Vicky Nanjappa investigates how a small coastal
Karnataka town became synonymous with terror
smail Shahbandri and Suwaida live in Bhatkal’s Madeena Colony along with 12 otherfamily members. Leadingupto thi
mall house, one cannot believe that it belongs to their sons, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal Shahbandri, the alleged founders of the deadly Indian Mujahideen, as per
the Indian Intelligence Bureau’s records.
Riyaz Bhatkal alias Sharukh Khan is accused of
masterminding bomb blasts in Bangalore,
Ahmedabad and New Delhi over the last two years.
When you speak of the Shahbandri brothers in
Bhatkal, there is immense anger for two reasons. A
section believes that the two brothers were involved
in terrorist activities and which has led to a massive
intelligence and police presence, something the
town could do without. Another section is angry
that the name Bhatkal is being attached to their
“What on earth is Bhatkal? It is not a surname,
there is no Muslim with such a surname. They are
Shahbandris and let it remain that way. By attach-
ing the town’s name to them, you are spoiling the
name of the community,” one of them said.
Riyaz’s wife Nausha and her three children and
Iqbal’s wife Sana and her four children live with
Ismail and Suwaida.
As I prepared to speak to the mother Suwaida, a
couple of people said Bhatkal hardly had anything
to do with the two men.
“These are Bombay-
s and they have spent
half their life there. Only when the heat on them
rose did they take shelter in Bhatkal and with them
they got the entire police force with them,” one of
“My sons grew up in Mumbai,” Suwaida said.
“They visited Bhatkal a couple of times since we
have relatives here. I am originally from Bhatkal
but we were in Mumbai. I gave my sons good edu-
both are engineers
) and more importantly I always
Saeda Bi waits for her son Shabbir, who was arrested in connection with the Pune blasts
VICK Y NANJAPPA
taught them to be good Muslims. What is more heart-
breaking for a mother than not to see the
faces of her sons for so many years?”
“My sons were never members of the
Students Islamic Movement of India.
They used to visit its office in Kurla once
in a way in order to study since our house
was very small. The trouble began when
two of their friends were killed in front of
them. For no fault of theirs the police
began chasing them too. A few years later,
SIMI was banned and it became harder
on us since my sons were branded SIMI
members,” she said.
In 2000, the family realized it was
impossible to live in Mumbai and moved
“The police followed my sons here and
unable to bear the pressure, Riyaz fled the
place and since then we have not seen him. Two years later
my other son Iqbal too fled the place. It is sad that they
have to suffer due to fabricated stories,” she said.
— Moulana Shabbir Hussain Gangawali, 33, was his family's sole breadwinner before he was picked up in connection with the Pune blast case.
His mother Saeda Bi, who lives in Bhatkal, can hardly
walk or talk and it has been months since she saw her son.
Shabbir earned Rs 3,000 ($60) per month by giving Arabic
tuitions. He supported his ailing mother and his four
brothers and four sisters. His house is in a dilapidated
state. Only his mother lives there now and wonders when
her son will return.
Shabbir's case is strange. He had gone to Pune to visit his
ailing sister. He informed his mother that he would meet
her and return. After the blast occurred when he was in
Pune, the police picked him up for questioning and the first
thing that they asked him was about his native place. When
he said Bhatkal, they searched him and found a Rs 500 bill
on him. Claiming it was a fake note, they put him behind
bars. He was released after an inquiry showed he was inno-
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