Rajat Sharma

Gorakhnath temple attack: Trace the handlers who instigated Abbasi

rajat-sirThe attack on policemen guarding the famous Gorakhnath temple in UP, seat of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakshapeeth, has stunned people across India. More so, because the assailant Ahmed Murtaza Abbasi, 29, is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai in 2015, and worked in two top Indian companies before he left his job. He was caught while snatching a self-loading rifle from a PAC jawan. The assailant stabbed policemen with his machete before he was overpowered.

Senior UP police officials have said that this could be the tip of an iceberg. Sunday evening attack outside the temple could be part of a major terror conspiracy, they said.

On Monday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited the Gorakhpur B.R.D. hospital to meet the two injured policemen, Gopal Gaur and Anil Paswan, who had suffered stab injuries in their hands and legs. Yogi Adityanath announced Rs 5 lakh reward for both the PAC jawans and another civil defence personnel Anurag Rajput, for displaying courage in overpowering the assailant, thus preventing a major terror strike.

Describing the sequence of events, Additional Director General of UP Police Prashant Kumar said, there was a rush of worshippers on Sunday evening at around 7 pm at Gorakhnath temple, when Ahmed Abbas Murtaza entered the temple premises from the direction of northern and eastern gates, ran towards PAC jawan Gopal Gaur and tried to snatch his rifle. He stabbed Gopal in his back with his weapon. Soon another PAC jawan Anil Paswan rushed to help his colleague, and the assailant also stabbed him. The assailant, police said, was shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ when he was overpowered by jawans and local people. He was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days and sent to Gorakhpur jail.

Shopkeepers outside the temple, who were eyewitnesses to this attack, said, the main gate of the temple was immediately closed, when Ahmed Murtaza brandished his weapon and attacked PAC jawans. Ahmed was then rushing towards the main gate, and pelting stones. When locals threw stones at him and snatched the weapon from his hand, he fell on the ground and was soon overpowered. Videos of the attack show how the assailant had come with an intent to attack worshippers who were inside the temple.

ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar, said, “the attack could be part of a bigger conspiracy and on the basis of collected evidence, it could be termed as a terror incident”. A laptop, ID cards, cellphone and the sharp-edged weapon were recovered from the assailant. The investigation has been transferred to UP Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), which will take assistance from Special Task Force (STF).

Abbasi’s father Muneer Ahmed, who is now retired after working as legal consultant to several companies, told police that his son was suffering from mental depression since 2017, and he wanted to commit suicide. His father also told police that Ahmed was good in studies and had undergone treatment in Mumbai.

Ahmed was married, but his wife left him due to serious differences. He was working in a private firm in Mumbai, but lost his job and returned to his home in Civil Lines, Gorakhpur last year. UP police is trying to collect more information about the assailant from Mumbai police. The assailant’s uncle is a doctor who owns Abbasi Hospital in Gorakhpur.

UP police has found clues which show that Ahmed Murtaza was being radicalized through social media platforms like YouTube. Laptop and cellphone seized from the assailant clearly show he was following the radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is abroad and evading arrest from Indian authorities. Several jihadi videos were also found from the pendrive. Investigators are going through all the phone numbers saved in his cellphone.

Investigators discount the theory that the assailant did this because he was mentally unstable. The Sunday evening attack could be part of a larger terror conspiracy, police official said. Investigators are trying to find out who were the handlers who brainwashed Ahmed Murtaza Abbasi towards Islamic radicalism. This attack cannot be taken lightly.

There are three main reasons why this attack should be taken seriously. One, Ahmed Murtaza Abbasi belonged to an educated Muslim family of Gorakhpur, Two, he know the significance of carrying out an attack on Gorakhnath shrine, being a local person, and Three, he also knew the consequences that would take place if he was caught in the act. Abbasi was brainwashed to commit this act so that a message could be conveyed to other Islamic radicals, and the cordial atmosphere in UP and the rest of the country could be disturbed. This matter needs to be thoroughly investigated.

Several political parties have reacted to this attack to suit their own convenience. I am not joining this debate. I think, this matter must not be politicized, and the Hindu-Muslim communal angle should be kept away from this. This matter relates to internal security and maintenance of communal peace. It should be taken seriously.

People have sympathy towards Ahmed Murtaza Abbasi’s father, who is worried about his son’s mental condition. He toiled hard to make his son a chemical engineer from IIT, and yet, he attacked a religious shrine and shouted jihadi slogans during the attack. One can easily understand the mental agony that his father may be going through.

Attacks on religious shrines, whether temples, mosques or churches, need to be condemned unequivocally. The sources of religious fanaticism must be traced. It must be probed how an IIT graduate in chemical engineering, underwent religious brainwashing through social media. Who are the people who are spreading poison on social media and inciting Muslim youths through hate speeches?

People who are imparting religious radicalism are not only doing a disservice to humanity but also acting against national interests. They are trying to create religious divide between Hindus and Muslims. I hope UP police will soon find out the handlers who provoked Abbasi to carry out this heinous attack. Such handlers should be brought before law. The sooner the better.

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