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Terror plotter Yasin Bhatkal now a Tihar protest leader

A prison officer, who did not wish to be named, said Bhatkal last week led a two-day hunger strike demanding that jail inmates be allowed continued use of the cookers.

india Updated: Apr 26, 2019 07:40 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Yasin bhatkal,India news,Tihar jail
Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Yasin Bhatkal(HT file photo)

Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Yasin Bhatkal waged a war to create a Caliphate until he was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to death three years later. Bhatkal now appears to have made new friends in Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where he is on death row, and is fighting for another cause — the use of induction cookers.

A prison officer, who did not wish to be named, said Bhatkal last week led a twoday hunger strike demanding that jail inmates be allowed continued use of the cookers.

Jail authorities had allowed prisoners to use induction cookers in December to warm water and milk when the mercury plummeted to a record low in a decade. The cookers were withdrawn this month after complaints that prisoners were misusing them to cook food in violation of norms. Prisoners are not allowed to cook and get food from the jail kitchen.

Bhatkal has made friends with suspected Delhi gangster Ravi Kapoor, who is in prison for allegedly murdering journalist Soumya Viswanathan and executive Jigisha Ghosh, the officer added. Another IM operative, Asadullah Haddi, and some members of northeast Delhi’s Cheenu gang joined Bhatkal and Kapoor for the strike. Active in parts of northeast Delhi, several members of a criminal gang led by a man named Cheenu have been arrested for arms smuggling, extortion, land grabbing, and murder.

“For two days, they refused to eat. It was only after talking to many prisoners and explaining to them the problems that they left Bhatkal alone and later he also withdrew the protest. Later, we realised Bhatkal was instigating them,” the prison officer said.

Another officer said Bhatkal was at the forefront of the protest. “For two days, they held a hunger strike and refused to budge. They were the ones misusing the privilege. Later, others decided not to continue the protest,” another officer said.

A third prison officer said Bhatkal was lodged in a high-security cell. Prisoners in jail for heinous crimes are lodged in isolated high-security cells under strict surveillance. But Bhatkal still manages to interact with other prisoners during the day when the cell doors are opened as per norms. “People like Bhatkal are hardened prisoners. They instigate other prisoners to rebel against jail officers as a pressure tactic. They know that they are not coming out and resort to such things,” the officer said.

A Tihar jail spokesperson confirmed Bhatkal started the protest but refused to comment further on the protests inside the jail. “It is an internal matter. We would not comment on what happened.”

Bhatkal’s real name is Mohammed Ahmad Siddibapaa, 36. He is from Karnataka’s Bhatkal town. A Hyderabad court sentenced him to death in 2016. Bhatkal was convicted of his involvement in the 2013 Diksukh Nagar blasts in Hyderabad that left 18 dead. He has also been named as an accused in blasts in Ahmedabad and Bengaluru in 2008 as well as the 2012 Pune blast.

Bhatkal, who was traced to Nepal’s Pokhara in 2013, was sentenced to death for the Hyderabad blasts along with five other men. The convictions were the first involving members of the IM, which has been blamed for a spate of bombings since 2008.

The attacks included the 2008 serial blasts in Delhi that left 21 people dead. The IM first came to prominence following bombings in Uttar Pradesh in November 2007. It sent an e-mail to media outlets before some of the bombs went off. The IM also sent another e-mail after the 2008 Jaipur blasts that killed 63.

First Published: Apr 26, 2019 07:38 IST