The transformation of Bhatkal from a non-descript town in coastal Karnataka to being the focus of anti-terrorism outfits and intelligence agencies is being attributed to two men -- Riyaz and Iqbal Shabandri. Obviously, the people of Bhatkal are upset over this tag.
However, the local legislator (from the Congress party) feels that everything is fine and that there are no communal issues. There is way too much being made out of this place and I can only say that by putting out such baseless news, each one is only trying to tarnish the image of Bhatkal, member of the legislative assembly J D Naik says in an interview to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa.
Your constituency is on the world map for terrorism today. What do you have to say about it?
It is a very unfair judgement that all of you have passed. There are shady elements in every place, but that does not make the place tainted. I would not agree with your judgement at all.
Terrorism is one aspect, but people are scared to come here due to the communally sensitive nature of this place. What about that?
There have been instances of communal disharmony in the past. I would not deny that. Bhatkal has always been peaceful until certain incidents in both 1993 and 1994. After that there has not been any trouble here. Let me assure you that everything is fine in Bhatkal. Everyone is welcome here; the place is peaceful.
Are you sure that there is communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims?
I am very sure about that. Moreover, I have been an MLA since 1999 and have been involved closely with both communities in this place. I myself live in an area which is Muslim-dominated. I have not faced any problem till date and I can assure that nobody will.
Coming back to terrorism, this town is known as an ISI hub. Riyaz, Iqbal, Yaseen -- just to name a few -- are on the IB radar and interestingly, all these persons have an affiliation with Bhatkal.
I have heard of these names too. Such elements must surrender before the police. Our police is on the lookout and the system is doing its best to dish out such elements so that the place on the whole does not get a bad name. Speaking of the three names that you mentioned, none of the people here know them personally. If they have strayed they should be brought to book.
Both communities appear to be at loggerheads. While Hindus say that the ISI elements in the town are not being eliminated, Muslims say that innocents are being harassed.
For starters, we will not tolerate any baseless allegations against any community in Bhatkal. There are anti-social elements in every community and religion. They are there in Bhatkal town too. However, to say that people from my constituency are involved in bomb blasts is incorrect.
The Justice Jaganatha Shetty commission of inquiry has clearly stated that the ISI is operating in Bhatkal. Despite this clear-cut observation, would you still say that the ISI is non-existent?
As far as my knowledge goes, the ISI does not operate here. The people of this place are not foolish to let anti-national elements penetrate their place. One or two persons may have gone astray, but that is not a good enough ground to taint the entire place.
What about the Justice Shetty report? What are your thoughts about that?
I have not read that report. So I would not be in a position to comment about the contents of the report. Also, why has it not been tabled as yet?