Two suspected Lashkar-e-Tayiba operatives had met two residents of Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar region, the Delhi police said on Tuesday, three months after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had stoked a controversy claiming that Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence had approached disgruntled victims of the communal riots.
However, the police denied that the two residents of Muzaffarnagar were riot victims or had anything to do with last September’s violence.
S N Shrivastava, Delhi police's special commissioner of the special cell, told the media that the suspected operatives Mohd Shahid and Mohd Rashid, who have been arrested recently from the Mewat region of Haryana, had met Muzaffarnagar residents Liyakat and Zameer in connection with mobilising funds for construction of a mosque.
The special cell had last month claimed to have busted a terror module of the LeT, which was in an "advanced stage" of planning a strike in Delhi with the arrest of these two suspected operatives.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had courted a controversy in during an election campaign in October last when he had claimed that intelligence agency officials have told him that the ISI was trying to recruit disgruntled youth from among the victims of Muzaffarnagar riots.
Shrivastava said the police had arrested Mohd Shahid and Mohd Rashid, who are residents of the Mewat region. "We interrogated them, checked their background and tracked all those people who were in contact with them," he said.
"We learned that they were in contact with some people living in the Muzaffarnagar region. When we asked them about this, they told us that Rashid along with another man, whom I cannot name right now, had visited Deoband.”
"On their way back, they telephoned one Liyakat who was already known to them and told him that they will stay at his house in the night and take a train to Palwal, Mewat in the morning," he said.
The duo stayed at his house in the night and in the morning, Liyakat, 58, who works under the UP education department, took them to Thana Bhavan railway station. He then called a friend, identified as Zameer asking him to arrange tea for his guests, he said.
When they were having tea, Liyakat left from the spot while Zameer kept talking to them. After this the duo came back to Mewat, the police said.
The man, whose identity the police is not revealing, then called Zameer saying that he wanted to build a mosque for which he needed money. He further told him that they could kidnap for ransom, which could be used to build the mosque and other activities.
They then met Zameer twice in Delhi and tried to persuade him to arrange some men to carry out the kidnapping. However, when Zameer realised that they wanted to do indulge in criminal activities, he backed out and cut off all contacts.
However, the special cell clarified that both Liyakat and Zameer are not riot victims. "I would like to make it very clear that both Liyakat and Zameer are not victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots, they have nothing to do with them. Although they live in Muzaffarnagar, they are not riot victims," Shrivastava said.
The police have produced both Liyakat and Zameer before the court and got their statements recorded under Section 161 CrPC and 164 CrPC. “We will sight them as witnesses so that we have a strong case against them,” he said.
Asked whether Zameer was told that the money would also be used to avenge Muzaffarnagar riots, Shrivastava said, "It is just a one-sided statement right now and unless we verify it, make more arrests in the case and interrogate them, we will not give any statement in the case till then."
Amid these reports, the Congress said it has proved right Rahul Gandhi's assertions that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence was working to lure the riot-hit while the Bharatiya Janata Party asked the government to explain facts of the "LeT operation".
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh said the report has lent credence to Gandhi's remarks on riot victims at an election rally in October last, which had invited flak from opposition parties.
"If this information is correct that some people from the LeT had gone to relief camps to lure refugees, then it proves right what Gandhi had said," Singh told reporters.
Targeting the BJP, Union minister Manish Tewari said, "Those who believe in the politics of polarisation, who believe in the politics of communalism should become cognizant of the damage which they do to the idea of India".
However, the BJP demanded that the home minister explain the "facts", Terming the present situation as "unacceptable", "This shows how well-entrenched the network of the LeT and other such outfits supported and funded by Pakistan are in UP...What action they have taken on their own. It is a national issue. Nobody is nabbed; nobody is traced. This is unacceptable," party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
Now the UP government and the Centre must answer, he said, adding the BJP had sought to know from the Centre as to what action it had taken on its own after Gandhi had spoken about it.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said Muzaffarnagar had become a "political pawn" for many parties but added that he was not aware of the facts of the case.
Image: Security personnel detain a man in curfew-hit Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh following communal clashes in September last year