A simple trick involving the use of fire by a ‘churan’ seller to lure children into buying his products caught the fancy of a 10-year-old boy who experimented with the trick years later and refined it further to make deadly bombs to cause blasts in several parts of India.
During his interrogation by the Delhi Police Special Cell sleuths, Abdul Karim alias Tunda has purportedly shared this rather interesting anecdote from his early days in western Uttar Pradesh’s Pilkhuwa, a place he left in 1994, perhaps never to return.
“Tunda revealed that the vendor would put some ‘churan’ on a stick and then mix it up with some white substance. This mixture, when it came in contact with a liquid that the person carried, would catch fire. Like all other children of his age and locality, Tunda too was drawn to the trick and his inquisitiveness propelled him to probe how it was done,” said a police officer.
Tunda found that that the white raw material was sugar which was mixed with potash and the liquid used was an acid. This was ingrained in his mind, the officer said.
Almost three decades after he learnt the trick, Tunda found himself in a situation where he felt the urge to do something for his community, which suffered a great deal in the 1985 communal riots in Maharashtra’s Bhiwandi, and making bombs, according to his purported confession, was a way to achieve his goal.
The aftermath of the riots, during which a relative of Tunda was allegedly burnt alive, sowed the seeds for both his radicalisation and experiments with making explosives. After a few successful ones, a failed experiment saw him losing his left arm, said the police.
The demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 was another tipping point in Tunda’s life and soon after the incident he came in contact with Dr. Jalees Ansari whom he taught the procedure of making bombs. Both of them floated a group called Tanzeem Islah-ul-Muslimeen (Islamic Armed Organisation for the Improvement of Muslims). The Tanzeem carried out its first blast in Mumbai on December 6, 1993, the first anniversary of the demolition, police claimed.
Tunda and Ansari also set off explosions in Hyderabad and Tunda continued his activities even after the arrest of Dr. Ansari, police said.
“Due to his disability and posters carrying his pictures being put in many places, he never placed the bombs himself and had a group of motivated men to carry out the task,” said the officer. In January 1994, Tunda fled to Dhaka and briefly returned to mastermind more such blasts in the late 1990s. Tunda claimed that after 1998 he had never been to India until his recent arrest and operated through his contacts in the country.