Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan police have released an Imam of a mosque in Khandela village of Sikar district as it did not find any evidence to connect him to the October 11 bomb blast in the Ajmer dargah. He had been kept in custody for 18 days.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) incarcerated 29-year-old Abdul Hafiz Shameem, at the Crime Branch headquarters in Ajmer without formally arresting him and repeatedly described him as a “terror suspect,” while claiming that he was recruiting youngsters in the Shekhawati region for Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI).

The SIT’s suspicion for the low-intensity blast that claimed three lives was on Islamist organisations. The team took in clergymen from mosques and madrasas functioning in villages for questioning but did not get any clue.

Muslim groups in the State took strong exception to what they called ‘harassment’ of Imams and Maulvis in the name of investigation and feared that the police would extract ‘fake confessions’ from a number of detainees, including a madrasa teacher from Churu and a Maulvi from Osmanabad, to fit into their own theory of the terror attack.

Mr. Shameem told The Hindu over telephone from Khandela on Tuesday that he was tortured in police custody and threatened with dire consequences if he did not admit his link to the blast. “Policemen brutally thrashed me several times and pulled my beard. They constantly abused me and did not allow me to offer namaz in the cell where I was locked up,” he said.

The Imam said he was set free on Saturday evening after the SIT officials did not get anything substantial from him. “They were harping on the differences between Wahabi and Barelvi schools over worshipping at Sufi shrines to infer that I, as a Deobandi, had carried out the dargah blast.”

Mr. Shameem, who graduated from the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband with a Fazil degree, said he was confronted with other detainees during the interrogation but did not know any. “They were all innocent Muslim clergymen like me,” he said. The Additional Director General of Police (Crime), A.K. Jain, who is in charge of the probe, did not respond to calls.