The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) early Thursday conducted raids at 12 locations across the state and arrested 20 people for their alleged connections with the Popular Front of India (PFI).
Among the arrested, five are from Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). They are Mazhar Mansoor Khan from Kurla, Shaikh Sadik Isak Qureshi from Malad, Mohammed Iqbal Mohammed Ibrahim Khan from Kandivali, Momin Mohiuddin Gulam Hasan from Bhiwandi and Aasif Aminul Hussain Khan from Panvel.
The ATS, through Special Public Prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves, sought 14-day custody of the accused. However, the court granted the agency custody for five days.
Officers claimed that Mazhar Khan has been affiliated with the PFI for years and was currently holding the charge of the state vice-president. He stays in Kurla (West) with his family and earns his livelihood by selling cloth.
Shaikh Sadik Isak Qureshi, meanwhile, is a lawyer and practices in the family court in Bandra and the Mumbai city civil and sessions court, said ATS. Officers alleged that Qureshi was into religious preaching. “Qureshi, along with another law student, was involved in conducting seminars in the city where they spoke about the legal system. They also held meetings in the sly after the seminar where they gave inputs to those attending on how they could escape the clutches of law,” said an officer.
While Mohammed Iqbal Mohammed Ibrahim Khan, who was arrested from his home, worked in a film studio, Momin Mohiuddin Gulam Hasan runs a masala business, said officers. They claimed that Asif Khan, who is the Mumbai PFI district president, was into interior designing and ran a tour and travel business.
Besides MMR, raids were also carried out in Aurangabad, Pune, Kolhapur, Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Jalgaon, Jalna and Malegaon. “Four offences have been registered in Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nanded under Indian Penal Code and UAPA,” said a senior IPS officer.
The ATS officers said they have seized laptops and incriminating documents from the accused.
“We have recovered a document called ‘2047′. These people had no plans of committing any terror act in the immediate future. They were, however, working towards a larger goal of transforming the country by 2047, when they wanted the country to be governed by Islamic laws,” the IPS officer said.
The ATS claimed that the accused were involved in radicalising youngsters and their were working to spread hatred towards the nation. Before the court, the ATS was claimed that the men had held secret meetings in various parts of Mumbai, including Kandivali and Kurla, and conspired to dislodge the government and bring in Islamic law.
“The group would also conduct training camps under the name of physical training and personality building… they would provide training on how to wage a war against the state and create disharmony in the society,” said an officer.
Lawyer S A Shaikh, appearing for Qureshi, opposed the ATS remand plea stating that even if it is claimed that files on religious preaching were found on his laptop, it did not amount to any terror activity or instigating others.
The ATS, meanwhile, told the court that the other accused were involved in recruiting youth to do groundwork for larger conspiracy, while others good with technology imparted training on how to use communication tools without being traced by investigating agencies. One of the accused was also conducting physical combat training, the agency alleged.
The lawyers for the accused told the court that the ATS has not given any material to seek custody and the serious allegations being made did not have any basis.
The ATS has booked the accused on charges including sections 121A (waging a war or attempting or abetting waging of war against the Government of India), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153 A (promoting enmity and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and section 13 (1) (b) (advocates, abets, advises or incites the commission of, any unlawful activity) of UAPA.