CHENNAI: Finding himself in the midst of a raging controversy after the photograph of him on a bike sporting the image of slain terrorist and al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was cited as proof for infiltration of anti-national elements into the jallikattu protest, the youth from Otteri on the outskirts claimed that the picture was taken in December, nearly two months before the day of the Marina violence.
Speaking to Express on Tuesday, S Salaludeen, a 23-year-old working in a chicken stall, admitted that it was indeed him in the photo and that the bike which had bin Laden’s image stuck to the front was his. But, he insisted that he had no role in the protest, maintaining that he was at work on January 23, the day violence broke out. “There is a CCTV camera in the shop which has recorded my presence in the shop from 9 am to 5 pm (on January 23),” he added.
The bin Laden image had triggered concerns and controversy in equal measure, as it raised fears of anti-national forces hijacking the jallikattu protest.
This was widely discussed in social media, and was also cited by the Chief Minister and the police to highlight security concerns involved in the continuation of the protest.
However, according to Salaludeen, the photograph was taken during a protest in the first week of December when the State unit of the Islamist organisation, Indian National League (INL), organised a protest rally against the Centre cracking the whip against fundamentalist preacher Zakir Naik.
“We wanted to send a strong message to the Centre against their actions. So along with a friend, a 27-year-old from Vyasarpadi, I decided to stick a picture of bin Laden on the bike,” he claimed.
The day the Chief Minister showed the photograph in the State Assembly, a team of police officers reached INL State president ‘Tada’ J Abdul Rahim’s house at Otteri and conducted a two-hour inquiry with Saluludeen and his friend. But, sources from police intelligence said that no case has been registered against him so far.
“We have conducted an inquiry and acquired the required details,” said the source.