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Why Mumbai's Mograpada residents are angry

Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai | September 16, 2008 13:41 IST

Amir Shaikh addressing the media
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Mograpada residents are an angry lot. Not at the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad, or the local police who they say have in no way harassed them.

They are angry with the media for sullying the name of their locality. Mograpada, in Mumbai's western suburb of Andheri (East), is a small colony of 7,000 residents, mostly Muslims. Focus shifted to Mograpada on August 31-September 1 and soon died down till it again found mention in the mail allegedly sent by 'e-mail bomber' Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer five minutes before a series of bombs rocked Delhi [Images] on September 13.

On the night of August 31-September 1 the Gujarat ATS led by its Mumbai counterpart had conducted a raid on the residence of Hakim Mehmoodul Hasan in search of Tauqeer, the man suspected to be behind the Ahmedabad [Images] and Delhi blasts. The e-mail sent before the Delhi blasts stated that Hakim Mehmoodul Hasan and his neighbours were harassed by the ATS during the raid.

"The media can't even get the name of the person involved correctly, then how can we expect them to report fairly on if the ATS harassed other locals?" asks an angry Anis Ahmed. He was referring to Mehmoodul Hasan being referred to as 'maulana' (religious leader) when he is just a 'hakim' (physician). Anis is a social worker with Mumbai's Human Rights Foundation.

This anger was palpable on the morning of September 15 as locals protested a news channel's crew trying to film the Jamatul Muslimi mosque where the faithful had gathered for the afternoon prayers. The media crew had to finally relent as the police posted at the local station intervened.

"Why do they want to film the place where we pray even as Hakim Mehmoodul Hasan's house is some 100 metres away from the mosque in a small lane at Ansar Nagar?" asks another angry resident Amir Shaikh, a well-known social worker in the area and Nationalist Congress Party's district secretary for Mumbai north-west.

"If you have come for a story then focus on what happened and the person involved. Why do you need the mosque's footage?" he vents his ire at the media. "You come here for a story, for quotes, and end up misreporting us all together," is Amir's lament.

However, all efforts to focus on the person involved drew a blank as nobody knew or was not willing to say anything about Mehmoodul Hasan. Some said he was with the ATS while others said he was away at a funeral and was expected to be back by the time asr (late afternoon) prayers would be read.

Mehmoodul Hasan is slated to address a press conference organised by the Movement for Peace and Justice, Muslim Front and the Mumbai Aman Committee on September 17 in Mumbai. "Among other things Mehmoodul will throw light on the ATS raid and clarify what exactly happened," said Maulana Dariyabadi of the Movement for Peace and Justice.

Interestingly, while reports in the Urdu press mentioned that other residents were harassed by the ATS -- which subsequently expressed regret over the matter -- during the raid, locals vehemently denied any incident of harassment.

Addressing a congregation just after the asr namaz Amir Shaikh asks aloud: "Did the ATS harass any of us who were not suspected or involved in the whole episode?" The crowd erupts in a boisterous "No".

However, there was tension in the locality as it found itself unable to face the media limelight again that evening. This correspondent as well as the television media crew which wasn't allowed to capture the footage in the morning was allowed to speak to the people but were told strictly not to photograph the mosque by Shamshir Shaikh, who is the general secretary of the Jamatul Muslimi mosque.

He too agreed to speak only after a lot of convincing and assurances that the mosque would not be filmed. Even while Shamshir Shaikh seemed confused about talking to the media, another local opposed it vociferously. "Why can't you tell them directly that we don't want to speak to the media? We don't want unnecessary attention. Let us observe Ramzan peacefully." His opposition, though, was subdued by the cacophony of the crowd gathered around who asked Shamshir to speak and clear the matter once and for all.

"We as citizens of India strongly condemn the bomb blasts that took place in Delhi and all other places before that. As sacchhe mussalmaan (real muslims, as against the terrorists who are behind the blasts) we pray to the Almighty that the real culprits, who are nothing but cowards in the eyes of Allah for killing innocents, would soon be caught and punished severely.

"We want to live in peace with everybody but the media is not helping us by trying to sully the entire locality for what happened on the night of the raid," Shamshir says as the day climaxes and the crowd disperses again to come back to offer magreeb prayers at the break of dusk.

Images: Shamshir Shaikh addressing the media | Crowd dispersing after the media address

Photographs: Prasanna D Zore

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