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ON THE night of March 16, H Farook, a Muslim atheist based in Coimbatore, was murdered – by members of a self-radicalised Muslim group, according to police. While the police have not officially admitted receiving any intelligence inputs on threats against “Muslim atheists” before the murder, and multiple sources in the investigation team have confirmed it since, another Muslim atheist known to Farook was questioned by a senior police officer, and allegedly warned about threats from “some Islamist organisations”, days before the murder.
Muhammed Ali Jinnah, 52, a watch mechanic based in Coimbatore, told The Indian Express that he met Inspector Vetriselvan, an officer in Special Intelligence Cell (SIC) at Coimbatore, at the city police commissionerate and was warned about threats from “some Islamist organisations”.
Jinnah, a member of Farook’s atheist group on WhatsApp – Allahu Murdhath – said he did not inform Farook of the warning about the apparent threat to his life since “I did not have a clear idea (about the threat, as told by the inspector), and I didn’t want to scare anyone”.
Jinnah said that he believes he was not attacked only because he was questioned by the police. During one of the several rounds of questioning since the murder, “Vetriselvan sir told me that Farook’s life could also have been saved if I had alerted him,” Jinnah claimed.
Vetriselvan, however, said that he meets people as part of his job. “There were no such threats or information. It was a casual meeting to inquire about him (Jinnah),” he told The Indian Express.
The inspector did not give a direct reply when asked about Jinnah’s remarks that he believed Farook could have been saved had Jinnah alerted him.
Recalling the meeting, Jinnah said two plainclothes policemen came to his workplace on “either March 7 or 8” and told him that Inspector Vetriselvan wanted to meet him. “The next day, I went to meet him, along with a lawyer,” Jinnah said. “The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, and he asked about my Facebook posts on atheism and rationalism. He had a file of printouts from my Facebook page. He said there were threats from some Muslim organisations against those posts,” he added.
After he met Vetriselvan, another policeman visited his house. But he “did not say anything (and) I had no clue what was happening,” Jinnah said.
Advocate Louis K Thomas, who accompanied Jinnah to the police commissionerate, said, “The meeting was primarily to ask about Jinnah’s Facebook posts. He was warned by the inspector that there were threats and complaints; he was also asked to avoid such posts. When we asked for details, he said ‘some Muslim organisations’ had complained. He did not reveal more.”
“Now I feel the police could have prevented (Farook’s) murder…or it is a mystery,” he added.
About his acquaintance with Farook, Jinnah said, “Many people discussed and debated issues on God and religion. Reading some of my posts or comments, Farook contacted me two years ago on Facebook. After that, we met once for tea.”
Their WhatsApp group had around 40 members – all Muslims with rational or atheist views.
Asked about summoning Jinnah to his office a week before Farook’s murder, Vetriselvan said, “It was part of my job – we have been watching social media activities, especially after the Jallikattu protests. When I noticed certain posts in a Facebook profile, I decided to meet him.”
Vetriselvan said the police personnel’s visit to Jinnah’s house, a day after he went to the police commissionerate, was also a routine affair.