Saudi Arabia last week deported an engineer at the urgent request of the Indian government. The deportation is the first under a treaty signed and ratified by the two nations in February 2010.
Fasih Mehmood, 28, from Darbhanga in Bihar, had been working since June 2008 as a mechanical engineer at a prominent contracting company; he was based in Jubail.
According to sources, a suspect arrested in connection with a 2010 bombing at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore had described Mehmood as one of his “friends and benefactors.” This led the Indian agencies to seek his extradition from Saudi Arabia. Fifteen people were injured in the attack.
The suspect, Mohammed Kafeel Akhtar, comes from Mehmood’s village — Barasmela in Darbhanga. Mehmood’s employers and colleagues have described him as brilliant, affable and well-mannered. He was recruited by the contracting company through an online recruitment process. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
According to reports in the Indian media, Mehmood belongs to a respectable family; his father is a practicing doctor and his mother is the principal of a local school.
When Akhtar, the primary suspect, told intelligence officials about his acquaintance with Mehmood, they wrote to the External Affairs Ministry seeking his extradition from Saudi Arabia. The ministry wrote an official letter to their counterparts in Riyadh that was dispatched through diplomatic channels and arrived at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh.
Officials at the Indian mission forwarded the letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which notified the Ministry of Interior and requested that Mehmood be extradited. It was the Interior Ministry that contacted Mehmood’s employers.
“We were told by the Jubail police and some senior officials at the Indian Embassy that Mehmood is wanted in India for some anti-social activities and that we should immediately hand him over to the police,” one of the managers at the contracting company told Arab News. He requested that neither his name nor the name of his company be mentioned. “We did exactly as we were told. Mehmood was taken to the Jubail police station along with his passport.”
Mehmood was deported on May 13. Those close to him said he was shocked and did not know how to react. He told company managers that he is innocent and that he had nothing to do with terrorism anywhere. His managers expressed their inability to help him in view of the extraordinary request from India. “Have faith in Allah,” one of the managers told him while handing him over to the Saudi police.
The Interior Ministry then informed Indian Embassy officials about Mehmood’s departure and flight details. He was immediately arrested on arrival in India. There is no further word on the investigations.
The Indian media have reported that Mehmood’s arrest is a continuation of a series of arrests of Muslim youngsters from Darbhanga on alleged charges of terrorism. So far 13 Muslims from Darbhanga have been arrested. Mehmood is the 14th.
Mehmood’s brother has denied that he has ever been in touch with terrorists. “He is the honorable and earning member of our family ... He is moderate in his outlook,” his brother was quoted as saying in one newspaper.
Scores of Muslim youngsters were arrested in connection with a series of bomb blasts five years ago in various cities. It later turned out that the blasts were carried by right-wing Hindu fanatics associated with terror organizations. In many cases, the government has apologized for the wrongful arrests and in some cases, such as in Hyderabad, the authorities have awarded such victims compensation.
Indian Muslims have taken great pride in the fact that none of its members has ever been found to be associated with Al-Qaeda, a fact confirmed by almost all political parties.
A series of diplomatic cables from American ambassadors based in Delhi and Mumbai, which were released by Wikileaks, repeatedly mention Indian Muslims’ revulsion at Al-Qaeda and other terror organizations.
“Separatism and religious extremism have little appeal to Indian Muslims, and the overwhelming majority espouse moderate doctrines,” former US envoy to India, David Mulford, said in one of the cables. “India’s growing economy, vibrant democracy, and inclusive culture, encourage Muslims to seek success and social mobility in the mainstream and reduces alienation.”