not want his photograph taken.
“Post September 2008, it is tough for us to get rented accommodation in big cities such Delhi, Kolkata and others. As soon as any we reveal our identity, the house owners bluntly refuse to rent out their room to us. This hurt us a lot,” he adds.
If they are really serious about helping the village get rid of the terror tag, why they don’t take serious steps for it, he asks.
Salim Ahmad, a post graduate in Urdu, strongly feels that media depicted a wrong image of the village for which local youths are paying heavy price.
Successive governments have failed to create employment avenues here, he says. As a result, the youths have to go to other cities where they find it difficult to get accommodation because of the perception that Sanjarpur is a terror hub, he says. Many also go to the Gulf countries for jobs. As a result, remittance by migrants living in the Gulf countries is the main source of income for a large population in the village as well as in the rest of the district.
“I demand a CBI inquiry or a probe by retired judge into the Batla House encounter case so that the truth comes to the fore and Sanjarpur’s reputation,” Ahmad says.
Ahmad says the Sanjarpur youths who were arrested on charges of their alleged role in the Batla House encounter should be punished if the probe finds them guilty. But the probe must be carried out in a free and fair manner.
Shah Alam, who works in Gulf, says there has been a visible change in approach of people towards Sanjarpur residents after September 2008. “We get entirely different treatment. It is tough to get job in companies here. Even in Lucknow, it is difficult to get accommodation on rent.”
The people of the village are peace-loving, he adds.
Mohammad Saif, who is currently lodged in a jail in Gujarat in connection with the Batla House encounter, belongs to Sanjarpur.
His brother Mohammad Salman calls the charges against Saif false.
He says Saif went to Delhi to enrol for a course and landed in trouble. He, along with his mother, met Saif on June 5.
“My brother was crying,” he says.
His father Mohammad Shadab Ahmad is a local Samajwadi Party leader.
“I want a thorough probe into the whole issue in order to bring forth the truth,” he says. In 2010, he visited Delhi and met a senior Congress leader to press his demand.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) had promised to take up the issue of youths being ‘falsely implicated’ in terror cases but nothing much happened. Still, the villagers feel the SP is a better option in today’s scenario.
Saif’s childhood friend Shiraz Anwar Azmi, a hardware engineer, never believed in the allegation that his friend had links with IM terrorists. “We played cricket together. He is an excellent player. There should be a probe and everything would be clear,” he said.
“The media, especially, the electronic one, sullied the image of our village. Now, the media should take the initiative to wipe out the taint,” Azmi says.
Legendary Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi was born in this district. His actor-daughter Shabana is developing his birthplace Mizwaan. The area is also famous for the Shibli College, which was set up before Independence.
Around 150 families in a part of the village face stark penury, it hardly finds place in discussion among the youths.
THE CHARGE SHEET
In the charge sheet, police claimed that Mohd Saif, who belongs to Sanjarpur, was also present in the flat in which the Batla House encounter took place on September 19, 2008.
The prosecution claimed that Mohd Saif had disclosed that he, along with Atif and Ariz, were involved in causing serial blasts in the national capital on September 13, 2008. The blasts killed 26 people and injured 135 others.
SANJARPUR AT A GLANCE
Sanjarpur is a big village with a population of around 10,000. It has two contrasting faces, one reflects prosperity. The other mirrors stark penury. The village has a primary madarsa, a government-run primary school and junior high school. After completing elementary education, children enrol in schools at Fariha, the nearby town. A government run primary health centre serves the locals. Intelligence and ATS officials keep an eye on the village, the locals claim. Erasing the terror tag is a goal every person wants to achieve here. Of all the voters in the village, 2700 are Muslim, 1500 SC, 150 Gupta, 300 Prajapati and 300 Yadav.