Abu Asim Azmi, president of the Samajwadi Party in Maharashtra and member of the Rajya Sabha, has denied rumours of him being investigated by the Mumbai police for his alleged involvement in Tuesday's blasts.
Speaking to rediff.com, he was in a combative mood. "I dare the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) or RAW (the Research and Analysis Wing) to conduct an inquiry against me. If Mumbai's intelligence sources are telling the Press Trust of India that they have some suspicion about my involvement, I suggest they leave their jobs and open a barber shop."
On Wednesday, without naming Azmi, state Director General of Police Dr P S Pasricha told mediapersons in Mumbai, 'Political figures in Maharashtra are under the police scanner for 'suspicious' activities and action will be taken against them at an appropriate time. Unki harkate teek nahin hain (Their activities do not seem right).' No other details were given.
Dr Pasricha did not clarify if the political figures were suspected to be involved in subversive activities in the state.
Azmi told rediff.com that a Mumbai newspaper had indicted him. On reading the report, he called Joint Commissioner of Police K P Raghuvanshi, the head of the state Anti-Terrorist Squad who is investigating Tuesday's blasts. Raghuvanshi, Azmi said, denied using Azmi's name in the investigation and suggested that he file a defamation case against the newspaper.
The newspaper's report quoting intelligence sources said the politician could have instigated the blasts in retaliation for recent trouble in a Muslim-dominated area of Thane district.
On reacting to charges of his involvement in last week's clashes in Bhiwandi, in which four people (including two policemen) died, a defiant Azmi said, "I have always spoken against the excesses of the government. I still believe there was no need to fire at the crowd. The crowd had hurled stones at the police, but two boys were killed in retaliation without particular evidence that they had hurled stones."
Azmi alleged that state Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister R R Patil was biased. "Patil told a television channel that whoever hurls stones at the police should be shot dead. How come he is so upset about the deaths of two policemen, and not the two men killed at the hands of the police?"
"I challenge the police to find evidence against me," Azmi said, "If my involvement in the Bhiwandi clashes is proved, let them hang me."
The Samajwadi Party leader condemned Tuesday's blasts. "It is not just Mumbai's problem," he said, "it is India's problem."
He had a few things to say about the investigation into the blasts. "Let the police investigate the bombing of a mosque in Nanded," he said. "Why has that not been inquired into? I fully agree we should keep eye on the ISI's (Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency) activities in India. Let Muslims and Hindus unite to keep a vigil against the enemies of India, but let them also keep an eye on what the RSS is doing."