Seventeen years ago, they came for Abdul Wahid Shaikh when he was in the middle of his English class as a 27-year-old teacher. Nine long years later, Shaikh stood as the only person acquitted in the 7/11 train bombings trial. On Wednesday, the knock came again. This time at his home. At 5 am. When his wife and child, who he said was unwell, were asleep.
Shaikh, who following his acquittal has been working as a prisoners` rights activist, refused to open the door, asking the men outside his door to come back later, or at the least, show him documents warranting a search.
None was forthcoming during the raid, which was part of what the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said was a sweeping crackdown across India on nefarious activities carried out by the banned Popular Front of India (PFI).
Local police, NIA officers at Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s residence in Vikhroli early Wednesday. PIC/Rajesh Gupta; (right) mid-day’s Sept 13, 2015 report on Shaikh being freed
The agency claimed it had found some links between Shaikh and the PFI related to funding, which they are currently verifying. In addition to Shaikh, another suspect, Shahid Narvekar, was raided in Rabodi, Thane, and is believed to be a former member of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
Shaikh has lodged an online complaint with the Mumbai Commissioner`s Office in connection with the raid. According to his complaint, a group of unidentified individuals arrived at his house around 5 am. They knocked on his door, and when he refused to open it, they forcibly broke down the main door and vandalised the CCTV camera within his home. They neither revealed their identities nor provided any prior notice, and they also issued threats.
“My house was surrounded by unidentified individuals in plain clothes, and there were some police officers whom I did not recognise. They did not disclose their identities or provide a notice. They did not even mention the FIR number under which they intended to search my house. I am quite frightened, and I`ve reached out to the Mumbai police commissioner for assistance. They are attempting to enter my house forcefully. I haven`t opened the door in the past three hours, and I am inside with my unwell wife and kids, deeply concerned about our safety,” Shaikh said in a video message that he posted on Wednesday night.
Abdul Wahid Shaikh, school teacher, lawyer and prisoners’ rights activist
According to him, he dialled the emergency number 100, and although the local police responded, they did not take immediate action. Simultaneously, NIA officials were attempting to breach his second door.
Sources in the agency have claimed that Shaikh has been running a group called ‘innocent network’ which has links with PFI. The agency also suspects that PFI was being funded through this network and said he was found to be in touch with various people in Kerala, Wayanad and Karnataka with links with PFI.
The case was initially recorded at Phulwarisharif police station in Patna, Bihar and the NIA took over the probe. As per the agency, in July 2022, a raid was executed by the officers of Phulwarisharif police station, based on confidential information. Officials targeted the rented residence of Athar Parvez, culminating in the ‘discovery of incriminating materials closely associated with the PFI’. Notably, a document titled ‘India 2047 Towards Rule of Islam in India, Internal Document: Not for circulation’ was among the findings.
Cops outside Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s residence in Vikhroli early Wednesday morning. Pic/Rajesh Gupta
The investigation led to the apprehension of several suspects at the initial stages. Some of the accused who have been taken into custody are Parvez, Mohammad Jalaluddin Khan, Nooruddin Zangi alias Advocate Nooruddin, and Arman Malick alias Imteyaz Anwer.
To date, the NIA has submitted three charge sheets against a total of 13 suspects in this case. During the course of investigations, a total of 17 accused persons have been taken into custody. They are alleged to have been actively involved in furthering the unlawful activities of PFI, including the illicit funnelling of funds from overseas to the PFI members and suspects in this case.
During the ongoing investigations, the NIA apprehended Anwar Rashid, a former member of the SIMI. According to the NIA, the aim of the accused is to bring about Islamic rule in India by 2047.
Following the ban on SIMI, several, including Anwar Rashid, were associated with Wahadat-e-Islami, an organisation formed by former SIMI members. The Investigations revealed that Anwar Rashid, who is associated with a publishing house, was involved in the supply of material for promoting the ideology of the PFI, specifically the establishment of Islamic rule in India.
Arrested in blasts case
Shaikh and 12 others were arrested in the 7/11 blast case in 2006. The anti-terrorism squad claimed that he had harboured Pakistan nationals who planted bombs inside the local trains but the agency was not able to prove this. Nine years later, he was acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence.
No. of suspects taken into custody in case