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April 2, 1998


Kochi police arrest Madani

Abdul Nassar Madani People's Democratic Party chairman Abdul Nasser Madani was arrested on Tuesday night at Kochi and remanded to 14 days judicial custody by a magistrate in Kozhikode on Wednesday night.

Madani was arrested from his Ashoka Road home at Kochi on the basis of a warrant issued by a magistrate in Kozhikode.

The arrest followed the interrogation of one Ooma Babu alias Majid, a prime accused in the Coimbatore serial bomb blasts. He reportedly disclosed to the police that the PDP chief had given him shelter after the blasts.

Madani's arrest was followed by that of P K Abubacker Harath Moulavi, principal of the Anwarussari Islamic College at Karunagapally, which, incidentally, was the headquarters of the banned Islamic Sewak Sangh.

Madani has been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 153 (a) (spreading communal hatred), 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), 124 (a) (sedition), and also under the Arms Act.

Meanwhile, a report from Kollam said the Anwarseri Islamic Complex, Madani's headquarters, was raided, and some documents and visiting cards seized.

Madani was produced before the chief judicial magistrate amidst tight security. After his remand he was taken to the Kannur central jail. Talking to waiting newsmen, he alleged there was a conspiracy behind his arrest.

The PDP called a state-wide hartal on Thursday to condemn Madani's arrest.

A report from Kollam said top PDP leaders, who reviewed the situation arising out of the arrest, alleged that "the arrests were nothing but an act of political vendetta as the PDP had opposed the ruling Left Democratic Front in the recent election."

Madani is the fifth accused in the case registered by the Nadakkavu police. A case registered by the Kasaba police in the city in connection with an inflammatory speech made by the accused in the Muthalakulam maidan in Kozhikode in 1992 is also pending against him.

The Parappanangadi police in Malappuram district had also registered a case against Madani earlier.

The police suspect that he had made arrangements for Al Umma activist Majid to receive arms training in a foreign country. This was also under investigation, the police submitted in the court.

Madani has been under close watch ever since he set up the Islamic Sewak Sangh. The organisation was banned following the Babri Mosque demolition, along with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Madani had then formed the PDP. He has been trying to set up a third front, consolidating the minorities and Dalit forces in the state.

With his arrest, the Tamil Nadu police hopes to have a lead on the source of Islamic fundamentalism in the south.

Though Madani is a known Islamic fundamentalist in native Kerala, it is not yet known whether he was the brain behind Islamic terrorism spreading its winds in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

"For one the motive is not clear and simple," says a police source. "Why should Kerala-based fundamentalists choose Tamil Nadu for their activities, and target the state?"

As is known, most of those arrested in connection with the Coimbatore blasts have their origins in Kerala, The same is true of many other suspects arrested in subsequent police raids elsewhere in Tamil Nadu. "When they have enough and more work on hand in native Kerala, where the RSS has been growing more rapidly over the past two decades, why should they divert their focus?" asks the source.

It is not known whether this had anything to do with the failure of the PDP as a political party in the Kerala election since the Ayodhya demolition. "Or, to the reciprocatory violence that Islamic fundamentalists have been facing in Kerala," adds the source.

The sources also refer to another unique feature of Islamic fundamentalism in Tamil Nadu. "Most of those arrested, including Al Umma chief S A Basha are first or second generation converts to Islam from Hinduism."

"While their ideological conviction and indoctrination are beyond suspect, whether that alone mattered in some of them taking to fundamentalism and terrorism, remains to be seen," says the source. "Many of them seen to be flush with funds."

In this context, the sources also refer to Ayesha, who is now on the top of the police manhunt, along with her husband Ibrahim Gani. Born Sangeetha to Hindu parents in Mansapuram village in southern Tamil Nadu made popular by 'herbal petrol' inventor Ramar Pillai, Ayesha is allegedly a major participant in the terrorist operations. She is on the run along with Gani, whom the fell in love with while in college and for whose sake she has forsaken her religion and family. The Tamil Nadu police seems to be just one step behind her in their chase all the time. "It is a matter of time and some good luck before we catch up with her," says the source.

However, the police pooh-poohs media reports that Ayesha is a 'human-bomb at-large', out to take potshots at select human targets. "Maybe, like most other terrorists we have arrested in the last month, she too is carrying explosives, detonators and even small arms. But to present her as a human-bomb is an over-reaction that can scare the people. Alternatively, this may put ideas in Ayesha, who is known to have loved daredevilry, starting from foot-board travel in buses, something in which her lover-turned husband was past-master."

So far, the Tamil Nadu police has arrested nearly 70 persons in connection with Islamic terrorism, and recovered nearly 450 kg of explosives. "But that may only be the tip of the iceberg, and we cannot rest in peace until we have accounted for all the explosive materials," says the source. The police suspect that the high drawals from various public sector undertakings dealing in explosive material for the quarrying industry in the past four years, have found their way to the terrorists.

The intelligence agencies are not yet clear about the motives behind the terrorist-bombings in Coimbatore on February 14, which killed at least 60 persons. "While the arrested persons have spoken about a motive to disrupt Advani's public meeting, and avenge the Muslim victims of the RSS-dominated Coimbatore riots of November, whether it was as simple as that, or whether there was a greater plot, worse than this, is not yet known."

In Madras, meanwhile, former Tamil Nadu chief minister and All Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary J Jayalalitha has said there had never been a place in the party for those who supported extremists or abetted violence either during former chief minister M G Ramachandran's time or during her tenure.

Jayalalitha's assertion comes in the wake of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's remark in the state assembly on Monday that he would have appreciated her had she expelled Fathima Beevi, a women's wing functionary arrested in connection with harbouring extremists in Madras recently.

In a statement, she asked whether the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president had ever expelled any of his partymen who indulged in violence or supported terrorists.

Listing instances, she said former minister Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan was arrested for harbouring terrorists involved in the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front leader Padmanabha murder case. But Karunanidhi, instead of expelling her from the party, had given a ticket to her to contest the Palani Lok Sabha by-election. She had now become a legislator.

Karunanidhi, instead of giving sermons to others, should weed out anti-social elements in his party, she added.

'The BJP is running everywhere like a venomous snake after Sonia started campaigning'

D Jose in Thiruvanathapuram, N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras, UNI

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