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1993 bomb blast accused to take on Vajpayee in Lucknow

March 22, 2004 22:23 IST

Surprising though it may appear, but one of the accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts has decided to contest against Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from the Lucknow parliamentary constituency.

Forty-five-year-old Aziz Ahmed, who was booked under the Terrorism And Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act in 1993 for conspiring in the blasts, has spent nearly three-and-half years in jail and is not scared of taking on the PM as the Indian Union Muslim League candidate.

"Miracles do occur," he told PTI in Mumbai while packing his bags to leave for Lucknow. "It is up to the 350,000 strong Muslim community and equally strong dalit community to decide if they want a voice in Parliament."

A marine engineer by qualification, Ahmed is a native of Gadhi Manikpur in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, some 60km from Lucknow. He used to run an exports business from Dubai but was arrested on April 4, 1993 when he was on his way there.

Now out of custody on bail, Ahmed said his experience with all parties during his fight against the police action, including those who claimed to champion the cause of Muslims, proved to be an eye-opener.

He admits that the post-1992 riots situation has brought bitterness and fanaticism in both Hindus as well as Muslims, which is one reason for occurrence of riots.

"The government claim to be secular but no one can deny that people are extremely fanatic about religion. Yet, nobody understands that the tenets of every religion never preach of violence," he said.

Ahmed advocates that religious teachings be compulsorily made a part of elementary education so that coming generations are an enlightened lot.

He criticized the Samajwadi Party's decision to declare a holiday on Friday. "We don't need such gestures. What we need is reservation in jobs in proportion to our population," he said.

He had contested the by-poll to the Mirzapur parliamentary seat in 2002 following the murder of sitting MP Phoolan Devi. He was not successful but came to the notice of IUML leader G M Banatwala.

The IUML intends to come out of its traditional bastion of Kerala and offer Muslims across the country a true representation in the Parliament, Aziz Ahmed says.

Unhesitant to reveal his recent travails, Ahmed feels his brethren should not suffer at the hands of draconian laws like TADA, which he proposes to oppose in Parliament.

"So far, Muslims have rallied behind political parties who eventually turned their backs on us on contentious issues like these stringent laws. Muslims should now elect their own men to decide their fate," Ahmed said. "It's no more a secret that coalition politics will continue and Muslims need to bargain for their rights by electing MPs in proportion to their population," he said.

The IUML intends to contest at least 70 parliamentary seats, which have 35 per cent or greater Muslim population.

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