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Lashkar-e-Taiba, Who?

By The Hindu Correspondent

18 June, 2004
The Hindu

MUMBRA, JUNE 17. "It is the first time I heard of the Lashkar-e-Taiba," said Shamima, mother of the 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan Shamim Raza, who was gunned down, along with three others, by the Ahmedabad police for allegedly plotting the murder of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

At her home in her tiny apartment in Rashid compound in this crowded town in Thane district, Shamima was told of the death of her daughter, a second-year science student at Mumbai's Gurunanak Khalsa College, by reporters on Tuesday evening. "We had no cable or newspaper, so I had no idea. One of the reporters showed me my daughter's picture in the paper and it was then that I realised that it was her," she said.

"My daughter used to leave at eight in the morning and come home at four and then take tuitions. She also helped me with running the house. She had no time for herself and was my main support," said Shamima.

Friends, neighbours and well-wishers were standing around the three-storeyed apartment in anger and silence. No one could believe that Ishrat was not among them any more. All her neighbours and friends said that Ishrat was an innocent girl. In college, Ishrat, a B.Sc. student, was popular.

"She left on Saturday but I did not know where she had gone. Later, my children told me she had taken some clothes with her. It was a good thing her ID-card was with her, otherwise we would have never known," her mother said amid sobs.

The Raza family hails from Bihar but they left the State many years ago. Here, they have no relatives. Ishrat's brother, Sheikh Anwar Iqbal, said: "The police came very late at night to tell us but we do not know anything about her links with any terrorist organisation."

The whole family was taken for questioning at night to the police station and they came home only early next morning. The eldest of the daughters, Zeenat, was a school dropout and she and Ishrat took tuitions at home. Their father died two years ago. The two girls also did some `zari' embroidery work to supplement the family income.

The landlady, Anwari Begum, said the family was very poor and could not even pay the monthly rent. Ishrat was always a topper and was educated with a lot of difficulty by her mother. If they were really linked to terrorists, would they be living in such poverty, she wondered. Today, Shamima left for Gujarat with the Samajwadi MP, Abu Asim Azmi, to collect her daughter's body.

A senior Thane police official said that inquiries were at a preliminary stage. Ishrat, he said, was a good student with a good character. It was too early to say whether she had any links with terrorists.

PTI reports from Mumbai:

The Maharashtra Government ordered an inquiry to ascertain whether Ishrat had any criminal record as it found no evidence to link her with any militant outfit.

The Home Minister, R.R. Patil said: "I have asked authorities to conduct an inquiry whether she was involved in any criminal activities and had any crime record."

Mr. Patil, refusing to divulge any details, said he has sought the report in three days. "Only after I receive the report will I be able to say anything in this regard."

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Suresh Suryavanshi, said: "We have not found any objectionable material during the search" that could link her to a terrorist group.