Islamic Terrorism in India

Most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims

If Allah wants, I’ll bomb the market where my mother buys vegetables: Inside the mind of the Indian Muslim terrorist

Posted by jagoindia on October 8, 2008

Inside the mind of the bombers

On the evening of Saturday, September 13, a series of bomb blasts ripped through the capital. The blasts took place in the most popular and crowded shopping centres, killing 25 and injuring 200.

Six days later, the Delhi Police conducted a raid on a flat in Zakir Nagar, an area where many students of nearby Jamia Millia Islamia stay. Two persons inside the flat were killed as was a highly decorated officer who led the raid.

One occupant, Mohammed Saif, was arrested. The police announced that one of those killed was Atif, the mastermind behind the blasts. Two members of the terror module managed to escape.

The caretaker of the Zakir Nagar flat, Abdul Rehman, was the key to three more arrests on September 21, three educated young men: Zia-ur Rehman, Saquib Nisar and Mohammed Shakeel.

The three were charged with being a major operational arm of the Indian Mujahideen and with planting bombs, not just in Delhi but in Ahmedabad and Jaipur as well, sites of earlier serial bombings.

Rehman, Nisar and Shakeel were paraded before the media and then whisked away for a police interrogation. India Today‘s Mihir Srivastava managed to talk to the trio exclusively. Here is his first person account.

They look like earnest young students, clean-shaven, educated, well-dressed, soft-spoken, almost the boys next door. Saquib Nisar, Zia-ur Rehman and Shakeel are all in their early 20s.

After they were picked by the police from Zakir Nagar, a common friend of the trio facilitated two meetings with them, at the Zakir Nagar police station and later during the press conference called by the South District police to announce their arrest.

These meetings resulted in a frank discussion, scary in terms of the twisted ideology as well as the hatred and desire for revenge that underlines everything they say. More alarming is the matter-of-fact way in which they describe their acts of horrific terror and widespread death and destruction.

What is more frightening is that they could be young men you meet in a local Barista café or see working on their laptops at a cyber café. Up close and personal, they turn into something malevolent, walking bombs who perform their act of mass slaughter in the name of Allah and without the slightest suggestion of remorse.

Behind their endearing looks hides an enduring sense of being wronged. This has clouded every faculty of their intellect and reduced them to willing instruments of the invisible puppeteers of terror.

Zia-ur Rehman, 24

A third year student at Jamia Millia Islamia, accused of planting bombs at Connaught Place and Ahmedabad and providing logistical support.


Zia-ur Rehman says…“If Allah wants, I’ll bomb the market where my mother buys vegetables. She will be sent to paradise.”

“Whatever knowledge I have about Islam, I have no regrets about what I did.”

“My father told me I’m not his son. He doesn’t understand jihad for Allah, and nothing else matters to me.”

“I have no regrets about what I did, and the way I did it. Ask them to shoot me for this.”

“The jihad is against Maharashtra for ignoring the Srikrishna Report and what happened in Gujarat.”

Zia-ur Rehman is sitting with his father, who had also been arrested for forging the rent documents of L-18, Batla House, the infamous flat where the terror module led by Atif lived. The thick chain attached to Rehman’s hand is a complete contrast to his frail frame.

He is small, thin, bony, fair, not more then 5’5″ tall, and wears an expression of utter disgust on his face, suspicion too, but at the same time, does not seem to care the least about his fate or the fact that he committed mass murder just a week earlier.

His sharp, wide eyes are partially open; hooded, impossible to penetrate. He wears black trousers and an oversized, light shirt that hangs below his waist. His tone is abrasive and he has an unfriendly vibe about him. Yet, when he starts speaking, cold chills run down my spine.

“You planted the bombs?” I ask. “Yes,” he says, forcing his eyes open. “Your friend, Nisar, feels that he was taken for a ride by Atif in the name of Allah,” I introspect as he leans forward, as if not wanting his family to hear his words.

“Whatever knowledge I have about Islam and what I understand about how things work in this world, I have no regrets about what I did,” he whispers. “So, if you had not got arrested, you would have gone on to plant the bombs at Nehru Place as per the plan?” “Yes,” he replies without hesitation.

His small frame becomes rigid, the nerves on his frail forearm tense. “It is a jihad, it’s a war,” he declares. This is followed by my next query—”Who is your enemy?” Rehman parrots without emotion, “This is jihad for Allah, only the privileged get to do it.” It is only then that I ask him, “But who is your jihad for Allah against?” He tries to find words to describe his enemy.

His concept of an adversary seems amorphously lost in the deep-rooted sense of insult he feels at belonging to a certain religion. He says, hesitantly, “It is against Maharashtra for ignoring the Srikrishna Report; it is against what happened in Gujarat.”

But how would killing people, say in Karol Bagh in Delhi, help target those responsible for say Maharashtra or Gujarat? The question agitates him, his temper flares. Raising his hand to stop me speaking, he says: “I have no regrets about what I did, and the way I did it. Ask them to shoot me for this,” he asserts, his thin lips clamped tight.

At this point, his thin innocuous body looks ominous, dangerous, like a living bomb. “How many like you are ready to kill in the name of jihad?” “I know only Shakeel and Nisar, Atif is dead, a few more,” he replies. “There will be thousands willing to join the jihad,” he adds as an afterthought. And what about the Indian Mujahideen? “I know only of Atif.”

Prodding further, I ask, “When you went to Ahmedabad, didn’t it bother you who paid for your travel?” He responds, “I knew there was someone very generous to us, he was a lover of Allah and was supporting us in all possible ways.”

“Did your parents know about it?” “Now they do,” is the blunt reply. “My father is upset with me. He told me that I am not his son. He does not understand jihad for Allah, and nothing else matters to me.”

Would he plant a bomb in the same market where his mother buys vegetables? He remains quiet again, turning the idea in his mind. “If Allah wants, I will do so. Meri valida ko jannat naseeb hogi (my mother will be sent to paradise),” he replies.

He looks almost as if under a spell, unthinking, unfeeling, a machine engineered to kill. All in the name of Allah. What’s even more frightening is that many more like him could be out there.

Saquib Nisar, 23

A Jamia Millia Islamia graduate, now pursuing a management course from Sikkim Manipal University, accused of being part of the Ghaffar Market reconnaissance team.

Saquib Nisar is handcuffed, a policeman at his side. He is slim, fair with good looks, large, expressive eyes; his face looks tired for lack of sleep. He wears well-fitting blue jeans, a red and white bold striped shirt hangs loosely on his slim frame. He looks eager to talk despite having undergone hours of extensive police interrogation. One gets the impression that he belongs to a family of a certain level of affluence.

I ask him: “Do you know what you have done?” He remains static, head down, no movement to show he has heard the question. Then after a long pause, he looks up. “Yes,” is the tentative reply. “Where did you plant the bomb?” “In CP,” comes the answer. “Where in CP?”

“Regal cinema,” Nisar answers, his voice growing louder and clearer. “Did you know it was a bomb and doing this would kill innocent people?” “Yes.” “Why did you do it?” He looks up and says, “For Allah. It’s a jihad for Allah.” His eyes seem moist, but it’s not remorse.

He is forthcoming about his background, a Delhiite, not from Azamgarh, he insists. He did his schooling in Delhi and has just graduated in Political Science, Economics and Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia scoring reasonably well, “three year aggregate marks of 56 per cent”, he says proudly.

He had a life beyond jihad, a girl who was more than just a friend, and aspirations for everything that’s usual for a guy of his age—clothes, girls and gadgets.

But, by his own admission, this lifestyle was just a cover to hide his real intent, his real passion—jihad in the name of Allah, for Allah. “I do not miss my girl, my life,” he says, a little surprised how the police got to him so soon. “We lead a normal life of a student, beyond suspicion,” he says, adding that he believed he would never be caught. “I have no criminal history.”


Saquib Nisar says…“He (Atif) would talk about jihad for hours. He was quite passionate about it and infused the same in me.”

“Allah does miracles to save a jihadi, that is true.”

“Atif said one has to adopt evil to prevent a bigger one. It’s not for me or you; it’s for Allah.”

“We loved to hear Atif talk about jihad. He told me that only a few get to wage jihad for Allah.”

Jihad was like a part-time activity that he pursued with utmost seriousness. Nisar used to meet a set of like-minded friends in college and outside to discuss the need for jihad, nature of jihad, to take revenge for atrocities and insults heaped on Muslims. “It is difficult to be a Muslim in India,” Nisar says without elaboration.

He never thought, however, that he would end up being a jihadi till about four years ago when he first met Atif at his cousin Shatab’s house (Atif was killed in the September 19, 2008 encounter).

Atif became friend, philosopher and guide to Shakeel, Nisar, Rehman and others in the gang. The Delhi Police calls him the mastermind of the Delhi serial blasts.

They would often hang out together. “We loved to hear Atif talk about jihad,” recollects Nisar, talking of his early association with Atif. Initially, Atif would come with Shatab to meet Nisar; later he started coming on his own.

“It was Atif who told me that only a few privileged get to wage jihad for Allah,” recounts Nisar. “He would talk for hours about jihad. He was passionate about it and infused the same in me.”

Nisar says it took a while for him to be completely indoctrinated. Atif prescribed him a reading list of Urdu literature, mostly about the valiant fight of a jihadi against the enemies of Islam. Nisar makes a special mention of the book Maidan Pukarte Hai, about the struggle of Afghanistan’s Muslims against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

The book had a profound impact on him. “The book says that Allah helps a true jihadi, always. And I believe it,” he asserts. Nisar insists on narrating an episode from this book about an unarmed jihadi who was surrounded by Russian tanks in the middle of a desert in Afghanistan.

In a desperate bid to save his life, the jihadi threw a fistful of sand he picked up from the ground at the tanks. The sand became a powerful explosive and ripped the Russian tanks apart. “Allah does miracles to save a true jihadi, that’s true,” Nisar says, his gaze unblinking, believing every word of this fantastic fairy tale.

He remembers that for many months Atif was judging his will and determination and courage to be a jihadi. “For many years Atif did not tell his real intent, the real task for me. He wanted to make sure I could do it,” says Nisar, “I always knew I had the fire for jihad.”

The first time Atif actually defined what he meant by jihad was when he inadvertently mentioned how he placed a bomb at the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi a couple of years ago. Atif told Nisar in graphic detail how he placed the bomb near a tree in the temple premises where four couples were getting married.

“It gave me a jolt,” says Nisar. “Atif was killing people.” But then Atif showed him a larger reason for all this bloodshed. ” ‘Sometimes you have to adopt evil to prevent a bigger one,’ he told me. ‘It’s not for me or you; it’s for Allah.’ ”

Nisar got his first chance to establish his credentials to his immediate group as a true jihadi. He was part of an entourage of 12 sent to plant bombs at Ahmedabad. He did it with no fuss and great success.

“After this, we began to meet more often,” said Nisar, “eager to do more jihad. I was particularly close to Atif, Zia and Shatab. Atif liked me; he was impressed by my knowledge of Delhi.”

The next opportunity came on September 13. “Atif was worried about our safety that day.” Nisar gives a reason for it. “He did not allow us to carry any identity proof, not even a mobile phone.” That was not for your safety but his own, Nisar was told. “Did Atif use me in the name of Allah?”

Nisar thinks aloud, “He did not call me even once after the blasts; he did not insist that I attend the customary congregation at L-18 (the module’s hideout) after the blasts.”

By now, Nisar is restless. “What will they do with me?” he asks, meaning the police. I remind him: “Do you realise how dangerous you have become?” His eyes flood with tears and he looks up at the ceiling.

“Have you thought about your parents, what would they be going through?” He cries silently. He is perhaps the only one who is feeling the shock and realisation of what he has done. Maybe Nisar is not as hardened a jihadi as he would like to project.

Mohammed Shakeel, 26

A final year student of economics at Jamia Millia Islamia, accused of planting bombs in Ahmedabad and Delhi’s Karol Bagh.

With his face covered, Shakeel is waiting to be paraded in front of the cameras at a press conference by the south Delhi police. A member of his family is with him, so are a few friends who risked meeting him. His face is covered.

“Tell me about yourself,” I ask. “I’ve already done that many times to the cops,” he says, dismissing the question. Correcting his tone, he says, almost apologetically, “Sir, ask what you want to know, I am an open book, by Allah’s grace.”

He goes on to tell me that he has love for life, and wants to enjoy it to fullest. But, it should be a respectable life. “If you follow things that are happening in the world, also in India, Muslims are not welcome.”

There are two options, live a life full of contempt, get insulted and abused, or protest in the name of Allah. “I decided to do the latter because had it been only for me it would have not mattered, it’s the name of Allah that they want to soil, and that is not acceptable.”

Atif was the man behind his indoctrination as well. “I experienced in me an awakening after I committed my life to Allah. Now nothing scares me, life and death are same,” says Shakeel.


Mohammed Shakeel says…“I experienced an awakening after I committed my life to Allah. Now life and death are same.”

“He (Atif) is dead and we are here (in prison). No regrets, it’s Allah’s test of our fortitude.”

“If you follow things that are happening in the world, also in India, Muslims are not welcome.”

“A handful of Allah ke bande were able to paralyse the economic life of such a big country.”

He has no qualms in acknowledging that he planted a bomb in Ahmedabad. “I planted the parcel in Mani Nagar,” he says. A regular at Atif’s hideout, Shakeel lists the people who went with him to Ahmedabad: Nisar’s cousin Shatab, Sajid and Khalid, all on the run, Zia-ur Rehman and Atif.

They were frequent visitors at Atif’s house. “This association was the most passionate phase for our life, nothing mattered, there was no ego, we can do anything for Allah.”

Shakeel is believed to be second-in-command after Atif, so it comes as no surprise that he accompanied Atif to Ghaffar Market to plant the bombs.

“We’re all equals in the jihad for Allah, but I was associated longer with the Allah ke bande (men of God). He was happy with the way things were happening. A handful of Allah ke bande were able to paralyse the economic life of such a big country by targeting metros and nothing much could be done about it. We gave back what we were getting from them,” Shakeel says.

But like Nisar, he is also puzzled at being caught so easily. “Atif used to say no one can touch us, we are for Allah,” he recollects. “He is dead, we are here, no regrets, it’s Allah’s test of our fortitude.”

The police have proof. “They have seized a bucket in which we kept barood (explosive) and plastic tape, timer watches and the bags we used,” he says anxiously.

He expresses no regret for having killed innocent people. He is clearly no leader, merely a follower, a novice who is yet to come to terms with the true meaning of jihad but dangerous nonetheless.

He is one of those who have no qualms about being a terrorist. “As I told you there is nothing to hide. We are not thieves,” he says. That makes him even more dangerous.

2 Responses to “If Allah wants, I’ll bomb the market where my mother buys vegetables: Inside the mind of the Indian Muslim terrorist”

  1. Zubair said

    Mr.Mihr Shirivastava,
    Please have a look on the following & you will find a reply to your coocked story.

    Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 42

    Report on Encounter in Jamia Nagar
    by Jan Hastakshep and People’s Union for Democratic Rights

    , 8 October 2008

    The following is the report of a team (set up by Jan Hastakshep, Campaign against Fascist Designs and People’s Union for Democratic Rights) which undertook a fact-finding exercise into the alleged encounter at Batla House in the Capital’s Jamia Nagar on September 19, 2008. The following is the report of the fact-finding team which carried out the exercise on September 21, 2008. The members of team were Dr N.K Bhattacharya (Jan Hastakshep), Shahana Bhattacharya (PUDR), Ish Misra (Jan Hastakshep), Prashant Bhushan (Advocate, Supreme Court), Prof Mir Imtiaz and Sreerekha (teachers in Jamia Millia Islamia). The report was released at a press conference on September 26, 2008.

    Some of the Findings of the Team

    1. L-18 Batla House, the scene of the two ‘encounter’ killings of Atif and Sajid, is a four-storied building with two flats on each floor and a single stairwell. There is only one entrance to the building. All the other spaces are grilled and cannot be used to get out of the building. The building is abutted on the left and right by two buildings which are only about two floors high. There is a narrow lane to the front and an even narrower lane at the back.

    2. Documentary evidence proves that Atif had submitted his correct details to the police in a tenant verification form duty received by the police on August 21, 2008. The form is a printed form which has been countersigned and bears the seal of the Jamia Nagar police station. The form also has his correct mobile phone number.

    3. The shooting seems to have begun at around 11 am. Eyewitnesses state that the regular police arrived about fifteen minutes thereafter, and the media arrived five to ten minutes after the police arriving, by which time the area had already been cordoned off.

    4. The police did not show anyone the faces of the victims of the ‘encounter’ killings. Neither have they allowed the media access to the scene of the crime which has been sealed. By the time the media arrived, Mohan Chand Sharma had apparently already been carried down four floors of stairs with wounds, which eventually proved fatal. There seems to be a photograph of a conscious M.C. Sharma being carried out of the building by two of his aides showing some bleeding. People who saw him a few metres ahead, however, state that he was bleeding profusely when he was being carried past the Khaliullah Masjid in the vicinity.

    5. Zeeshan, who also shared the flat, was writing the IIPM test at the time of the alleged encounter and was arrested later in the night of September 19 from the Headlines Today studios at Jhandewalan, soon after he had given an interview at the television studio which was partially aired. As he was coming out of the television channel’s office, he was arrested by the police. He too is being called a terrorist.

    Questions regarding the Police Version

    1. How many masterminds are there? A succession of organisations such as the HuJI, SIMI and the IM have already been named by different State Police as the organisations responsible for the blasts that have taken place in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi and the bomb scare in Surat. Atif suddenly becomes the new mastermind of all the blasts after a succession of other masterminds such as Abu Bashir, Tauqeer, etc. His name was never mentioned earlier, not even a few days ago when the sketches of the Delhi bombers were released.

    2. When did the police get to know that they were terrorists? If they knew before they entered, why did they not seal the exit to the building and ask the alleged terrorists to surrender without going in?

    3. If the Special Cell knew that they were terrorists why was M.C. Sharma not wearing a bullet-proof vest if the Special Cell was going to arrest/apprehend dreaded terrorists?

    4. If the Special cell did not know that they were terrorists before they entered, how did they claim soon thereafter that these were the terrorists and mastermind behind the blasts without even the opportunity of an interrogation of the person arrested and a thorough investigation of the evidence from the scene of the alleged encounter?

    5. Could two persons have escaped, considering there are no escape routes save one which was the entrance from which the Special Cell police entered heavily armed?

    6. If they were truly the terrorists behind the bombings they would surely not have given their correct personal details in a tenant verification form to the police on August 21, 2008, just after the Ahmedabad blasts and before the Delhi blasts.

    7. The Special Cell now claims that the verification form is forged, despite the fact that it is countersigned and bears the seal of the Jamia Nagar Police Station. However, these documents were handed over to the media by the caretaker of the apartment within two hours of the alleged encounters and hence he did not have enough time to have carried out such a forgery.

    8. As per news reports, the police has so far not carried out a Test Identification Parade by eyewitnesses who claim to have seen those responsible for the Delhi bomb blasts. Was a TIP done before the burial of the two boys who were shot dead? Has the police tried to match the sketches of the accused made at the time with those being arrested? What are the results of such efforts if they have been made?

    9. In view of the continuing speculation and controversies surrounding the ‘encounter’ and a version of the postmortem reports being discussed by the press, why have the post-mortem reports of the two youths and the policeman who were killed in the house not been made available to their families and the public?

    10. Has an FIR been lodged or investigation launched into the incident of the ‘encounter’ itself?*

    11. Since, according to the press statement issued by the Holy Family Hospital on September 19, 2008, X-rays of the chest and abdomen of M.C. Sharma had “not revealed any foreign bodies”, what has happened to the bullets fired on him? Have they been collected from the scene and sent for forensic analysis?

    Preliminary Conclusions

    1. The version of the police that they had learnt that these youths were behind the Delhi blasts when they went in to arrest them is clearly false since, in that case, Inspector Sharma and his team who were experienced policemen from the Special Cell and had in fact been involved in several lethal encounters in the past, would not have entered the premises at all and certainly not without bullet-proof vests.

    2. The police gave the version of these youths being the terrorists behind the Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur blasts and of Atif being the mastermind to the media soon after the alleged encounter. Till this point the police had not had the time to interrogate Saif, who had been arrested, or to thoroughly investigate the laptops recovered from the scene of the incident etc. and hence had no actionable information on the basis of which to make such claims. Therefore the police version that they were the terrorists behind the blasts with Atif as the mastermind clearly seems to be a story concocted by the Special Cell before they went to pick up these people.

    3. The story of two people escaping from the building is an utter life.

    4. The subsequent picking up of Zia-ur Rahman, the caretaker’s son, and of Shakeel and others on the pretext that they were also involved in this conspiracy is highly dubious and smacks of vindictiveness against individuals who came out with statements and evidence that contradicted the police version.

    5. The claim of the police that the tenant verification form, handed over to the media by the caretaker, Rahman, only a couple of hours after the incident, is forged, is not at all credible. There appears no reason for Rahman to have forged such a form and kept it with him in advance, and there was certainly no time for him to have forged the papers and handed them to the media soon after the incident.

    6. Saquib Nisar, who the police claim provided logistical support for the serial blasts in Ahmedabad and the bomb scare in Surat, was taking an MBA examination from July 23 to July 28, 2008. Copies of his admit card and exam sheets signed by the examiners are available.

    7. None of the accused who are alive and arrested have legal representation or counsel. Moreover the police have been releasing information supposedly procured from them during interrogation to the media. This further adversely affects their chances of justice.


    1. It is imperative that an independent, time- bound comprehensive probe has to be carried out by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court of India into this incident and the claims of the police, to answer these questions. In any case, the NHRC guidelines on encounter killings require such an investigation.

    2. The continuing random arrests and harassment of residents of Jamia Nagar and students of Jamia University since the time of the Delhi blasts and particularly after the alleged encounter must stop immediately.

    3. The competition among various police agencies to claim credit for arresting dreaded terrorists and masterminds is resulting in the targeting of innocent Muslim youth. This must stop immediately. It appears that after making SIMI the scapegoat, the police has now shifted focus to Azamgarh which is being dubbed the nursery of terrorism. This targeting and victimisation of young Muslim boys from Azamgarh or those who may have been members of SIMI in the past, as terrorists involved in the blasts, has led to an enormous sense of insecurity, fear and resentment in the Muslim community of the country in general and young Muslim boys from Azamgarh or those who may have been members of SIMI, in particular.

    4. It is very unfortunate and disquieting that significant sections of the mainstream media, particulary the electronic media, have been uncritically amplifying the successive absurd stories and concoctions of the police, built only on supposed confessions made before the police. This has not only defamed a large number of apparently innocent people but is also encouraging rapid communalisation and polarisation of people in the country.

    • This is what the law requires: NHRC guidelines on encounter killings clearly state: “That when information is received that death was caused in an encounter as a result of firing by the police, prima facie the ingredients of culpable homicide under Section 299 of the IPC are satisfied. That is sufficient to suspect that an offence of culpable homicide has been committed.” The NHRC has now asked for a report from the police on the encounter.

  2. jay said

    ask dem if dere allah says dat people hav no rights to live dere lyf.
    has d allah sent dem to kill d people.

    dunno y dey r all havin misguided minds???????

    I think deyyyyyyy r sick mentally. I pray to god for dese people dat deyyyy get minds n positive thoughts to become constructive instead f destructive as deyyyyyyyy r.Their passion,their commitment can be n shud be used for dere nation. Rose fo dem n i pray fo dem to get out f dis sickness.May god bless dem

    I dont think so k any GOD can allow to kill oders. If ye dont lyk life,if yer thinking is hi fi,It dusnt mean dat oders,like u,wudnt lov to live safe n simple lyf?

    Only god can cease dere lyf widout dere wish not n e oder. If ye try to do d same den ye r challenging d god. U wud hav to pay fo it.

    I noe any relations doesnt mean fo dem bt it matters fo oders. What can deyy get to snatch d people frm dere family,no1 knows.

    disgusting it is

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