Since Sunday, driver Wasim Qureshi (35) has not dared to take out the charitable ambulance he drives in Thane district’s Muslim-dominated Mumbra area. Qureshi and social worker Munna Sahim have reportedly received over 40 calls since Sunday asking why they named an ambulance after a “terrorist”.
The first call reportedly came on Sunday. The callers allegedly warned of dire consequences if the name was not removed. On the road since December 25, 2011, theirs is one of the few ambulances available in Mumbra but has suddenly attracted attention for its red-and-white painted label that says: “In memory of Shahid Ishrat Jahan”.
The callers reportedly threatened to kill the driver if he did not stop driving the ambulance.
“Our number is on the ambulance. The first caller had a north Indian accent. He asked us why we were writing a terrorist’s name on our ambulance,” alleged Qureshi, adding that he was clueless how or why the ambulance’s photo suddenly went viral on social media. Sahim said, “We have tried to convince the callers that Ishrat is not a terrorist, but to no avail.”
Mumbra resident Ishrat Jahan (19) was killed in an encounter in Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004, along with three others, all accused of planning an attack on then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. Veracity of the accusations has been subject of a long legal battle. Ishrat was a second-year college student and lived at Mumbra’s Rashid Compound.
Former corporator from Ishrat’s locality Rauf Lala Afzal said the NGO, My Mumbra Foundation, named the ambulance after her and the service was opened by CPM leader Brinda Karat in 2011. The ambulance ferries two to five patients a day, sometimes for free. “When someone can’t afford, we just charge them for diesel,” Lala said.
The NGO members are yet to file a complaint.