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'The police can frame anyone from Bhatkal'

June 11, 2012 14:14 IST

Muzaffar Kola, accused for funding the 13/7 Mumbai blasts is marked as 'wanted' in the chargesheet filed by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, but in reality, he lives at Jaali Cross Road in Bhatkal, Karnataka. Vicky Nanjappa speaks to the man and his family.

According to the cops, Kola had moved money through hawala transactions from a Dubai-based company. They say that money was used to execute the 13/7 blasts orchestrated by the Indian Mujahideen.

Kola who is well-known in Bhatkal is a cancer patient, and as a result, has had his vocal chords removed. He cannot speak, and hence gives written answers to the questions asked.

The 60-year-old Kola claims he is innocent. He admits that he used to run a company in 1975. But he claims that the company is no longer run by him, and he returned to Bhatkal in 1998, so the accusation that money was transferred from that company in question cannot be attributed to him.

Speaking through his family and friends to rediff.com, he says that he is undergoing treatment for both cancer and depression.

"I have never been a suspect and have not been questioned even once. Moreover, there are no cases against me," he adds. Even Bhatkal residents don't see him as a terror suspect and feel that he is being framed without reason.

"This has become a fad with the police to frame anyone from Bhatkal," says a resident.

In Bhatkal, Kola is appreciated for his charity. He is said to have funded many festivals, and the residents say the medical trust and Naunihal, a school, run by Kola have done their society good.

Kola's family challenges the claim by the ATS that he had spoken over phone to organise the funds for the attacks on 13/7. They say that the idea is incredulous, since he cannot speak. They say that he was operated upon at the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai in 2010, where his vocal chords were removed.

"Since this attack took place much later, the police is wrong," a family member said. Kola claims that he has not gone back to Dubai ever since he returned to India in 1998.

"The ATS has taken my passport and they can verify it. There is no mention in that passport that I have travelled out of the country. Moreover, they also have my medical records with them and they can cross check that as well. They will realise that I am suffering from cancer and depression and there was no way in which I could have been even remotely involved in the blasts," Kola communicated.

Kola has not been chargesheeted for the offence, but his name figures under the 'wanted' list, thus giving him the status of an absconder.

The big question that needs to be asked is why the ATS has not picked him up yet, despite the fact that his location is known. The ATS would like to tread carefully in this case and would not want the Abdul Samad (picked up in the German Bakery blast case and later let off) fiasco to repeat. Moreover, Kola has been citing health grounds and they believe that he can't flee in his current condition.

ATS sources point out that they can't arrest him because they don't have a case on him. He has been on the intelligence radar since 1993. The police allege that Kola supplied the weapons during the deadly Bhatkal riots in 1993. However, the ATS would like to operate this case through courts which would mean they will have seek a warrant before they make a move on him.

The ATS adds that apart from intelligence intercepts, they have a strong case against Kola.

There are two numbers from Dubai which are in the name of Kola. Further investigations have shown that an amount of Rs 10 lakh was transferred with the help of Kola to a person named Shivanand, a Delhi resident. They also say that his role is suspected in more hawala transactions, which was used during the abduction shoe baron Pratim Roy Burman from Kolkata. The ATS also believes that the Dubai-based Muzaffar Kola Enterprises, that dealt in blankets and bags was a front company for such transactions, a charge that Kola denies outright.

"We condemn all forms of terror attacks," says his family. The ATS on the other hand say that they would further probe the case against Kola.
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru