Cleric was under lens since Church Street blast for hate speech: Police

Cleric was under lens since Church Street blast for hate speech: Police

But we have no evidence of his links with militant groups, says B'luru top cop

Cleric was under lens since Church Street blast for hate speech: Police

Maulana Syed Anzarshah Qasmi, the Islamic preacher from Bengaluru who was picked up by the Delhi police on Wednesday for having “links with al-Qaeda”, was being watched by local security agencies for at least seven months now for his “hate speeches”.

The Bengaluru police, however, do not have any evidence that he was involved in terrorism, Police Commissioner, N S Megharik, told reporters here on Friday. In the same breath, he added that the Delhi police’s decision to pick up Qasmi was based on “strong evidence”, something he wasn’t privy to.

The Bengaluru police started watching Qasmi in the aftermath of the Church Street blast on December 28, 2015, in which a woman was killed. As the police reached a dead-end to trace the culprits, they decided to watch hate speakers in the hope of leads on those involved in the blast.

“We learnt that Qasmi was making provocative speeches, targeting other religions and women. His background check revealed that he was sacked by two mosques,” a senior police officer said, requesting anonymity.

The police then learnt that he was “radicalising” Muslim youths. But they couldn’t establish his links with any militant group. They checked video recordings of his speeches. The suspicion of his links with militant groups was “strengthened” but there was still no evidence.

“We don’t know how many youths he radicalised and if he was a recruiting agent for any militant outfit. We also don’t know if he had influenced Kafeel Ahmed, who drove an explosives-laden car into the Glasgow International Airport in 2007, and died later,” Megharik said.

The commissioner, however, said the Delhi police had recently arrested a few men across India for having links with al-Qaeda. Some of these suspects spoke about having been in touch with Qasmi, which culminated in his arrest, he added. “His hate speech is just a footnote in the larger story,” Megharik said, adding the Delhi police were interrogating him and should have more information about him.

Qasmi is a popular yet controversial figure among Bengaluru’s Muslims. A native of Bengaluru, he graduated from the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh.
He is married and has two sons and a  daughter. One son is married and the other is studying in a madrasa. Qasmi lived in Hegde Nagar on Tannery Road before moving to a house he built in Ilyas Nagar recently.

Nayaz Pasha, the head of Makkah Masjid in Banashankari, where Qasmi was a preacher, told Deccan Herald that the mosque committee had strictly instructed him to deliver sermons based only on the Qur’an and not to target women and other religions. Some women had objected to his views about the fairer sex and lodged a complaint at the Tilak Nagar police station. 

Qasmi was beaten up a few times inside two mosques in Tilak Nagar and on Bannerghatta Road. He would often tour Chennai, Mysuru, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Jharkhand and other parts of the country to make speeches.