Thursday, June 13, 2024

Kerala Police quizzes Muslim man for photo outside Jewish synagogue on Facebook

On May 13, Nizammudin aka Nizam, a Muslim businessman from Ernakulam, shared photos on Facebook of him hanging out with three friends outside the Jewish synagogue in the historic town of Mattancherry. Within days of posting it, police came knocking at his door, summoning him to meet senior officers.

Last Tuesday, Nizam was interrogated by the Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Police over photos taken outside the popular tourist spot. But the police ‘harassment’ is not new for the 42-year-old, who was formerly acquitted in a 2006 terror plot case. His family had to change their house 10 times due to continuous visits from the police.

After the photo was posted, cops from Aluva police station visited Nizam’s home and summoned him to appear at the Mattancherry AC’s office. He was told that the photos were suspicious.

The last time the police came uninvited to Nizam’s house was when they came to detain him on suspicion of involvement in the Kalamassery blast —the biggest terrorist attack in Kerala perpetrated by a renegade member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dominic Martin, an ultra-nationalist, on October 29, 2023.

Sharing his ordeal, Nizam who runs a hotel in Saudi Arabia, said, “My two friends from Tamil Nadu, Farooq and Sabir, who are in the cattle business, visited me on May 13. My friend Sreekumar and I took them to Mattancherry to enjoy the evening. We bought items from the local antique shops. Don’t we always show famous places to friends who are new to the area? Similarly, I showed them the historical Jewish synagogue, which everyone visits when they come to Mattancherry. I took photos with them, as I always do whenever friends get together.”

“Three officers from Aluva police station came to my house in plain clothes without prior notice. They conveyed that the AC wanted to meet me to take my statement about the visit to Mattancherry. I couldn’t go on May 26 because of a severe migraine, so an officer from the AC’s office asked me to come on the morning of May 28.”

Nizam, a divorcé living with his 12-year-old triplet children—two girls and a boy—expressed that the children have become accustomed to visits by the police.

His life turned upside down after being accused in the 2006 Panayikulam SIMI case, the first UA(P)A case in Kerala. Then the government led by CPI(M) stalwart VS Achuthandanan’s police arrested five young Muslims including Nizam, Razik Raheem, Anzar, P A Shaduli, and Shammas on Independence Day while holding a public seminar on “The Role of Muslims in the Indian Freedom Struggle”.

The investigation led by state police fabricated evidence, and documents, and produced fake witnesses to implicate that the youngsters were having a secret meeting of SIMI, a banned organization.

All were granted bail after spending 64 days in prison. In 2010, the NIA took over, and in 2015, the NIA court convicted them, sentencing Nizam, Shaduli and Shammas to 12 years and Razik and Anzar to 14 years. While in jail, Nizam lost his mother and sister to cancer in 2016 and separated from his wife in 2017. He spent 1,235 days in jail until all were acquitted by the High Court in 2019, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2021.

During the verdict, the Supreme Court bench rapped the investigation for fabricating evidence.

“When they raid our house, they pull out things and make a mess. It is also difficult for us to move our things from one house to another after police visits,” Nizam’s children told Maktoob.

“Asked about my view on ISIS”

Nizam was detained at least seven times in the past, including when an unknown person threatened Sonia Gandhi. He says there is no case against him to make him a person of interest.

“The officers wanted to know about my ideology and whether I am associated with any political group,” Nizam recounts.

“The officer asked why I went to Mattancherry and about my friends from Tamil Nadu. Then, he asked my views on ISIS. I stated clearly that I don’t support ISIS and that they are against the teachings of Islam. He repeatedly introduced himself as an atheist and dismissively asked, ‘What are the problems faced by Muslims in India?’ when I mentioned the sufferings of the Muslims. He said Muslims like Kerala Governor Arif Muhammad Khan don’t complain and only a few like me have issues. He questioned me about the Quran and said it is easier for Muslims in India to coexist with Hindus compared to Saudi Muslims. He spoke like a right-winger, attempting to sneak nationalism into the discussion,” he said.

“Why have the police not taken similar actions when RSS people who have threatened to destroy mosques and churches in Kerala have visited those areas? I have never expressed hate against Jews, yet I was summoned. Why? This is Islamophobia.”

Nizam, who is not associated with any political organization, added, “Since I told the officer that I was an ardent follower of Abdul Nasar Maudany, he asked, ‘Didn’t Maudany make speeches asking to kill Hindus?’ I disapproved of this.”

Mattancherry AC Manoj KR confirmed the incident and said Nizam was “simply” summoned. He added that there is police protection in the synagogue area and when police got information that a photo was uploaded, he was called just to inquire about his visit.

“There is nothing serious about it,” Manoj said while clarifying that there was no intelligence of a threat to the synagogue.

Responding to Manoj’s statement, Nizam said, “Why was I the only one summoned and not the others who visited Mattancherry and the synagogue? Mattancherry is not a restricted area, and everyone has the freedom to move around. This is not a trivial matter; otherwise, why would a senior officer summon me and spend four hours taking my statements?”

“Actions of the police will deteriorate the status quo of secularism in society. This didn’t happen in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh or Himanta Biswa Sarma’s Assam, but in Pinarayi Vijayan’s Kerala, which claims to be secular. Can’t a Muslim take a stroll around Mattancherry and click photos in front of a synagogue?” Nizam said.

“I have been facing this harassment for 16 years. I don’t see an end to this mental torture by police officers who are injected with prejudiced ideas against Muslims. The so-called democracy in India never caters to minorities. Whether it’s Congress or CPI(M), who proclaim to be apostles of minorities, they are no different from the BJP. I don’t see any hope in the INDIA alliance,” Nizam added.


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