May 23, 2016 12:15:05 am
Imran Khan, 35, may be staring at an uncertain future after he was picked up by the Rajasthan anti-terrorism squad from Bhilwara last week for alleged involvement in organising meetings of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in 2008 and propagating radical ideology but back home in Bhilwara and Jodhpur, relatives say they are confident of his acquittal. They have heard of “similar cases” earlier, they say, and worry instead about the “taint” on the family.
Imran, of Jodhpur, was in-charge of computer-related facilities and systems at Sangam School of Excellence in Bhilwara. A Jaipur court last week remanded him in judicial custody until Monday. His name had not been mentioned in the 2008 FIR by additional superintendent of police Mahendra Singh, the investigating officer in the 2008 Jaipur blasts case. It came up in the subsequent investigation by special operations group additional SP Nawal Kishore. This probe held Imran guilty under IPC sections 295 A and 153 A (hate speech) and 120 B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) besides various sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
Since then, he had been “missing” as per police and ATS officials. Relatives, the school administration and friends, however, say that Imran had been working in Bhilwara since 2009, completed a computer course in Jodhpur and travelled between the two districts, owned a postpaid SIM card, and been meeting his relatives regularly. The family said the police had never approached them until he was picked up last week, days after another accused, Mohammad Suwale, was picked up by the Gujarat ATS. Suwale was allegedly arrested on the Gujarat border, after which agencies said they tracked Imran down.
In Bhilwara, Imran’s father-in-law Saleem Faujdar is confident. “We’re hopeful and confident he will be acquitted. If he is guilty, punish him. But we’re sure he will be acquitted,” said Faujdar, 68. “But what of the bad name we get in society?” He said theirs is a family “of patriots” and one of his elder brothers, Ashraf Faujdar, was a freedom fighter.
“He had a good future but with what is being done now, they have spoiled his career and life,” Imran’s father Mohammad Ilyas said. “I have all the records of where he was all these years, whether in Bhilwara or Jodhpur, and he never participated in any meeting as is being alleged.”
Imran’s mother Gulab Bano said, “He cannot ever hurt anyone. He was working hard in Bhilwara and supported us too. He was an ideal son and I never felt the need to scold him. I hope he is released soon.”
Married in 2005, Imran has three daughters, of whom the second is mentally challenged and the youngest has a congenital eye ailment. Imran’s wife Irfana spoke fondly of his kindness. “Once some children came selling piggy banks, he bought them for twice the price. A papad wallah came in the summer heat, and Imran brought him inside and gave him lunch,” she said. “Whatever we earn is barely enough for us, but he made me give money to our neighbours when the man in that family had lost his job.”
“He is the kindest among us,” agreed Imran’s uncle Asif Khan. “If one of us used abusive language in front of him, he would tell us, ‘Your good deeds are being cancelled out’.” Asif runs a mechanic’s shop in Bhilwara along with brother Ishteyaq, who spoke of the reputation Imran had built at the school.
Sangam School principal Madhu Nagpal said that since Imran joined in 2009, the school’s computer systems have improved greatly. Shailendra, another teacher at the school, said, “He was an innocent boy. He was very softspoken and ready to help, no matter how late it was.”
Imran’s brother Tausif is upset about the way the local press has reported the arrest, particularly a reference to Imran as a “terrorist”. On Tuesday, police and intelligence agencies searched the two-room home Imran has rented at Mohammadi Colony in Shastri Nagar, Bhilwara, which is now locked. “They told us they haven’t found anything in the house,” Saleem said. “They even went through the flour,” added Asif Khan.
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