SUSPECTED TO be part of the Mumbai train blasts of 2006 that left 189 people dead and the 2008 Gujarat blasts, which killed 56 people, among other cases, Abdul Subhan Qureshi’s first arrest, just over 19 years ago, had come following a minor offence.
On December 5, 1998, a day before the sixth anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition, Qureshi, then 27 and working as a techie in Mumbai, was arrested along with two friends — Tariq Ismail and Salim Shiekh — on charges of defacing public property.
The three were found putting up posters against Babri Masjid’s demolition on the walls of Pydhonie police station in south Mumbai, and booked under Section 3 of the Maharashtra Prevention of Defacement of Public Property Act, 1995, which entails a maximum punishment of three-month jail, or a Rs 2,000 fine.
Delhi Police claims Qureshi, arrested in Delhi late Sunday night after being on the run for well over a decade, joined the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in 1996. By 2000, the police say, he had transformed into a “highly radical” man, “determined” to follow the ideology of jihad.
He left his well paying job in Mumbai and moved to Zakir Nagar in Delhi in 1999, when he was asked to edit SIMI’s English magazine, Islamic Movement, according to investigators.
He was arrested by Delhi Police in 2001 on terror charges after SIMI was banned by the government shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the US. He was later released on bail.
At Qureshi’s residence in Mira Road, near Mumbai, his father Subhan Qureshi today said that officials from multiple agencies have visited the house frequently.
“We have been staying here for over 12 years but never in these years has he (Qureshi) visited us. We have no relation with him. If Delhi Police has arrested him, then he should be brought to justice. We have learnt about his arrest through the media,” he told reporters.
Born on November 13, 1971, Qureshi studied at Antonio De Souza High School in Byculla, south Mumbai, and cleared SSC in 1988 with 76.57 per cent. He subsequently enrolled at Bharti Vidyapeeth Institute of Technology and did a Diploma in Industrial Electronics. He also completed a Diploma in Computer Engineering in 1995 and started working as a customer support engineer with a private firm.
In 1999, Qureshi was part of BPCL’s intranet project for six months — he was responsible for installation of servers at the PSU giant’s corporate office and refinery in Mumbai. The project was undertaken by Wipro InfoTech, and Qureshi was given the responsibility since he was a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), one requirement for the job.
Qureshi’s name first cropped up in a major terror-related case after the 2006 train blasts, when Mumbai police named him and other SIMI cadres for allegedly providing aid to LeT to carry out the blasts.
He was named again when SIMI organised a clandestine “training camp” in December 2007 at Wagamon, Kerala. Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) officials, who investigated the 2008 blasts, said Qureshi was part of another SIMI camp held at Pavagadh, near Vadodara, the same month and allegedly delivered a “jihadi lecture”.
The resident of Mira Road, near Mumbai, has been on the radar of Indian agencies since.
According to a DCB official, Qureshi was present in SIMI meetings at Juhapura, Ahmedabad, in 2003-2004 along with others accused in the Gujarat blasts. The official said Qureshi was involved at every stage of the 2008 blasts – “from planning, arranging weapons, recruiting youths and executing them”.
A Delhi Police official said that in SIMI, where Qureshi rose through the ranks, he was part of the more militant Safdar Nagori camp — the other camp, of Badar Falah, was believed to have been relatively moderate. —With inputs from Satish Jha in Ahmedabad