In the election heat and dust, a controversial arrest made by the Gujarat Police passed unnoticed last month. On March 23, the police picked up Moulana Mohammad Abdul Kavi, a well known religious scholar of Hyderabad, from Delhi airport and took him to Ahmedabad.
The case against Kavi is over 10 years old. It names him as an accused in a conspiracy to organise “revenge for 2002 communal riots in Gujarat” where “the Muslims had suffered heavy loss”.
According to the Gujarat Police, a case was filed on April 4, 2003, a day after “five boys from Ahmedabad” were arrested. The Crime Branch invoked POTA — the harsh anti-terror law that was repealed the following year — and named 39 accused and 43 absconding accused in the chargesheet filed on September 10, 2003.
Kavi’s name was not among them. The Crime Branch filed a second chargesheet on January 21, 2004, with another 53 names. Kavi was named in this chargesheet as an “absconding accused”.
The investigating officer of the case at the time was the then assistant commissioner of police, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad City, G L Singhal.
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CBI arrested Singhal in 2013 in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
According to defence lawyer I D Pathan, the Gujarat Police had arrested 56 people in the case. On May 10, 2005, the Central Review Committee on POTA headed by Justice S C Jain opined that “no case of POTA is made out” against 10 of the accused. Two others were discharged because they had been booked in two separate cases on the same allegation. The remaining 44 were put on trial. On January 12, 2010, the special POTA court acquitted 22. The other 22 were later released by the HC.
The Gujarat Police initially claimed “that the accused persons… hatched a conspiracy… to take revenge of loss of life and property caused to the Muslim community… after Godhra massacre”, and “to create communal hatred between Hindus and Muslims, incite Muslim youth to take up terrorist training in Pakistan…, cause bomb blasts and carry out killings of Hindu leaders (and) endanger the integrity and security of the country”.
Later, the police linked the case to “murder of former home minister… Haren Pandya, conspiracy of murder of VHP leader Jagdish Tiwari and conspiracy for planting and blasting tiffin bombs in AMTS buses in Gujarat”.
According to the Gujarat Police, Moulana Kavi’s name appeared in two confessional statements and a statement given by a secret witness. The two accused who allegedly named Kavi are now out of prison. The secret witness was declared hostile by the prosecution after he refused to support the police story.
In an affidavit filed on April 15, 2014, Chandsinh Naransinh Rajput, assistant commissioner police, SOG, said Kavi “involved himself in the serious conspiracy of national betrayal… (by sending) Muslim young boys of Hyderabad to Pakistan for terrorist training”.
ACP Rajput based this on the testimony of witness “B-33” — the same secret witness who had been declared hostile by the prosecution.
“It is all politically motivated,” Kavi’s brother Mufti Abdul Mughani told The Indian Express. “Moulana Kavi is a well known religious scholar and runs several schools in Hyderabad. He has been traveling to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra almost every month for the last several years to deliver lectures. He has not been hiding. Why didn’t the Gujarat Police come to arrest him in the last 10 years?”
According to Abdul Mughani, Kavi was on his way to Deoband when he was stopped outside Delhi airport by men in plain clothes. “He was taken inside the airport and flown to Ahmedabad. We have no doubt that this arrest is linked to the elections. There are political parties who would be happy with his arrest and take political mileage out of it.”
Abdul Mughani said Kavi “is a man of peace and has always been like that”.
Kavi has travelled to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage four times in the last 10 years. He has flown across India and, in 2013, even addressed a widely publicised public meeting in Gujarat’s Bharuch district. He has never been stopped.
In his investigation report submitted on August 21, 2003, then Police Inspector Tarun A Barot of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch said he had visited Kavi’s home in Hyderabad’s Khwaja Baug but had found it locked.
On April 3, 2004, G L Singhal wrote to the Hyderabad police commissioner, seeking the arrest of five accused, including Kavi. In his report to the POTA court on April 23, 2004, the Hyderabad police chief said they had been unable to execute the warrants “as the name and address of the accused mentioned in the warrant were incomplete”.
On July 7, 2004, Singhal wrote to the commissioner again, this time giving Kavi’s full residential address. But the Hyderabad Police never arrested him, and the Gujarat Police never followed up. Until 10 years later, in March 2014.