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How Hubli turned a terror hub
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September 25, 2008 18:28 IST

Karnataka's connection to the spate of terror strikes across the country is becoming stronger with each passing day.

Intelligence reports suggest that training camps were extensively held in Karnataka and they are also probing the angle which suggests that the bombs were made here and also the arms and ammunition transported out of Karnataka.

The confessions of Riazuddin Nasir indicate that SIMI [Images] had a crucial meeting at Hubli in Northern Karnataka, following which bombs were made and dispatched to various parts of the country. This point is in fact being investigated by the Gujarat police and in this regard they have taken Nasir in custody.

When the Karnataka cops swooped down on terror activities in the state, shocking facts came to light. Nasir and several other youth were picked up from North Karnataka and all of them consistently said during their interrogation that the meeting at Hubli was an important one as it helped the SIMI regroup.

The question that now needs to be asked is why was Hubli chosen for all these activities?   Hubli residents say that since the past few years, Hubli has seen an influx of people from outside the state and many of these people have made this place a hub to carry out illegal activities.

Hubli, which is around 400 km from Bangalore, has always been a low-profile place. A couple of years ago, it was just the home town of former Chief Minister  S R Bommai and later it became infamous for the Idgah Maidan issue.

Police and intelligence bureau officials told that the Idgah issue was a turning point. While the issue was a very local one and could have been sorted out between the local leaders, the problem began when external forces interfered in the issue.

The Idgah Maidan issue was basically a land dispute between two communities. However, the issue was blown out of proportion when Hindu groups insisted the land which the Muslims claimed was theirs should be given to the public on Independence and Republic Day.

The issue turned ugly and went out of control when former leader of the BJP Uma Bharati was arrested when she announced that she would go to Hubli and hoist the National Flag at the Maidan.

The IB says that there was an external link to this issue and some forces from Pakistan had decided to take it upon themselves to protect this land. It was during this time that people from other states started flocking Hubli to fight this cause.  However some of them decided to stay back and this is when the entire problem began.

The police say several outfits such as SIMI took advantage of this fact and began shifting base into this area. Moreover, the operations in Hubli intensified following a major crackdown in Hyderabad which was considered to be their prime base in the south.

B D Hiremath, a leading advocate from the Hubli-Dharwad belt, says the trend is very disturbing.

The Idgah issue ensured that anti-social elements flocked into Hubli. "Moreover, Hubli borders Maharashtra and hence it is easier to get in and out of the city," Hiremat says.

Another factor that has worked well with terror operatives is the large forest cover that surrounds Hubli.

A senior police official in Hubli told that the forest cover was used by terror forces extensively for training camps.

"Following the spate of arrests, we have recovered material which was used in terror training," he said.

IM Jawli, former Mayor of Hubli says, "As a Muslim, I condemn terror. I can say with confidence that none of the locals are involved in such activities. They have too much love for their place and would not dream about indulging in anti-social activities. But I must also add that some innocents in this area are being framed. What can we do? If we protest, then we are branded. We are in a fix."

The main face behind terror operations in Hubli is considered to be Riazuddin Nasir.

According to the police, he entered into the scene in 2004.

Nasir, son of Moulana Nasiruddin, is an accused in the Haren Pandya murder case. He first came into the limelight when he protested the arrest of his father.

The SIMI realized that Nasir and his family were victims of atrocities. Immediately after this incident, he met with a SIMI activist by the name Majid Khadar and it here they decided to take revenge against the government.

In 2005, Naseer with his friend Shaikh Mahboob went to Saudi Arabia on a religious visit. On reaching Jeddah, they were issued fake passports and the duo went to Pakistan for jihadi training, it is said.

He returned to Hyderabad and as per the directive of Shahid Bilal planned on striking in the city.

However, the heat was stepped up on him. As per the directives of SIMI, he was asked to move into Hubli and set up base out there. He met with Asadulla, a student in Hubli and during his stay he set up training camps and also organized the key meeting of the SIMI.

Hubli residents say that the need of the hour is for the government to stop politicising matters and acting swiftly.

The IB, too, says that the need of the hour is to check the influx of people from across the borders into Northern Karnataka.

Moreover, a tab ought to be kept on those joining religious institutions since there is every possibility of youth being brainwashed by some anti-social elements in this area.

Though activities within Hubli have come down considerably following a spate of arrests, a tight vigil needs to be maintained in order to prevent this place from becoming the terror hotbed of South India.

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