Back-to-back questioning of Higher Education Minister KT Jaleel by the Enforcement Directorate and NIA in connection with the gold smuggling case has mounted pressure on the Left government, with both the Congress and the BJP demanding his resignation. But all the clamour seems to have had little impact on the Left leader. Speaking to TNIE Chief of Bureau Anil S just hours after the NIA quizzed him, Jaleel said he was called as one of the 160 witnesses in the crime registered under the UAPA Act.
“Why should I quit?” asked Jaleel and added it was for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to take a call on his ministership. He once again challenged IUML supremo Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal to swear by the Holy Quran if the latter considers him as someone involved in fraudulent activities. Jaleel justified clandestine manner in which he appeared before the probe agencies stating “Why’s it necessary to inform the media when those who served me the notice did not choose to inform them?” On his way back to the state capital after interrogation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Kochi on Thursday, Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel tells TNIE over the phone that he was called in as a witness and that he is just one of around 160 witnesses in the gold smuggling case.
Why were you called in for questioning by NIA? Were you able to respond satisfactorily to all their questions?
It’s in connection with recording my statement as a witness. What do I have to cover up? An issue would arise if there was something to hide. The questioning was based on the depositions made by a few of the accused. They were cross-checking with me. Isn’t it their duty? Statements were collected from around 160 witnesses. I’m just one of them. Deposition of witnesses is essential to wind up the case. I was called in connection with a case registered by NIA under Sections 16, 17, 18 of the UAPA Act, 1967. (Section 16 deals with punishment for terrorist acts, Section 17 with raising funds for terrorist acts and Section 18 with conspiring to terrorist acts.)
Were you summoned by NIA even before the Enforcement Directorate had interrogated you?
Everything happened simultaneously.
Is the questioning over or will you be summoned again by NIA?
If anything further crops up in this regard, they will call me. While collecting statements from other witnesses, if they come across anything specific that I may know of, they will call. What gains importance here is whether we can contribute something to what they are looking for.
One major criticism against you was the clandestine manner in which you appeared before the Enforcement Directorate and NIA. Your response?
Don’t we all do such things? (laughs). Why is it necessary to inform the media? Those who served me notice didn’t inform the media. Then, why should I? When invited for a marriage, isn’t it for the person who invited us to inform others? The one who was invited doesn’t have to say that. When you invite me for a marriage, what’s the point in others saying that I should turn up with the entire neighbourhood in tow?
For the past six days, the Opposition has been staging protests demanding your resignation. Your take?
Why should I? I don’t need to respond to that. It’s for the Chief Minister to say.
The Chief Minister seems to have offered you full support.
If the Chief Minister says so, why should I contradict? I have nothing more to say.
Your former party — Indian Union Muslim League — too has been targeting you with senior leaders like P K Kunhalikutty and K P A Majeed referring to your statement that you would quit if Panakkad Thangal says so. Is it as a clever political bait?
What kind of bait? I didn’t say I would resign. What I said was whether Panakkad Thangal is ready to swear by the Quran. He’s not just a political leader but the Qazi of more than 1,000 masjids, the vice-president of one of the biggest community of scholars and also the president of the Muslim League.
Does he believe that I’m a fraud or someone who supports black money and related activities? Has he received any such complaint about me when I was part of Muslim League? If he swears by the Quran about any such thing, I will listen to whatever he says — that’s what I said. Why are they afraid to say so? Why are they then taking so much pain to unleash such violence on the streets?