Two Kashmiris were arrested by UP’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) from a hostel in Deoband late Thursday night for suspected links with terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The men were identified as Shahnawaz Teli (26) and Aqib Ahmad Malik (28), belonging to Kulgam and Pulwama areas of Kashmir, respectively, said UP DGP O P Singh. The police claimed to have recovered two country-made pistols of .32 bore along with 30 live cartridges along with “jihadi literature, chats and videos”.
According to the ATS, an unidentified student tipped the police about activities of the two men, who were allegedly trying to radicalise students. Monitoring of the suspects was initiated and an operation conducted post 1 am. The two Kashmiris and seven other students were arrested from a private hostel, officers said. The seven students were let go after questioning. The two accused were produced in a court in Saharanpur and sent to ATS headquarters in Lucknow for three-day transit remand.
“We were informed that the two suspects were living in Deoband posing as students but had no admission in any institution. They were under constant watch through electronic surveillance. After concrete evidence was collected, IG ATS was asked to conduct the operation,” said DGP Singh. UP Police is in touch with J&K Police.
The police claimed there was evidence of Shahnawaz being an active member of Jaish, and trained people to lob grenades. Family members of both the suspects denied that they were associated with any terror outfit.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Aqib’s cousin Rayees Ahmad Malik said, “He left home to study in Deoband. He called yesterday evening and said that as Kashmiris are being harassed, he would return home in a few days.”
Rayees said that no case was registered against Aqib, a resident of Chindgawan area in Pulwama district. “Police can check the background. These are absolute lies that he was part of any militant group. He is innocent,” he said. The family has approached the local police station.
The family of Shahnawaz, a resident of Noonmai village of Yaripora in Kulgam district, said he had been studying in Deoband for two years. “Today, we received a call from his friend that security agencies arrived at their accommodation and he was taken away,” said his brother Waqar Ahmad. “We requested local police to take up the matter with UP Police. His records are clear. We completely deny the UP Police claims. He is not an operative.” Both families now plan to travel to Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, confusion and apprehension prevailed in the Deoband neighbourhood where the two resided. Aqib’s and Shahnaqaz’s acquaintances said the two were preparing for the entrance examination of the main Darul Uloom University. “Both were in Deoband for 1-2 years and wanted to pursue the course of Aalim in the main university. The exam is very tough and they were preparing. They failed last time and were looking to clear the next exam to be held in two months. They kept to themselves. It came as a surprise to us,” said Adil, who was preparing for the exam with them.
Dr Abdul Khaliq, a teacher in Darul Uloom, said, “The two had no affiliation with the university. I was told they were preparing for the exam. As far as we know, they were never seen in the campus. One of our students was picked up by ATS but later released.” A senior police official said: “The Intelligence Bureau also provided a tip-off, which was developed by the ATS.”
(With ENS Lucknow)