BHATKAL (KARNATAKA): Yasin alias Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa. The name may not sound familiar unless one adds Bhatkal to it. And this has now created an identity issue for Muslims of Bhatkal who want investigating agencies to stop using the name of the town with those who have been arrested with terrorism charges.Muslims in Bhatkal say they are being looked down upon by other community members, not only in their town but also when they travel to other cities in India. The moment they mention Bhatkal, the attitude of hotel staff and security agencies change.
“When we say we are from Bhatkal, hotel staff ask us to provide more than one identity proof. Sometimes they say the rooms are full. There were times when hotel managers were consulted before giving us accommodations. This is the experience that many people from here have faced.
Muslims of Bhatkal do not support those who are caught under terror charges. But there is no point in adding Bhatkal’s name to those who are arrested from the town. It is giving a bad image to the coastal town which was once known for communal harmony,” says an Imam of a famous mosque in Bhatkal. It is not just Yasin who goes with the name Bhatkal, but the investigating agencies have also added Bhatkal to the names of Iqbal and Riyaz, who are facing terror charges and are absconding since 2003.
Currently, Yasin alias Yasin Bhatkal is in the custody of the NIA and two others Iqbal and Riyaz are said to have taken shelter outside India. Bhatkal town has been an important trading place on the west coast for many centuries. For many, the town resembled an area in Middle East and even today one can see the Middle East’s influence in the structures of Bhatkal.
In 1993, communal riots in Bhatkal saw 17 killed and several others injured. After the incident and Mumbai bomb blasts, many from Bhatkal came in contact with underworld kingpins. Mumbai underworld kingpins began to operate in Bhatkal as many builders from the coastal parts of Karnataka settled in Middle East.Riyaz and Iqbal came in touch with a few fundamentalist organisations and they allegedly got involved in blast cases across the country. After 2002 riots in Gujarat, they founded ‘Indian Mujahideen’ group along with other youngsters including Yasin Bhatkal.