Maulana offloaded on suspicion of plane bombing

That’s what happened to Maulana Noorul Huda, an eminent Islamic scholar from the Deoband seminary in Uttar Pradesh. On Wednesday, he boarded the Emirates flight in Delhi to travel to London via Dubai. Even before Huda could settle down in his seat, he was asked to disembark.

The reason: the passenger sitting next to him heard him say in his mobile phone conversation: “jahaaj udaane waala hoon” (will blow up the plane).

Soon after he was grounded, the Maulana was grilled for several hours, slapped a non-bailable case and sent to the Tihar jail. Though the police found nothing incriminating from his baggage, they still filed a case of “causing mischief” under Section 425 of the Indian Penal Code. He was not allowed to fly and was sent to a day’s judicial custody. After a 30-hour ordeal, Huda was finally released, apparently on instructions from the Union Home Ministry.

Did Huda utter those words attributed to him by the co-passenger seated next to him?
The Maulana’s version is: soon after he got to his seat in the aircraft, he called up his son and told him that the aircraft would take off soon (udne waala hai). “I was talking to my son as I was settling in my seat. He asked me when I would be airborne. I replied: ‘Jahaaj udne waala hai’,” he said. “After that, I switched off my phone and waited. After a while I began to wonder why we were not taking off. I also realised then that the woman sitting next to me was not in her seat,” Huda said. However, the lady passenger, a US citizen of Indian origin, sitting next to him, thought she heard something else and complained to the crew about the ‘flight to be blown up’ and that her co-passenger was “speaking Arabic”.

Coming out of the Tihar on Friday, the respected and widely-travelled Maulana said: “I had to spend a night in jail just because I have a long beard, I am from Deoband and I run a madrassa. More than the mobile phone conversation, it seems my profile appeared suspicious to them,” Huda said.

“I kept saying that I am a religious man who tries to make people better human beings, but it didn’t help.” Huda said it was not so much what he had said but what he wore and represented that put him through all the torture. He said the police had treated him well, but he had still suffered enormous mental torture.

Delhi Police Commissioner Y S Dadwal said the Maulana incident “appeared to be a case of miscommunication”. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has demanded the withdrawal of a case registered against Huda and asked for a compensation for the loss he has suffered due to the arrest.

The CPM Politburo, in a statement issued on Saturday, heavily criticised the incident of offloading the cleric and his arrest. The party has termed it as a  “communal profiling”.

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