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Bihar: Residents Angry Over Portrayal of Phulwari Sharif as 'Terror hub'

Phulwari Sharif made headlines after the Bihar Police claimed to have busted a 'potential terror module' by arresting people with alleged links to the Islamic organisation PFI.
phulwari sahrif

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Youtube

Patna: We are not terrorists or anti-nationals. We work hard to earn a livelihood for our families; our life is full of struggle. We also want to live in peace,” said Izhar Ahmad, a construction contractor and resident of densely populated Ishopur locality in Phulwari Sharif, Patna, on Thursday. The area made headlines after the Bihar Police claimed to have busted a “potential terror module” by arresting three people, including a retired Jharkhand police officer, with alleged links to the Popular Front of India (PFI).

Ahmad said, “The police have arrested some people based on suspicion. They have been doing their job, and those found guilty should be punished. But kind of justice is dubbing the entire Phulwari Sharif a terror hub and giving a bad name to all Muslims?”

Echoing Ahmad, Manzoor Ansari, a resident of Naya Tola, told NewsClick, “We are not against police action or arrest of suspects. But it is deeply hurtful to us when Phulwari Sharif is termed a terror hub and the Muslim community as a whole is blamed for it.”

Both Ahmad and Ansari also questioned the local Hindi dailies and TV news channels for irresponsible journalism. “Hindi dailies and TV news channels have defamed Phulwari Sharif as a terror hub without any concrete evidence and any solid breakthrough by the police so far. Despite the fact that police have interrogated the arrested accused in police remand, the cops have yet to say much about what information they got about their involvement in terror activities,” said Ahmad.

The people of Phulwari Sharif, located on the outskirts of Patna, are upset over media reports and expressed their pain over the negative portrayal. Several said they were reluctant to talk out of fear that they would be in trouble. However, their fear is not baseless because the media has been describing the incident as “Phulwari Sharif terror module”, and citing the police for it.

The Phulwari Sharif locality is known for housing a substantial Muslim population.

After the arrest of a total of four suspected PFI members allegedly involved in anti-national activities in Phulwari Sharif, the police investigation has been underway since last week. The police have so far failed to reveal solid evidence in support of the alleged terror link of the accused. Meanwhile, Bihar’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are trying to project Phulwari Sharif as a new terror hub. It raised many eyebrows among the common people as the police have taken action based on intelligence inputs of suspicious activities and still probing the case.

Later, in a separate case, the police arrested a 24-year-old youth from a colony in Phulwari Sharif in connection with communal and anti-national activities using a WhatsApp group named ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’. However, the arrested youth’s family told the police that he is mentally ill and has been under medical treatment for years. They also contested the police’s claim that the accused youth had worked in the UAE for ten years. “He had no passport and never visited or worked in Dubai; it is on record,” his family said.

BJP leaders, including state party president Sanjay Jaiswal, to Bihar ministers Neeraj Singh and Jieevesh Mishra, have claimed that the “terror module” is active in each district of Bihar and the number of sleeper cells has increased in recent years.

Unlike the BJP, its ally JD-U differs on the issue. Bihar Minister Sharvan Kumar, a senior JD-U leader, said that everything is peaceful in the state and there is nothing to worry about and that the government will take action against anyone found involved in terror or crime.

On the other hand, many mainstream media outlets have been describing Phulwari Sharif as a terror hub and drawing connections to Pakistan. However, the police have not yet claimed any link of the accused with Pakistan.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) on Thursday launched a three-day “people’s resistance” across Bihar from July 21 to 23 to counter claims of the Phulwari Sharif terror module and a false campaign to target Muslims. The CPI(ML) members, along with the common people, staged a protest and demanded the police to furnish evidence against the accused arrested at Phulwari Sharif.

Two days ago, a delegation of CPI(ML), including party state secretary Kunal, party politburo member Amar, party MLAs Mehboob Alam, Gopal Ravidas and Sandeep Saurabh, and other leaders visited Phulwari Sharif and met the families of those arrested.

Kunal said the party has demanded the state government to make public all the evidence against the accused and act against those found involved in unlawful activities. "Police had failed to provide us basic information and there is no evidence regarding the accused’s involvement in terror activities, they have been arrested on mere suspicion. But the entire Phulwari Sharif is being projected as a terror hotbed. This is an insult to the thousands of residents of Phulwari Sharif. Suddenly, the Phulwarisharif terror module has surfaced and it seems to be a part of the BJP’s mission for 2024 Lok Sabha elections with a well-designed strategy to target the minority community for polarisation," he said.

The CPI(ML) also questioned the silence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar when a residential locality hardly 3 km from his official residence is being termed as a terror hotbed and the Muslim community is targeted as well.

Sataya Narain Madan, coordinator of Lokrantrik Jan Pahal in Patna, said that though he disagreed with the political agenda of PFI, prima facie it appeared that the police had acted without any solid evidence. "This is a part of the RSS and BJP’s design to communalise Bihar ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls. What surprised us is that Nitish Kumar is maintaining total silence," he said.

Last week, while addressing a press conference here in connection with the arrest of three suspected PFI members allegedly involved in anti-national activities, Patna SSP Manavjeet Singh Dhillon said like the RSS (a Hindutva organisation and BJP's ideological parent), youth were being provided physical training and mobilised from madrassas and mosques by the arrested PFI (an Islamic outfit) members at Phulwari Sharif. Soon after this statement, several BJP leaders demanded his removal and his apology for the comparison between PFI and RSS.

Union Minister Griraj Singh, former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, party MPs and MLAs demanded action against the police official. However, its allies Janata Dal (United) and Hindustan Awam Morcha came out in support of Dhillon, and ruled out any action against him.

However, Dhillon last Friday broke his silence on the controversy around his remark, saying a wrong interpretation was made out of his statement.

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