UP Elections 2017: Will Azamgarh finally lose its ‘terror’ tag?

With the elections around the corner in Uttar Pradesh, Azamgarh is fighting to lose its ‘notorious’ tag, which it gained after the 2008 Batla House encounter. Will it? Won’t it? Wonders Vicky Nanjappa

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The debate in Azamgarh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, the debate back to terror. As UP polls this year, there would be a lot of focus on this town which has been branded a terror nursery. The discourse around terror does not seem to end.

Just when the people had forgotten the 2008 Batla House encounter came the conviction of Assadullah Akthar in connection with 2013 Dilsukhnagar blasts. Assadullah, the son of Javed Akthar, a popular doctor in Azamgarh was sentenced to death along with Yasin Bhatkal and others for their roles in the Hyderabad, Dilsukhnagar blasts.

UP Elections 2017: Will Azamgarh finally lose its ‘terror’ tag?

Azamgarh is important for political parties as it is a Muslim-dominated district. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has organised several meetings to woo the Muslim voters. Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav who contested the Lok Sabha elections from Azamgarh and Manipur retained the constituencies. The BSP has given special focus to Azamgarh over the past year.

Azamgarh residents feel let down by the leaders. No matter what they do, the Azamgarh does not seem to shed its terror tag. It all began with the Batla House encounter in which two from Azamgarh were killed.

Although there were murmurs of several youth from this place joining the Indian Mujahideen, the terror tag stuck in a big way only after the 2008 encounter. Since then, there has been constant monitoring by intelligence agencies who say that several youth in this place are suspect.

When the heat was up, the IM moved to Darbhanga in Bihar, and under Yasin Bhatkal a strong base was set up. This in fact became the second strongest module of the IM. With the modules moving away from to Darabhanga and Pune, Azamgarh gradually began losing its terror tag.

In 2015, the terror tag briefly returned with the intelligence suspecting that three youth from this place had joined the Islamic State. While there was a great deal of suspicion, no confirmation could be found on the whereabouts of these persons.

The people began to gradually move on with their lives and felt that the worst had come to an end. However the conviction of Akthar has once again become a talking point and the residents now feel that they will have to live forever with the terror tag.

The residents have often complained that the leaders could have done more for Azamgarh. Had the focus been on development, then the youth would have had more jobs and Azamgarh would have not been known for its terror tag residents say. Those in the security establishment say that the terror tag is media created. There are several bad apples here, but it would be unfair to give the entire place a terror tag, a senior officer in the Intelligence Bureau said.

Key facts about Azamgarh:

Azamgarh goes to polls in the sixth phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Azamgarh is constituency number 347 in the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly. It is situated in Azamgarh district and comes under the Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituency.

Azamgarh has a total of 3,41,273 registered voters. It comprises 1,89,034 male and 1,52,220 female registered voters. In the 2012 assembly elections, the SP won this constituency by a margin of 31,441 votes. Durga Prasad Yadav, the winning SP candidate, got 93,629 votes.

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