In Kerala, Muslim youths detained for hours following blast; accuse Kerala Police of anti-Muslim bias

Abdul Sathar and Nizam Panayikkulam

The Kerala police were accused of their anti-Muslim prejudice in detaining Muslim youths in preventive custody at various police stations in the Ernakulam district in connection with a recent blast at a Christian prayer meeting, allegedly orchestrated by a Christian youth, Martin Dominic, who was unrelated to the detained Muslims.

The blast, allegedly orchestrated by Martin against members of his former community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect, not only claimed the lives of three individuals and injured 52 people while they were praying in an auditorium on October 29, but it also kept Muslims under kangaroo trials and shadow of distrust, fear, and suspicion. 

According to police sources, at least five Muslim men from different regions of the district were taken into preventive custody both before and after the perpetrator admitted to the crime upon surrendering to the police.

This reporter spoke with three of them and confirmed their detention, which was based on police prejudice against the Muslim community

“Though technically preventive detention is legal, it’s draconian in nature,” said Adv. Ameen Hassan.

Nizam Panayikulam whose acquittal by Kerala High Court in 2006 Panayikulam fabricated the SIMI case was upheld by Supreme Court this year, was one of the detained Muslims.

42-year-old Nizam was picked up from his house by a police team composed of Aluva Circle inspector of police and thunderbolt commandos who said that he would be placed under detention in relation to the Kalamassery blast case.

Nizam chuckled and said to Maktoob: “I was saved because Martin confessed to the crime, otherwise we would have been still in custody.”

“I told them, that I won’t come with Police in their vehicle as I have not committed any crime. I insisted that I would only come in my vehicle”. Nizam said.

“I’m living on rent and have been compelled to change my residence six times due to continuous harassment by the police. Despite being acquitted by the High Court in 2019, I continue to face mistreatment. In February of last year, when an incident occurred in Coimbatore, the NIA raided my house and confiscated my electronic devices, which were never returned. This has had a detrimental impact on my children’s education and our personal lives. I am planning to file a complaint with the DGP and Chief Minister regarding this issue and pursue legal action through the courts against the harassment,” Nizam said.

Abdul Sathar who was acquitted in the 2008 Ahmedabad blast case was the other person to be detained in the same station along with Nizam.

Sathar told Maktoob that, upon arriving at his home, the police informed him that there were instructions to detain him at the station in connection with the blast case.

“Our suffering from being detained is nothing when compared to the similar nature of detaining of Muslim youth outside Kerala,” said the 39-year-old Muslim youth.

“This (preventive detention) is good. It will remind the people about the nature of the system and it will expose the atrocities done by the state,” he said.

Sathar’s aged mother who is a heart patient was terrified when police again came on their doorstep. Sathar added that he was wrongfully convicted in the Vagamon SIMI camp case and had to spend 8.5 years in jail against which he has filed an appeal at the court.

Both Sathar and Nizam stated that officers at the station informed them that they were detained on the orders of the Director General of Kerala Police and that they couldn’t leave the station until the arrival of the DySP.

“I was granted bail with the surety of my elder brother, and Nizam was released on his own guarantee after the police received instructions over the phone to release us following Martin Dominic’s surrender,” said Sathar.

Maktoob contacted the Aluva station where they were detained for hours. The officer who picked up the phone confirmed the detention when asked whether Sathar and Nizam were detained in relation to the Kalamassery blast case.

The officer said, “Messages were forwarded to the station by the Superintendent of Police and Special Branch to take them into custody.” The officer recommended that the reporter contact the circle inspector. However, Circle Inspector Manjudas, upon realising the call was from a reporter, displayed a lack of interest in conversation and told Maktoob, ‘You can call the station.’ Subsequently, the officer disconnected the call.”

Former Popular Front of India member, Shamsuddin who was detained similarly by Perumbavoor Police was not allowed to come in his vehicle to the station and was taken in a police jeep. 

45-year-old Shamsuddin who is a welder told Maktoob: “Perumbavoor Circle Inspector of Police scolded me after my lawyer objected to the action of police and questioned the prejudiced actions”. 

Shamsuddin, who was taken to custody after Martin surrendered, went on to say: “I was taken into custody at 5.30 pm even after the perpetrator confessed to the crime. Whenever any unfortunate incident takes place, there is a conspiracy to divert it to the people of the Muslim community. This is a conspiracy and nexus between bureaucrats and the media.”

Maktoob contacted Perumbavoor CI and he denied that no one was taken into preventive custody yesterday in connection with the blast case.

When the reporter asked about Shamsuddin, CI told Maktoob, “Shamsuddin is a rowdy sheeter and he is often taken to preventive custody and yesterday’s preventive custody was not part of the blast case.”

Shamsuddin slammed the version of CI and replied to Maktoob, “I am not a rowdy and I was never detained in the police station in connection with any other case before.” “The constable who came along with the police team specifically told my wife the detention is part of the blast case,” he said.

Aluva Rural Superintendent of Police, Vivek Kumar IPS initially replied, “not in my limits” to this reporter’s query of the total number of people detained in connection with the case. 

When told that the reporter got information on record from Aluva police station about the detainment in connection with the blast, Vivek messaged, “Yesterday one preventive arrest was made, but not related to this incident.” The officer refused to name the person who was detained and WhatsApp called this reporter and said, “no one was taken into preventive custody yesterday in connection with the Kalamassery blast.” 

When this reporter asked why Nizam, Sathar, and Shamsuddin were detained, The officer said: “Suspects who pose a threat to internal security are usually taken into custody based on their history and antecedents.”

Vivek alleges that Aluva Police Station was lying about the preventive custody of Nizam and Sathar being related to the blast case. Vivek put the entire blame on the Aluva police station and held the officers of the station responsible for lying.

When asked about Nizam’s detention despite acquittal by the supreme court, Vivek replied, “That doesn’t clear Nizam from suspicions and the call record says that Sathar still has old connections.”

The contradicting statements of junior and senior police officers will not do any good for the illegally detained Muslims. 

Nizam told Maktoob: “Then why were we told by officers who came to our house and the officers present in the station that we were detained in relation to the blast ?”

Nizam added that senior officers are escaping after blaming junior officers for the illegal detention. When Maktoob contacted Special Branch DySP, VS Navas, he said “ I don’t think that you are a journalist”. The officer declined to share anything about it. 

Razik Raheem who was acquitted along with Nizam in the Panayikulam case wore on Facebook: “For a few years after my arrest in the Panayikulam case, to be exact, I was one of those responsible to answer on the untoward incidents that took place in Kerala from 2006 to 2010. I have had many experiences of being summoned with notices in many cases such as the fire at SM Street in Kozhikode, the Ernakulam Collectorate blast, the Vagamon SIMI case, or taken away after the house being surrounded and an atmosphere of terror being created.”

Raheem told Maktoob, “The officer Sasidharan IPS who is part of the Kalamassery case happens to be the same officer who was head of 2008 SIT team formed for the Panayikulam case in which we were wrongly framed. The police action of detaining Muslim youths in connection with the blast in Kalamassery is extremely heinous. Through such acts, the police and the media are creating a false impression that if there are blasts, a Muslim will be behind them. It should be made a punishable offence to indulge in such heinous acts of creating Islamophobic narratives and promoting Muslim alienation in the society.”

When BJP leader KS Radhakrishnan spread xenophobia by saying Kalamassery is a place where extremist activities are taking place, BJP Kerala President Surendran fuelled hate against pro-Palestine politics shared by Muslim and left organisations of Kerala by saying that the blast should be seen in the backdrop of the pro-Palestine and pro-Hamas stance taken by the mainstream parties in the state.

Social media trials of innocent Muslims in this blast case started much before investigation agencies reached the spot based on the statements of BJP leaders.

Despite members of Jehovah’s Witnesses not being Jews, verified X (formerly known as Twitter) handle by the name, Major Surendra Poonia, tweeted that Jewish gathering was bombed by Islamic radicals.

A Facebook page with 489K followers, Indian Military Updates shared fake news that the blast happened because Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal asked the Jamaat-e-Islami supporters to take action against the non-believers.

Times Now, TV9 Bangla, Sudarshan News, Marunadan Malayali, and Karma News are a few of the national and Kerala-based channels that sneaked hatred against Palestinian supporters and Muslims of Kerala by capitalising on this blast. 

Congress leader Rijil Makkuty has filed a case against Marunadan Malayali for their hate journalism on this blast. The reason for this baseless allegation was after the leader in exile of Palestine resistance movement Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, addressed the audience virtually for the Palestine solidarity program organised by Solidarity Youth Movement on the day before the blast. 

In the 2020 Kerala Police activity report which was accessed by this reporter, under the “Counter Radicalization Program”, only Muslims are mentioned as the target group of re-radicalisation. Nowhere is mentioned about RSS and their presence in temples and about CASA. 

Advocate Ameen Hassan who also criticised the misleading journalism of News 18 Malayalam which portrayed a Jharkhand Muslim youth as accused in this blast case after being merely questioned at Kannur railway station for a few minutes about his identity card, told Maktoob, “Why Kerala Police didn’t take any activists of RSS and right-wing Christian organisation, CASA into custody on this case? This proves the prejudiced mindset of Kerala police against Muslims.”


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