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22/09/2016 Special Report | Uday India |BHATKAL: INDIAS TERROR CAPITAL?

| By Anil Dhir from Bhatkal

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SpecialReport

BHATKAL:INDIASTERRORCAPITAL?
ByAnilDhirfromBhatkal


I arrived in this socalled terror town in the dead of night. The slow passenger train of the Konkan
Railwayshadbeenheldupintermittentlyenrouteduetotheincessantmonsoonrains.Ontheplatform,
therewasnothingbutaseaofblack.Muslimwomenintheirenvelopingheadtotoeblackgowns,anda
fewmeninwhite.IfeltlikeIhadarrivedinSaudiArabia.

Surrounded by rolling hills of the lofty Sahyadri Mountains (also known as the Western Ghats) on three
sides and the azure Arabian Sea on the other, Bhatkal is a prosperous town with old quaint houses
sharingspacealongwithmodernsprawlingmansionsandelegantshoppingcomplexes.Situatedmidway
between Mangalore and Karwar, in the Uttara Kanara district of Karnataka, it is a Taluka headquarters.
Withpopulationofabout60,000,mostlyMuslims,thetownistodayoftenreferredtoastheterrorcapital
ofIndiaitishometotheIndianMujahideen.

Deeply steeped in history with an abundance of monuments reflecting the glory of a bygone era, the
thrivingtownwasacanvasofpeace,affluenceandpietyjusttwodecadesago.Prosperity,deepfaithin
religionandunityhadbeenthehallmarkofthetownsincetimeimmemorial.Muslims,Hindus,Christians
and Jains have lived here in harmony for centuries. The culture of this picturesque vibrant town is of
mixed origin, the two significant strands being the Arabs and the locals. Besides the two major
communities of Muslims and Hindus, there is a sprinkling of Christians and four Jain families. The few
Jainsareapleasantreminderofthedayswhentheyruledthecity.

BHATKAL:AGATEWAYFORJEHADITERRORISTS
BySAHemanthaKumarfromBengaluru


The otherwise serene, picturesque and sleepy Bhatkal, a coastal town in Karwar district of Karnataka
state,defiesitsdarkunderbellyintheformofsleepercellsofthedreadedISIandintricatenetworkof
theagentsofunderwolddonDawoodIbrahim.Thecommunalclashesof199293inthissleepytown

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predominated by Navayath Muslims brought to the fore the diabolical designs of external forces and
internalelementsinimicaltotheunity,integrityandsecurityofIndia.Bhatkal,indeed,hasturnedinto
asafehavenforterroriststoenterandexitIndiawithimpunity,JusticeKedambadiJagannathShetty,
formerjudgeoftheKarnatakahighcourt,saidduringatelechatwithUdayIndia.

JusticeShettyheadedaonemancommissionofinquiryintothecommunalclashesthatrockedBhatkal
for 20days during 199293, in which hundreds of people lost their lives and property worth several
hundred crores was damaged. During the course of the proceedings, Justice Shetty came across
startlingfacts,which,hitherto,wereunknowntotheworld.

For instance, it was revealed by the officers of the intelligence wing of the state police, customs and
district administration that the RDX used by jehadi terrorists in the 1993 Mumbai blasts was first
dumped in Bhatkal and then was transported to Mumbai via Ratnagiri. A lot of hue and cry is being
madeonthekillingofSohrabuddininanencounterandGujaratChiefMinisterNarendraModiisbeing
pillorieddayinanddayoutbythesocalledhumanrightactivists.ButitisthesameSohrabuddinwho
was the mastermind behind transporting the RDX to Mumbai, which was used in Mumbai blasts of
1993,JusticeShettycontended.

ThethenAssistantCommissionerofCustoms,VGDiwakarstates(Page364,VolumeIIoftheJustice
K.JagannathShettyReport),Therewasinformationgiventomeaboutthesmugglingofarmssuchas
RDX,sophisticatedarmsbeingsmuggledintoBhatkalcoasts,orallytheinformationwasgiventomeby
theDG(DirectorGeneralofCustoms)andI,inturn,informedthepolicetotakepreventivemeasures
forthesame.

ItisnotonlytheACofCustomsbutalsothethenDC(DeputyCommissionerofthedistrict)Srivastava
who,whiledeposingbeforethecommission,stated,Fromthestateintelligence,Ireceivedinformation
about some explosive material likely to land off the Bhatkal coast. This information came from the
stateintelligencethroughthestategovernmentinwriting.Thisinformationinwritingcommunicatedto
me is available in both DC and SP office. After the receipt of information, we took steps to intensify
patrollingandwealertedthecustomsdepartmentatBhatkal.Weareexpectingintelligenceinformation
thatRDXtypeofexplosiveswerelandingatBhatkalport.Thesourcesfromwhichweareexpectingthe
mentionedexplosivesatBhatkalportarea.didnotspecifyitslikelihoodofitsusageinanyparticular
place.(Page367inVolumeIIofthereport).

UdayIndiaisinpossessionofallfourvolumesofthereportsubmittedbyJusticeKedambadiJagannath
Shettytothestategovernment.Similarly,anidenticalstatement,orrather,amoregravedeposition
was made by Ananth Kumar Hegde, present BJP MP, in his capacity as Hindu memorialist. He said,
RDX was brought to India through various routes and one such route is Bhatkal. ISI and Dawood
IbrahimwerethebrainbehindthesmugglingofRDXforthepurposeofcreatingchaosinIndia.(Page
368inVolumeIIofthereport).

On page 369 in Volume II of the report, Justice Shetty contends: These three witnesses (AC,
Customs, DC, Karwar & Ananth Kumar Hegde) were rigorously crossexamined by Basheer Ahmed,
counsel for Muslim memorialists on all points except regarding smuggling of RDX into Bhatkal. Thus,
the witness version as to the activities of smuggling of RDX into Bhatkal is to be accepted. Even the
police officials have not disputed, though these witnesses were crossexamined by their (police)
counselSeetharamaShetty.

Yet another deposition, this time by Prasanna Kumar, Customs Officer, is damning which is precise,
specificandcategoridalinnature.Onpage371ofVolumeIIofthereporthestated,Wehadreceived
wirelessmessageofsmugglingofarms,ammunition,RDXbyBombaybasedsmugglersoperatingfrom
Pakistan,tobelandedatanyplaceintheWestCoast.Wereceivedthisinformationinthefirstweekof
February1993.NowonderthattheMumbaiblastsof1993happenedinMarchthatyear,i.e.,exactly
onemonthaftertheRDXlandedinBhatkalandtransportedbySohrabuddin!

ThatthecashrichNavayathMuslimsofBhatkaltownwantedtomaketheareaexclusivelyandonlyfor
MuslimsbydrivingawaytheHinduswasrevealedbynoneotherthanthethenDeputyCommissioner
Srivastava.Onpage319inVolumeIIofthereporthedeposedthus,Thestatementonpage9reads
that members of one community wanted to drive away the members of other community. In this
context,IsaythatthemajorityoflandlordsareMuslimsandtenantsareHindus(shopsandbuildings).
IfurthersaythattheMuslimcommunitywantedtodriveawaytheHindus.

OntheantinationalactivitiesbeingcarriedoutbyelementsbelongingtoMuslimcommunity,JusticeKJ
Shetty Commissions report deals extensively. On pages 324, 325 and 326, the witnesses states: In
Anjuman high school ground, a black flag was hoisted atop the flag pole and the pole was smeared
with black coloured grease. It was in the wee hours of 26th January, when the nation was about to
celebratetheRepublicDay.InSultanstreet,whichisaMuslimmajorityareawherenoHindusdareto
go,sloganssuchasPakistanZindabad,IndiaMurdabadwerewrittenboldlyonthewalls.

ThejustificationgivenbyaMuslimmemorialistMustaqAhmedforsuchantinationalactivitiesshocked
JusticeShetty.Hehasrecordedinhisreport(Page328,VolumeII)verbatim,Thehoistingofblack
flagandpastingofthepolebygreaseonRepublicDaywasanexpressionofprotestandresentmentof
MuslimcommunityfornotcomplyingwiththepromisemadebytheCentralgovernmenttorebuildthe
BabriMasjidinAyodhya.Moreover,suchprotestsarepermissibleinademocraticsetup.Smearingthe
flagpostwithgreaseandhoistingofblackflaginthepremisesofAnjumanHighSchoolgrounddoes
notamounttoinsulttonationalflag.

TheprocessofcommunalisationallegedlybytheMuslimstookthetollofDrUChittaranjan,BJPMLA,
whowasadarlingtothecommonman,belongingtobothHindusandMuslims.ThousandsofMuslim
womenwereseenweepingsilentlyoverthedeathofDrChittaranjan,whobyhisaffablecharacterand
eversmilingattitudehadtreatedthousandsofpatientsirrespectiveofreligionandcommunity.

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Though 18 years elapsed of Dr Chittaranjans coldblooded murder (1995), the criminal who actually
pulledthetriggertokillDrChittaranjanhasneverbeencaught,thoughseveralhundredsofsuspects
fromtheMuslimcommunitywereroundedupandlaterreleasedbythepolice.DrChittaranjansson,
DrRajeshChittaranjancontends,Theinitialinvestigationbythelocalpolicedestroyedvitalevidence.
LateritwashandedovertoCoDandthentoCBI.Butnothinghascomeout.

Bhatkalwasusedasalaboratorybyjehaditerroriststoexperimentandtesttheirlogistical,personnel
andinfrastructuralfacilities,tocarryontheirnefariousactivitieswithdiabolicalintentions.Thecountry
is paying price for the acts of omission and commission of the pseudosecular governments and so
calledsecular,leftandkeptintellectuals.

TWOMURDERSANDTWOJUDICIALCOMMISSIONS
BJPleaderThimmappaHonnappaNaikwasshotdeadbyunidentifiedassailantsatBhatkaltownon
the2ndofMay2004.Hewasgoinghomeafterclosinghisicecreamshopwhenhewasshotdead.
Thekillersfiredtenshots,killinghimonthespot.Tilldatethekillershavenotbeenidentifiednor
anyarrestsmade.Thimmappa'ssonaccusestheBJPofputtingthingsunderwraps.HeholdsBJP's
AnanthaKumarresponsibleforsuppressingtheprobeandfornontablingoftwojudicialcommission
reports.TwoyearslatertheBJPMLAChittaranjantoowasmurderedinApril2006.Overtheyears,
nine teams from the CBI probed the murder, without success. The Justice Ramachandraiah
Commission that probed Chittaranjan's murder and the Justice Kedambadi Jagannath Shetty
CommissionthatinquiredintothecommunalriotsatBhatkalin199293,havebothsubmittedtheir
reports.

ThoughtheJHPatelandSMKrishnagovernmentshadannouncedthatthetworeportswouldbe
discussedintheCabinetandthenplacedbeforethestatelegislature,thestategovernmentkeptthe
tworeportsunderwraps.

TheBJPhadpromisedtotablethereportonceitcametopowerinthestate,butitnevergathered
the courage to do so. BJP members preferred to be evasive about why the report was not tabled.
They said they had studied the report very carefully as they did not want further communal
problems in the state. The Justice Jagannath Shetty Commission report, which was published in a
sectionofthepress,hadmadeadetailedmentionoftheISIactivitiesinBhatkaltaluk.Accordingto
the report, the commission recommended the constitution of a special intelligence unit comprising
officialswhocouldtacklecommunalviolence.

ThiswritermetSureshNaik,Thimappa'ssonathisshop.HeblamestheBJPleadershipforscuttling
theprobe.TheNavayathsmakehandsomecontributionstoelectionsfundsandwillgetawayfrom
thekilling.MyfatherdiedfortheParty,hetoldthewriter.
(AD)



A community of Arab traders, who were fleeing the tyranny of an infamous governor of Iraq during the
caliphateofAbdulMalikMarwan,settledinthisspeckoflandaroundtheeighthcenturyandtheyacquired
thetagofnavayathornewcomers.Today,theirdescendantscallthemselvesNavayathiMuslimsandthey
haveawebsite(www.bhatkallys.com)thatlltellyouallabouttheirpastandpresent.

TheNavayathsareaseafaringtradingcommunitywhichcametotheplacemorethanathousandyears
ago.Theyconstitutealargerpercentageofthepopulationandholdthekeytotheeconomyofthearea.
Among the Hindus, the Namadharis or Ediga form the majority. One stark difference that stands out is
that unlike other places, its the Muslims here who are prosperous, not the Hindus. The extent of
polarisation today can be gauged from the fact that there are hardly any Hindu homes in the upmarket
areasthereareonlygleaminghouseswhereMuslimslive.Sprawlingbungalowsandmansionshavecome
up in the city with the help of Gulf remittances. In the three days that I spent there, I came across
manors,castles,chalets,chateaus,EnglishcountryhousesandFrenchvillasallownedbytheMuslims.In
mytravelsalloverthecountry,Ihavenotcomeacrosssuchaprofusionofmarveloushousesanywhere.
Bhatkalisanarchitectsdreamcity.OntheseafrontatJalibeach,therewereuniquebeachhouses,most
of which would give a complex to the owners of such houses in the French Riviera, Las Palmas and
Florida.ThereareevensomedizzyingcliffhousesperchedonthehillsoftheSahyadiris.Prosperityisvery
obvious.Strangely,mostofthesepropertiesareunoccupied.Theownersareeitherinforeignshores,or
have just asserted their status by building these edifices. In sharp contrast, the unkempt buildings and
thatchedhousesmarktheHinduareas.TheNavayathshavepurchasednearly5000acresoflandaround
Bhatkal,andwiththerecentinfluxofGulfreturneesduetothechangedscenariothere,morelandwillbe
soonacquired.

History recalls that due to its strategic location on the western coast, Bhatkal, has for centuries, been
eyedbyvariousinvadersandsettlers.Thesmalltownhaswitnessedtheriseandfallofvariousdynasties
andrulers.WorldfamousmedievaltravellerIbnBatutahasfondlymentionedBhatkalinhischronicles.It
wasapartofHoysalaEmpirefrom1291to1343,andlaterfellintothehandsoftheVijayanagaraEmpire.
Afterthedisintegrationoftheempire,theJainSaluvarulersofHadwallibroughtthiscovetedtownunder
theircontrol.Theybuiltmanytemplesandbasadisduringthisperiod,vestigesofwhichcanbestillfound.
In the early years of the 16th century, the Portuguese took over. From the Keladi rulers, Bhatkal was
passedontoHyderAliandTipuSultanandafterTipusdefeatin1799,theBritishtookover.TipuSultan
sharedaspecialrelationshipwiththetown,buildingamosqueattheheartofthetownasatestimony.

The archaeological treasures at Bhatkal speak volumes about its rich heritage. The extant Kethapayya
NarayantempleinMudBhatkalwasconstructedin1545byKethaPai,anotedGoanjeweller,andwasthe
mostoutstandingarchitecturalspecimenofthattime.TheParshwanathaJainBasadionBazaarMainRoad

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ranks among the oldest structures of Bhatkal. The town is also home to centuries old magnificent
mosquesliketheJamiamasjid,theKhalifamasjid,theSultanimasjidandtheNoormasjid.

The town is strewn with reputed educational institutions managed by Anjuman HamieMuslimeen, a
pioneering education trust founded in 1919 for spreading the light of education across all sections of
society. The Anjuman Engineering College is well known throughout the country for imparting quality
technicaleducation.TheJamiaIslamiaisareputedcentreforreligiousstudies,whiletheMajliseIslahWa
Tanzeem is rendering valuable service to the welfare of the Muslim community. There are a few
institutionswhicharerunbytheHindumanagedBhatkalEducationTrust.ThetragedyofBhatkaltodayis
thattheAnjumanrunschoolshavenoHindustudents,andtherearenoMuslimsintheVidyaBharatiand
privateschools.Thedividebetweenthecommunitiesispalpable.

Eventhoughthecommunitiesdonotfreelyintermingle,theyaredependentoneachother,90percentof
the maids in Muslim houses are Hindu so are most of the autorickhaw drivers. On the contrary, the
IslamicbankintowngivesinterestfreeloanstopoornonMuslimstoo.TheroomboyinHotelKolahad
told me that his name was Shah Rukh Khan, so did the waiter in the local eatery, the cobbler and the
newspaper vendor. It seems that it was the easy way out, nobody wants to be named. In fact all the
peopleImetaskedmenottomentiontheirnames,neitherallowedmetotakephotographs.Mostofthe
namesinthisarticlehavebeenchangedtorespecttheirsentiments.

EveryMuslimfamilyhasatleasttwoofitsmembersworkingintheArabworld.GoingtotheGulfisthe
aspiration of every local Muslim youth. A passport is a must for everyone who turns eighteen, and to
ensurethattheygetonesoon,theykeepcleanrecords.Bhatkalhastheleastjuvenilecrimerateinthe
country.

NotmanyMuslimsinIndiaareasaffluentand
prosperous as we are. There is certainly a lot
of jealousy due to this. And this has been
tappedbyfringeorganisations,saidSyedAbu
Baker.Inthissmalltownof60,000people,the
Bhatkal Urban Cooperative Bank alone has
around 25,000 accounts, a quarter of which
are nonresident accounts. Other nationalised
and private banks too have accounts with
robustbankbalances.

Evenafterashortvisit,oneisstruckwiththequestionofhowsuchautopianlandhassuddenlyturned
intoacommunalcauldronthatitistoday.Thetransformationcertainlydidnothappenovernight.Bhatkal
hasbeenvariouslytermedtodayasminiDubai,miniPakistan,terrorcentreandbombfactory.Ithas
earned the sobriquet of being the birth place of the Indian Mujahideen, the most dreaded terrorist
organisationofthecountry.

Today, Bhatkal is the alleged home of Indias 10 most wanted terrorists. Besides the Bhatkal brothers,
Riyaz and Iqbal, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is on the lookout for Ahmed Sidi Bapa alias
Yasin, Muhammed Hussain Farhan, Afif Jailani, Mohammed Gurfan, Abdul Khadir Sultan, Jasim Iqbal
Syeedi, Abdul Majid, and Dr. Arif Motesham. All of them carry fat rewards on there heads, and Interpol
hasissuedredcornernoticesagainstthem.

Of the 15 names mentioned in the charge sheet in relation to the terror blasts in Ahmedabad, Surat,
Hyderabad and Bangalore, 13 are from the area of Mangalore and Bhatkal. Police teams from Pune,
Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Mangalore have all visited the town. A Kannada paper
recently reported that 10 mosques of Bhatkal were bombmaking factories. There were reports of the
Karnataka police raiding IM hideouts in Bhatkal in October 2008 and finding proTaliban videos. There
were rumours that Osama bin Laden too had spent time here. In fact the CIA too had done a covert
searchoperationin2010.

Inthe1980s,Bhatkalwasamajorcentreforgoldsmuggling.TheIntelligenceBureauhadsetupafull
fledgedoffice,mainlytokeeptabonthethrivinghawalarackets.Eventhentheyhadfounditdifficultto
penetrate and crack the operations. The Navayath is a close knit and guarded community. Even the
languageisuniqueitisanamalgamofPersian,Konkani,KannadaandMarathi.

Thecommunaldividethatrunsdeeptodayhasitsrootsinrecentyears.TheNavayaths,whoconstitute
90 per cent of the town, own most of the land and Namdharis, backward caste Hindus who worked on
their fields, addressed them as saibruloosely meaning sir. On the occasion of the Habba, a local rath
yatraheldduringRamNavami,thechariotstartsfromthehouseofaMuslimShabandrifamily,asamark
ofrespect.Inatraditionthatgoesbackahundredyears,agroupofHindueldersvisitstheresidenceof
theMuslimclergymantoseekhispermissionfortheRathYatratopassthroughastreetsdominatedby
Muslims.

Communal harmony began to wear thin from
1991.UmaBharti,thenafirebrandBJPleader,
gave a speech in front of a mosque, which
triggered a riot for the first time. In the
following elections, the BJP made inroads,
whereby its candidate, Chittaranjan, managed
to save his security deposit and even secured
141,647votes.

In the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ajodhya, riots broke out in and around Bhatkal. In
1993, during the occasion of the Rath Yatra, some miscreant threw a stone at the chariot, and a riot

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started,killing17persons.VeerappaMoily,thethenchiefminister,cametoappealforpeacebutheldthe
BJPandtherightwingHinduoutfitssuchasHinduJagranVedikeresponsible,andsaidthattheMuslims
werenotguilty.Thetownwasundercurfewformorethansixmonths,somethingthathappenedforthe
firsttimeoutsideKashmir.FortheBJP,thenextbigpushcameaftertheBabriMasjiddemolition,when
Chittaranjangotelectedinthe1994electionwithaclean50%margin.NoMuslimcandidatecontestedthe
polls.

In1996,ChittaranjanwasmurderedandrightwingHinduelementslostnotimeinblamingtheMuslims
for it. Till date, nine CBI teams have failed to nab the culprits. The killing, which led to the occasional
riots,hatespeeches,politicalassassinationsandminorskirmishesovertheyears,hasscarredthepsyche
ofboththecommunities.Thishashelpedextremistsfrombothsidestotakeadvantageofthesituation.
Suspicionstalksthetownandithasbecomeahotbedforextremism.Evenasmallincidentwhichinvolves
anonMuslimwilldrawafewhundredMuslimswhowillassembleinlessthanfiveminutesandviceversa.
ThepoorrepresentationofMuslims,(only2percent)inthedistrictpoliceisabigproblemduringriots.
Young people aspiring to go abroad find that its not easy to get a passport anymore. The verification
processforaBhatkalresidenthasgoneuptenfold,andthewaitisneverending.Livingwiththeshared
feeling of helplessness, with real and perceived persecution, describes what Bhatkal is under today: a
siegementality.

The town has also been a playground for rightwing Hindu outfits such as Sriram Sene, Bajrang Dal,
KaravaliHinduSamitiandHinduRakshnaVedike.Indeed,theseHinduorganisationshavebeenquickto
pounce on what they see as an opportunity. In 2004, a local BJP worker Thimappa Naik was killed in
Bhatkal,andliketheChittaranjanmurder,thiscasetooremainsunsolved.

TheIMhasmadeitspresencefeltinthecountryforthefirsttimein2008.Thetownearnedtheterrortag
afterpoliceandantiterrorismsquadsofseveralstatesnamedbrothersRiyazandIqbalShahbandari,and
Mohammad Ahmad Siddibappa alias Yasin, who had links with the town as suspects in several blasts
starting2008,andidentifiedthemascofoundersoftheIM.

Even though the real names of these Indian Mujahideen operatives are Riyaz Shahbandri, Iqbal
ShahbandriandYasinSiddibapa,theyareknownbytheirnewsurnamesBhatkalbothinthemediaand
policecircles.Thepolicehaveintentionallydecidedtoaddressthembythenameoftheirtownasitmakes
iteasiertokeeparecordonthem.However,thishasprovedtobethebaneforthetownsfolk.

However,thelocalpolicedisagreewiththecarefullycraftedimageofBhatkal.TheydenythatBhatkalis
thebirthplaceofIslamicterrorism.EventheIMfoundersneverlivedhere.TheylivedinMumbai.Thereis
a great deal of police presence in this small town, not to mention the continued surveillance by
intelligenceagencies.ApartfromRiyaz,IqbalandYasin,theBangalorepoliceheadquartershasrecordsof
onlyonemanfromBhatkallinkedtoanymajorcriminalactivity.MdShabbirHussainGangawali,whowas
arrestedallegedlywithfakecurrencyinMaharashtra,waslaternamedasuspectedIMmemberandwas
alsoaccusedofsupplyingjehadiliterature

Inayutallah Gavai, editor of a local online publication, Sahil Online, says that Bhatkal was maligned on
account of whatever was fed by the Maharashtra ATS. You are the first journalist in years to visit this
place.Othersjustwritewhatisfedtothem.Hepublishesalocaldailyandkeepstheonlinesiteupdated.
I met him in his office near the bus stand. There is just no animosity between the communities, it is
outsidersandtheIntelligenceagencieswhichkeepthingsontheboil.Stayhereforaweek,youwillget
thefullfeelofthings,wearepeacelovingpeoplehesaidinsincereearnestness.Allkindsofnonsense
arebeingwrittenaboutthetownandtheMuslimshere.Wearebeingcalledaterrorhubwheninfactour
doorsarealwaysopenandourmosquesanywayhavenodoors.Onmywayback,ImetareturningNRI
atMangaloreairport.Duringourconversationheberatedthatthewholetownhasbeenembarrasseddue
tothebrothers.HeexplainedthatNavayathiMuslimsprefertousefamilynames,acommonpracticein
south India, or surnames like Shahbandari, Ruknuddin, Mohtesham or Ikkery. There are very few
personswhohavethetitleBhatkal.

LocalswhoworkintheGulffacetheheateverytimetheylandatanyairport.Thescrutinyofpassports
which have Bhatkal as the holders hometown is minutely done. Others manage to get away with their
securitycheckinnotime,butforusBhatkalresidents,itisanendlesswait.Theyactuallyhaveseparate
inquirywingsforthisattheairportstonotcauseinconveniencetoothers.Wefinditveryembarrassing.
Justyesterday,ayouthnamedFarhan,whowasreturningtohisjobinDubai,wasdetainedattheAirport
for hours and only released after the Bhatkal police gave him a clean chit. This happens on a regular
basis.

Intelligence agencies are of the firm opinion that Bhatkal was the base for the Shabandari brothers and
others involved in the bomb blasts. The town, they point out, is on the coast, which makes it easier for
peopletoaccessthesea.ThedayIwasthere,theboatswereallhighupandtieddowntheArabianSea
wasinitsfullfury.InfacttheIntelligenceagencieshavesetupbaseinafewofthebeachfronthousesto
keepawatchontheactivities.

Today, the residents of Bhatkal find it hard to cope with the name of their town being associated with
every terrorist activity in India. While people are averse to getting their daughters married to a Bhatkal
resident, the bigger worry is the job market, which has taken a big hit. The fact that the IM terrorists
hailed from Bhatkal had not sunk in completely for a long time in the job market. However, post 13/7,
Bhatkals name was all over the media and it made matters worse. Many who have come back find it
difficult to have their contracts renewed. Bhatkal was famous for the Bhatkal biryani which could easily
called as one of the dishes you must taste before you die. All the buses passing by Bhatkal made a
stopoverforthebiryani.Butnowthattoohasstopped,saidanotherresident.

Bhatkal is the focus of Srirama Sene, known for its violent agitations in Karnataka. I had met its chief
Pramode Muttalik in Goa earlier, and he told me that he looks forward to the day when Bhatkal will
become a Hindu dominated town. We have been telling our police that Bhatkal is a mini Pakistan and

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there is enough RDX in the town to blow it up many times over. An insensitive administration has
introduced a police beat that Muslims call communal profiling. It was meant to be a joint effort of the
policeandthecommunitytoimprovesecurity,butusingthatleverage,thepolicehasstartedgoingfrom
oneMuslimhouseholdtoanother,seekingdetailsoffamilymembers,theirincome,passportandvehicle
numbersetc.Ontheotherhand,thefewHindusthatImetsaythattheIntelligenceagenciestargetthem
instead of the terrorists. The few Hindu organisations that are active are under constant watch, and
fearingharassment,theactivistswerereluctanttocomeoutandspeak.JayantNaik,theconvenerofSri
Ram Sene says that he has many cases against him. His activists prohibit cow slaughter and this puts
them at odds with the district administration. They are often thrown in jail and taken into preventive
custodyatthedropofahat.

The administration accuses the RSS of indulging in a smear campaign to make coastal Karnataka a
Hindutva laboratory. I met the sole RSS functionary in Bhatkal who told me that they do not hold the
Sakhas anymore as attendance is nil. Surendra Shanbag of the Seva Vahini takes a middle path. He
blameselementsinpoliticalpartiesandthemediawhoaredrivingawedgebetweenthecommunities.His
Seva Vahini promotes harmony, and has tied up with Rabita, a Muslim voluntary group to restore
Bhatkalslostimage.



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