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Explosive Expose

Explosive Expose

Author: Amarnath K.  Menon with Stephen David in Hubli
Publication: India Today
Date: july 31, 2000

A little-known religious sect with Pakistani links is implicated in the serial bomb blasts.  A strange story of fanaticism from the fringes of faith

To forensic experts it is a primary lesson: dead men tell tales.  On July 9, they stumbled on to an extraordinary one when a blue Maruti Omni exploded -- killing two of its occupants and injuring a third -- off J.C.  Road in Bangalore, 45 minutes before a bomb blast at the city's St Peter and Paul Church.  The Goa number plate apart, inflammatory pamphlets picked up from the van helped unravel the origin of a series of explosions -- 12 in all -- that had rocked churches, a temple and a mosque across the peninsula from Andhra Pradesh through Karnataka to Goa since May 21.

While S.M.  Ibrahim, the survivor of the van blast, furnished details as he battled for life in hospital, the police carried out a swift raid on his house at Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and another at Varthur village near Bangalore.  It was enough for them to implicate the small-time road and building contractor along with followers of a bizarre sect, the Hyderabad-based Siddique Deendar Anjuman, in the explosions.  They are believed to be part of a systematic campaign, to incite hatred and violence among different religious groups.  "They were out to create a communal divide," says Karnataka state Director General of Police C.  Dinakar

In less than two weeks, the police in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have arrested 11 suspects, and are hunting for more, including a radio-repair mechanic who assembled the improvised explosive devices.

According to the police, the prime accused, Deendar's religious chief Ziaul Hassan, is based in Mardan in Pakistan and his son Zahid Pasha frequently visits India.  Pasha, identified as the main conspirator, had been touring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh extensively since mid-May, assigning the task of planting explosives to select members of the sect.  He was present at the time of the first blast at a Christian congregation at Machhilipatnam in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh but is believed to have left India in the firstweek of July.

Some of those arrested have confessed to setting off the bombs that destroyed the altar at the Mother Vannini Church at Tadepalligudem in the Godavari delta and damaging the Dewett Memorial Church at Ongole in Andhra Pradesh.  One of those killed in the van explosion, Zakir, is said to have caused the explosion at St John's Lutheran Church at Hubli in Karnataka.  According to the arrested, members of the sect have been distributing booklets and inciting strong anti-Hindu and anti-Christian feelings in the South.

There were other shocking revelations.  The Deendaris, or the followers of the sect, from Hyderabad -- at least 50 of them -- frequently travel to Pakistan on the pretext of a pilgrimage or to call on relatives.  The actual purpose of their visits, it was discovered, was to receive training in the use of arms and explosives or simply to spread the message of the Anjuman.  Hassan, on his part, visits Hyderabad every year to attend the URS of his father and Deendar Anjuman founder Hazrat Siddique Deendar Channa Basaveshwara Qibla.

To go back into history, Hazrat Qibla, or Syed Siddique Hussain as he was named when he was born in 1884, belonged to Bellampet in Gulbarga district of Karnataka.  At the age of 40, he is believed to have had a revelation that he was the reincarnation of Channa Basaveshwara, a Hindu deity primarily worshipped by the Lingayats of Karnataka.  Following this, he took up conversions of Hindus to Islam and founded the Siddique Deendar Anjuman at Gadag in Karnataka.  Five years later, he moved to Hyderabad where the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan, recognised him as a spiritual leader and gifted him a five-acre estate from where he could continue to propagate Islam.

Over the years, however, members of the sect, conspicuous by their green turbans and flowing beards, have remained a small group ostracised by most other Muslims because the founder spoke of a Hindu origin for the sect.  Though Qibla died in 1952, his large family -- comprising four wives, five sons and three daughters -- has kept the sect going.  "We are a religious organisation committed to promoting peace and communal harmony," claims its acting president Moulana Osman Ali Mallanna.

Following the spate of arrests, however, it is clear that the followers of the sect -- who would at best number 15,000 -- are now part of a larger game of waging jehad against the Hindus and Christians in India.  It is learnt that Hassan's long-term goal is to make India an Islamic state.  And that he has floated another organisation called the Jamaat Hizbollah Mujahideen which has offices in Mardan, Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Sargodha, besides links with Saudi Arabia.

In India, the Anjuman uses Hyderabad as its base, with pockets of support in Vijayawada and Nuzvid in Andhra Pradesh, Sholapur in Maharashtra and Bangalore and parts of Karnataka.  It is believed that the Anjuman targeted the Catholic church in Goa only to draw international attention.  By choosing a tourist destination, its activists pointed to their ability to strike at will.

Despite the headway made in the investigation, the police have a long way to go.  "We expect the picture to become clearer after more of the 'wanted' are caught," says Andhra Pradesh Director-General of Police H.J.  Dora.  In Karnataka, there has been pressure on the Government to hand over the case to the CBI.  "Since the case has national and international ramifications, it should be handled by the Central agency," says state BJP leader Jagdish Shettar, apparently relieved that the needle of suspicion no longer pointed to the Sangh Parivar's extreme members.  Karnataka Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, however, has made it clear that the state police will continue with the investigation.  "They are on the right track," he says.  The track that could throw up more surprises.

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