Thursday, August 17, 2000

'Anjuman people love Pakistan, not India'

The 12,000 strong dangerous Islamic sect Deendar Anjuman was working towards the Islamization of India.

Rediff reports:
'Anjuman people love Pakistan, not India'

George Iype

Nuzvid in Andhra Pradesh and Batakurki in Karnataka.

Welcome to the strange world of the Deendar Anjuman, the followers of which wear the green turban of Muslim saints, the saffron robes of Hindu swamis and beards like the Sikhs.

The 12,000-odd Anjuman members spread across the two southern Indian states continue to dress in an eclectic fashion, which their guru Deendar Channabasaveshwara Siddiqui adopted seven decades ago. But many these days lament that the police are harassing them for no mistake of theirs.

"We were living happily. The police arrested my husband simply because we were Deendar followers," complained Waheduunisa, wife of Syed Khalid Uz Zaman, who was picked up soon after the bomb blasts in churches.

Salman Quereshi, a 65-year-old ardent follower of the Sufi order, claims that orthodox Muslims and fundamentalists who feel threatened because of the Anjuman's social service activities are behind the smear campaign against the sect.

"Our religious order has been in existence for the last seven decades. How come that we are branded anti-nationals and pro-Pakistanis in July 2000?" Quereshi asked.

"It is not us but the fanatic Hindu groups that have been attacking and killing Christian priests and missionaries in the country," he alleged.

SOME 60 kilometres away from Vijayawada lies Nuzvid, a nondescript village. Here landlords still flourish under the zamindari system, while the poor live like slaves. It was in this little village that the Anjuman allegedly hatched the conspiracy to set off blasts in places of worship.

The epicentre of that conspiracy was allegedly Zaman's house. The people in the village do not know much about Zaman's family; they moved in from the nearby Tiruvur town just three months before the blasts.

"Zaman used to visit the local co-operative bank as an auditor. We respected him because he was one of the few educated men in our village," says Vijayabhaskar Reddy, a local social activist.

That was apparently Zaman's cover. He had been working hard ever since the Anjuman's Pakistan-based spiritual head, Zia-ul-Hassan, appointed him the head of the sect in south India.

Hassan's orders to Zaman ran something like this: Prepare India for jihad by creating hatred among religious communities and disrupting the communication system in the country. Zaman was further instructed to disturb the transport system so as to cut off north India from the south.

The police suspect that Zaman visited Peshawar a number of times, was trained by the Inter-Services Intelligence and imported thousands of fake Rs 500 notes to India. Zaman began his mission by recruiting Anjuman members to carry out the deadly attacks on religious places across southern states. In March, Hassan's son Zahid Pasha came down from Pakistan to Nuzvid to finalise the targets for the attacks, and Anjuman adherents from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Nanded, Khammam, Hubli, Ramdurg and Bangalore drove down to the little village for consultation.

The Anjuman began its 'Islamisation of India' in February with several robberies and dacoities in rural Andhra Pradesh. In March when United States President Bill Clinton visited Hyderabad, a handful of its activists took out a protest march in the city with placards saying 'The President of America should accept Islam, which guarantees world peace.'

The police ignored the rally. But zealous Anjuman members had by then chalked out plans to plant explosives in churches and at gospel meetings.

THE police say in the last five years Anjuman activists have converted at least 5,000 villagers in and around Nuzvid.

"We have evidence that Pakistan's ISI has pumped in huge amounts of money to lure poor Hindu villagers into the Islamic fold with the help of Anjuman activists," an intelligence source said.

He added that the ISI has been using the hawala channel to transfer money from Pakistan to Anjuman followers.

Ever since the blasts, Anjuman followers have been hounded by the police and local villagers. "My family has been ardent followers of Deendar. Is it a crime to profess the religion you believe in?" asked Chamansaab, whose son Meersaab Chamansaab Koujalgi was arrested by the police.

Koujalgi, one of the main accused in the bomb blasts, is an active Anjuman member, and is said to be close to Zaman and Pasha. Chamansaab, this 78-year old Anjuman follower of Batkurki village in Karnataka's Belgaum district, does not believe his son is involved in the blasts. But his villagers have already ostracised him, wife Sultanbi and their four sons.

"They are not followers of Islam. The Anjuman people are mad and their love is for Pakistan, not for India," said Mohammad Rafi, a local Muslim. "Their teachings do not conform to the Holy Koran."

Villagers of Nuzvid and Batkurki say that many Anjuman members have become rich overnight. "We do not know where the money come from. But some of the members who had not owned even 10 cents of land today drive Tata Sumos," said Prakash Shetty, a landlord in Batakurki.

It was in Batakurki that Siddique founded the Deendar Anjuman. Late last month, investigations led the police to two, unkempt graves in a remote corner of the village. After questioning many Anjuman members, the police say the graves belong to two of Siddiqui's four wives: Siddiqua Hajra Begum who died on 10-04-1969, and Zainabee Sahiba who died on 13-05-1922.

In Hubli, the centre of Anjuman activities when Siddiqui was alive, not many people know anything about the sect. The city has no relics of the sect either. But on its outskirts, there is a one-room office of Anjuman, which the police have sealed following the church blasts.

Locals alleged the Anjuman's Hubli officer-bearers -- Kiremath and Munner Mulla -- are "Muslim fanatics." Currently, both are in police custody.

"They were trying to propagate the Deendar theology with such zest that some Hindus joined the sect in the last few years," said Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Anugrah Kumar.

When the Anjuman's activities were exposed, VHP leaders launched their own investigation into conversions. "We do not think many Hindus have joined the sect. But we are trying to find out whether the Muslim sect, like the Christian missionaries, are also indulging in forcible conversions," says Kumar.

But Siddique Hussain, the Anjuman's information secretary in Hyderabad and one of the grandsons of the sect's founder, claimed that the religious order is "clean and holy."

"Ours is a unique Muslim religious organisation that is committed to promote peace and communal harmony," he said.

Hussain blamed the Anjuman's current troubles on "the mismanagement of our Vijayawada unit."

"Our information is that some members of our Vijayawada unit independently engaged in some anti-social activities which we do not approve of," he said. "None of them now belongs to the Deendar Anjuman."

But with more Anjuman followers being arrested, neither the investigating agencies nor the public are ready to believe such claims. In the eyes of the police, local people and orthodox Muslims, the Deendar Anujman is a dreaded group that exists just for Pakistan.


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