What happens when you go into the house of an advocate who is fighting cases on terror blasts in India to research on terror cases in the country? Well, chances are you become a suspect yourself if you are a Muslim.
That is precisely what happened to 23-year old Sharib Ali, a research officer from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, working on a project titled 'In the Name of Law: A study of terror cases' in Hyderabad. Ali had been interviewing several lawyers related to the Mecca Masjid blasts of 2007 and also wanted to meet Rajavardhan Reddy, an advocate who handles cases related to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Sharib, who is also an alumnus of TISS told Firstpost, "I was asked to meet him by Muzzafar, a lawyer who generally handles the cases where Muslims involved in the blasts. I thought it fit to interview him since he fights for the Hindu people who have been accused in the blasts."
Rajavardhan Reddy is representing Bharat Mohanlal Rateswar alias Bharat Bhai, a right wing Hindu activist and seventh accused in Mecca Masjid bomb blast case.
Ali met Reddy after multiple phone calls on Monday night in his house in Saidabad in Mumtaz College Road accompanied by Mohammed Ismail Khan, a law student at Osmania University,who was helping him in the research project.
According to him, the conversation hardly lasted for 10 minutes after which police entered his office and took control of the situation. Reddy informed Sharib and his friend that he thought it fit to call the police as he felt 'threatened' by them and would not divulge any further information.
However, Reddy is clear on why he did it.
"When I asked him who gave him my telephone number he told me had received it from a person who I could not recognise and who had not introduced him to me. Since I was returning home at 9 pm with my family when I was to meet with him, I had second thoughts," he told Firstpost.
But would he have done this had the research student not been a Muslim? Reddy said that he felt 'vulnerable' because Sharib was a Muslim.
"Hyderabad has become a den of extremists and is now a sensitive area, " Reddy, who is also at the helm of right wing group Hindu Vahini, said.
“Terrorist activities in Hyderabad are carried out by extremists and Maoists, and the RSS are targets of both the groups. In 1987 my younger brother was killed by Maoists in Osmania University, so naturally I have concerns," he reasoned.
On the other hand, Sharib said that he had shown the lawyer his TISS identity card and authorisation letter from the institute stating he was doing research during the interview. Without citing any reason, he was taken to the Malakpet police station along with his ID card and letter and questioned extensively.
Sharib says he was asked to give a mug shot which he promptly refused. He said P Satyanarayan, officer at the Malakpet police station told him: "You have to inform the police station before you embark on such sensitive work. Why don't you go to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) instead of Reddy?"
The young research officer was finally let off after their questioning revealed nothing suspicious and his documents were given back to him.
Was it necessary to call the police and hound him with Hindu Vahini workers just because he was a Muslim? Reddy said, "They (the police) rightly verified his identity, there is nothing wrong if the police verifies it."