In a development which has left the government and investigating agencies red-faced, one of the ‘most wanted fugitives' on the list given by India to Pakistan has been found to be living in Thane, near Mumbai, a stone's throw from a police station.
Wazhul Kamar Khan, an accused in the 2003 Mulund blast case, says he does not know why his name figures on the fugitives list.
Probe into lapses
The police are now inquiring into the lapses. “IB [the Intelligence Bureau] and RAW [the Research and Analysis Wing] collect information directly and send it to the Centre. They don't ask the Mumbai police. There is a need to inquire who passed on the information to these agencies — whether it was the State police or the Central agencies themselves,” top sources toldThe Hindu.
Another top source said: “The information that Khan was out on bail and was in Mumbai was given to the IB. There seems to be a possible miscommunication between the IB and the Ministry of Home Affairs.”
Asked whether there was any mistake in the identity or lack of communication about the accused, the Mumbai police refused to comment. “We don't want to talk about it. All I can tell you is, no comments,” Rajkumar Vhatkar, Mumbai Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), said.
The ATS, which arrested him last year, said it was not looking into the case. “Wazhul Kamar Khan was wanted by the Crime Branch for the Mulund blast case. Last year, we got information about him and arrested him after finding a weapon in his person. We booked him under the Arms Act. After his custody for the Arms Act case got over, we handed him over to the Crime Branch,” ATS chief Rakesh Maria said.
But the list of accused put up by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) still shows Wazhul as wanted by Interpol. A red-corner notice issued against him in 2004 can still be found on the CBI website.
Accused in four
Wazhul has been named an accused in four terror-related cases: the Mumbai Central blast in 2002 and the Mulund, Vile Parle and Ghatkopar II blasts, all in 2003. “I was arrested last year in May by the ATS. I got bail in August 2010. Since then, I am staying here with my family. I have not broken any bail condition,” he said.
On December 6, 2002, a bomb went off in a McDonald's outlet at Mumbai Central and injured 25 persons. On January 27, 2003, one person was killed and 28 were injured in a blast near the Vile Parle station. On March 13, 2003, a bomb exploded in the ladies' first-class coach of the local train at Mulund station, killing 11 persons and injuring 82. In the second Ghatkopar blast on July 28, 2003, four were dead and 32 injured after a bomb exploded in a BEST bus.
“When the list [of 50 most wanted fugitives] was released by the government, I came to know that my name was there. But what could I have done? I am an ordinary person. You people in the media would know better why my name appeared on the list,” he said.
Soon after the news of Wazhul residing in Thane spread, the Thane police took him away, he said. “They took me with them to keep me away from the media. They did not impose any restriction on me. First, they took me to the Vartaknagar station. From there, they took me to the Shree Nagar station. They recorded my statement on where I was for so many days, what I have been doing,” he said.
Asked why he was kept away from the media, he said: “Madam, it is a question about two countries. It is an important case. Maybe, that is why they did not want me to speak to the media. The case is going on in the court.”
“A huge mistake”
His children said they were shocked to learn about it. His daughter said the family felt very bad, “but we have stood united. The government has made a huge mistake. A life can be ruined because of it.”
Mr. Khan's elder sister Saeeda Khatum said: “These are all wrong allegations. We are native of Uttar Pradesh. We have never gone to Pakistan. Wazhul was born in Mumbai. He studied in English medium till Standard IX. He did ‘zari' work at Dharavi.”