Mohammed Asghar Ali, prime accused in the March 26 murder of former Gujarat minister of state for home Haren Pandya, committed the offence to avenge the massacre of Muslims during the Gujarat riots of 2002, the Andhra Pradesh police have claimed.
They say Ali and his gang also attempted, unsuccessfully, to murder another Bharatiya Janata Party politician in Gujarat.
According to police records in Andhra Pradesh, Ali is a habitual offender with a string of cases registered against him.
The son of a retired police sub-inspector, Ali's tryst with crime began with a petty offence in his home town Nalgonda in 1991. Later, he joined a gang led by Fasiuddin which took to attacking karsevaks from the state who had participated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992. One of the largest contingents of karsevaks had come from Andhra Pradesh.
When police shot Fasiuddin dead in an encounter in 1993, Ali allegedly vowed to avenge his mentor.
Police say he engineered the escape of notorious communal offender Mirza Fayaz Baig from the Nampally criminal courts in the state capital Hyderabad in December 1996.
Baig was involved in the killing of BJP corporator Nandraj Goud, who had also participated in the kar seva in Ayodhya. He was subsequently shot dead in an encounter with the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
Ali and another accomplice were found to possess two revolvers at Mungode in Nalgonda district in 1997. He was also allegedly party to a series of bomb blasts perpetrated by Azam Ghori, an agent of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, in the state in 2000. Ali was also found to possess explosives, including the deadly RDX, at Dabeerpura in Hyderabad in 2000.
After jumping bail two years ago, Ali secured two fake passports from Kerala and Maharashtra and went to Dubai where he is believed to have got in touch with ISI operatives. In October 2002, he even went to Pakistan for special training in subversive activities, police claimed.
Ali is also believed to have lived in the Kashmir valley for some time in the 1990s where he committed several crimes with the help of ISI associates. He reportedly underwent training in handling arms and explosives during his stay there and developed close ties with ISI-sponsored terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Hizbul Mujahideen.
The police say that after his return from Dubai about six weeks ago, Ali reportedly got in touch with Iftekhar, an old accomplice. They roped in another close friend from Nalgonda, Mohammed Abdul Bari, and went to Ahmedabad, where they planned the crime meticulously. They studied Pandya's movements and worked out every detail. According to the police, Ali fired the shots that killed Pandya.
According to the Andhra police, following is the full list of 13 criminal cases in which Ali was involved:
- First information report number 161/91 under sections 448 (house trespass) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code at Nalgonda II town police station; Asghar Ali and G Venkanna allegedly entered a school and threatened to kill a person in a petty quarrel on November 27, 1991; Ali was arrested the next day;
- FIR #78/92 under sections 324 (causing hurt with dangerous weapons), 506 and 36 of the IPC at Nalgonda II town police station; Ali and four others allegedly beat up a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, student wing of the BJP, threatened to kill him, and asked him not to conduct ABVP activities in the area. This incident took place on August 11, 1992; Ali was arrested on September 1, 1992;
- FIR #90/94 under section 393 (attempted robbery) of the IPC at Nalgonda I town police station; Ali and two others allegedly snatched a cash bag containing Rs 6,000 from a passer-by on September 10, 1994; Ali surrendered on April 26, 1995;
- FIR #99/94 under section 397 (robbery with attempt to cause hurt) of the IPC at Nalgonda I town police station; Ali and two others allegedly snatched a cash bag containing Rs 7,500 from a passer-by on October 4, 1994; Ali surrendered on April 26, 1995;
- FIR #121/95 under section 307 (attempted murder) of the IPC and section 25 of the Indian Arms Act at Nalgonda II town police station; Ali and six others allegedly attacked a person with a pistol and injured him on December 17, 1995; Ali was arrested on January 21, 1997;
- FIR #114/96 under section 224 (escape from custody) of the IPC at Nalgonda II town police station; Ali and three others escaped from the custody of the police station on July 21, 1996; Ali was rearrested on January 21, 1997;
- FIR #116/96 under section 379 (theft) of the IPC at Suryapet town police station; Ali and three others allegedly stole a Yamaha motorcycle on the night of July 2/3, 1996; Ali was arrested on January 16, 1997;
- FIR #123/96 under section 379 of the IPC at Suryapet town police station; Ali and two others allegedly stole a Bajaj Chetak scooter on July 12, 1996; Ali was arrested on January 16, 1997;
- FIR #62/96 under section 395 (dacoity) of the IPC at Bhongir town police station; Ali and four others allegedly committed a dacoity in a house on June 23, 1996;
- FIR #5/97 under sections 353 (assault on a public servant) and 307 of the IPC, sections 3 and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, and sections 25 and 27 of the Indian Arms Act at Mungode police station; Ali & one other accused person were found in the possession of two revolvers on January 14, 1997, and arrested;
- FIR # 207/96 under section 224 of the IPC, sections 3 and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act, and sections 25 and 27 of the Indian Arms Act at Nampally police station in Hyderabad; Ali and seven others allegedly helped Mirza Fayaz Baig escape from a court on December 19, 1996;
- FIR #1/2000 under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 307, and 324 of the Indian Penal Code and sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act at Moghulpura police station in Hyderabad; Ali and three others allegedly set off a bomb blast at a hotel in Old Hyderabad on January 3, 2000;
- FIR #44/2000 under sections 4 and 5 of the Explosive Substances Act at the Dabeerpura police station in Hyderabad; Ali was allegedly found to be in the possession of explosives;
The Andhra Pradesh police say warrants are pending against Ali in various courts and cases. Moreover, the three others accused of Pandya's murder also have criminal records, with one of them having close links with the ISI.
M A Raoof and two of his associates were booked under FIR #33/2000 at the Saidabad police station in Hyderabad for possessing explosives. He also figured in a conspiracy case relating to a series of bomb blasts in theatres in Hyderabad and Metpally in Andhra Pradesh and Nanded in Maharashtra vide FIR #39/2000 booked by the criminal investigation department of the Andhra police under sections 120(B) and 153 (provocation to cause riots) of the IPC.
Along with Asghar Ali and others, Raoof was also allegedly involved in a blast in a hotel, which was registered under FIR #1/2000 at the Moghulpura police station.
Another of the accused men, M A Bari, figured with Asghar Ali and five others in FIR #207/96 relating to Fayaz Baig's escape from court.