On October 13, one month after the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in western Uttar Pradesh began, two imams from Haryana’s Mewat district — Hafeez Rashidi and Shahid — visited the home of Liaquat Ali in Kulehri village near Charthwal Kasbah in Muzaffarnagar.
The headmaster at a government-run junior high school in Jalalabad, Liaquat, 60, had apparently met Shahid in Deoband earlier that month, during the last week preceding Bakr-Id.
“On October 13, in the evening, I got a call from Shahid. He was introduced to me as an imam in Mewat, who’s been doing a lot of good work there. When he called, he said he was coming to Muzaffarnagar and wished to stay the night,” Liaquat told The Indian Express.
Shahid came over that night but he was not alone.
“A man, who I learnt later was Hafeez, was with him. Shahid told me that he was also from Mewat and the two helped the community together. I had told them that there was tension in the area and it wasn’t a good time to come. But they insisted on coming that very night,” said Ali.
The two imams stayed the night at Liaquat’s home. The next day, they said they had to go to the nearest train station. Liaquat, who was on his way to work, offered them a lift in his Maruti car. Liaquat said that while on the way to the Thanabhawan railway station, they stopped for a few minutes at the mosque of Liaquat’s moulvi friend Zamiruddin in Jalalabad village in Shamli district.
“Jalalabad is on the way to the railway station and I had called Zamiruddin for some work, and he happened to be in almost the same spot I was. So we met. While we met, I went to relieve myself in the nearby bathroom and the three of them were alone. When I came back…we said our goodbyes and then I dropped them to the railway station,” Liaquat said.
Zamiruddin, 52, called Liaquat 15 days after this “chance meeting” and said “the two men were up to no good”.
Weeks later in December, the two imams were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police on suspicion of being Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives and plotting a terror attack on the capital. Police claim the two also told interrogators that they had visited the riot-hit areas of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli to recruit young men and avenge the suffering of Muslim victims during the Muslim-Jat riots in the two districts.
On January 3, Special Cell officers are said to have turned up at the doorsteps of Liaquat and Zamiruddin. On January 6, the two men went on to record their statements against the imams under section 164 CrPC in the chamber of a magistrate at Delhi’s Patiala House courts.
While Liaquat said that the first time he met anyone from Delhi Police was last week, Zamiruddin’s brother Ibadur Rahman claimed that their “association with the Delhi Police Special Cell was an old one”.
“I have always been impressed with the Delhi Police Special Cell, continued…
Victim told the judge that she was being forced to relive the incident as she was made to appear in court again.