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Maulana-Najma ‘photos’ go missing

The ICCR has failed to provide the CBI a copy of its publication containing Maulana-Najma photos, allegedly morphed by later, reports Nagendar Sharma.
Hindustan Times | By Nagendar Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 29, 2007 03:45 AM IST

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has failed to provide the CBI a copy of its publication containing photos alleged to have been morphed by former Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson and senior BJP leader, Najma Heptulla, to show her seated with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in 1958.

The CBI had asked the ICCR for a copy of the publication almost a year ago, after the Delhi High Court directed the investigating agency in July last year to “complete the inquiry into the allegations” that photos of country’s first education minister and founder chairman of the ICCR, Maulana Azad, had been morphed.

At least eight documents from the file pertaining to the publication on Maulana Azad are missing from the ICCR records, according to an internal circular signed by its Deputy Director General Ashok Das, a copy of which is available with HT.

“Copy of the duly approved manuscript of the said book, various original photos including those of Maulana Azad with the Shah of Iran and Najma Heptulla with a foreign dignitary, details of the sources of photos are among the missing things,” Das wrote to all section heads recently.

ICCR Director General Pavan Varma has said the council would provide everything available with it to the CBI as it had nothing to hide, “but nothing can be done about what has been removed from records by the previous officials”.

The CBI said it sent several reminders to the ICCR and officials personally went to the council office to “try and obtain a copy of the book containing the morphed photos and finally had to settle for the book from a former leader of the council's employees' association”.

“Even the preliminary inquiry was delayed for more than six months since we could not get the controversial book from the ICCR. It is prime facie, a case of fraud and we are proceeding further in it now,” a senior CBI official said.

The case was first highlighted by the Hindustan Times in April 2005, when the ICCR published a coffee table book titled Journey of a legend, on the life of Maulana Azad, and the council was headed by Najma Heptulla at that time, who claims to be a close relative of the Maulana.

The controversial photograph in this book came with an introduction and showed a young Heptulla with the Maulana. The caption read “Najma Heptulla with Maulana Azad after her graduation”. Official inquiries later revealed Heptulla had graduated in May 1958, whereas the Maulana had passed away on February 22, 1958.

Heptulla has consistently denied any involvement in photo morphing, and maintained “it was a conspiracy to malign her by dragging her name into the entire controversy”. She was not available for comments on Friday, as she was out of the country.

A grandnephew of Maulana Azad has alleged that the CBI was deliberately delaying the investigations into the case.

“Three months back, I was promised by CBI officials that the morphing case had been probed and it was clear that fraud had been committed, but there has been no progress since then. I want to know why and under whose pressure the case is being delayed,” Firoz Ahmed Bakht wrote in a letter to the CBI. CBI officials have denied any delay in the case and said the inquiry “is on track”.

The controversial publication, which was withdrawn by the ICCR in 2005 after questions were raised on the authenticity of the photograph, has now been revised by removing the controversial photograph and is now likely to be released on November 12.

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