On 30 January, a special NIA court awarded the death sentence to Gorakhnath Mandir attacker Ahmad Murtaza Abbasi. Chemical engineer Abbasi was detained for assaulting the UP Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) members posted at the Gorakhnath temple in April last year. The terrorist was captured following a brief chase.
The NIA and Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) completed the investigation of the case within nine months. According to Prashant Kumar, Additional Director General of police ADG (Law and Order), the accused was sentenced to death under Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code (waging, attempting to wage, or aiding in the waging of war against the Government of Bharat). In addition, the accused was sentenced to life in prison for assaulting police officers under Section 307 (murder attempt).
On 3 April 2022, Abbasi initiated an attack on Gorakhnath Mandir. Abbasi severely injured two PAC jawans and one police constable with a sharp weapon and created panic in the region. Videos of the incident showing the accused chasing security personnel with a sickle quickly went viral. When the horrible attack happened, many questioned why the police did not shoot the terrorist.
Incidentally, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is the head priest (Mahant) of Gorakhnath Mandir and has his accommodation inside the Mandir premises. At the time of the attack, CM Yogi was not in the temple. The incident occurred just a day before he was scheduled to visit the temple.
Later, Maulana Ilyasi informed the police that the suspect practiced black magic. Abbasi studied at the same Madarsa where Maulana Ilyasi taught. Abbasi, a citizen of Gorakhpur’s Civil Lines neighborhood, earned his chemical engineering degree from IIT Mumbai in 2015. He then worked for two well-known companies.
Before the attack, Abbasi had traveled to Lumbini in Nepal. After his capture, the UP ATS recovered several texts written in Urdu from among Abbasi’s possessions, ATM cards of different banks, and flight tickets from Delhi to Mumbai.
Abbasi’s interrogation revealed the suspect’s affiliation with the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) and that he had taken an oath to fight for IS. An American terrorist identified as Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who originally hails from Yemen, was his mentor. Abbasi was highly influenced by banned Islamic preacher Zakir Naik as well. Abbasi also gave money to the terrorist group’s supporters and sent lakhs of rupees to bank accounts linked to IS.
During his interrogation, Abbasi admitted that he was working on the jihadi app ‘Jarima’ at the request of Islamic terror organizations. The word Jarima means oppression in Arabic. Before developing this Arabic-language jihadi app, he used to communicate using the Pir2Pir app, which is widely used by Islamic radicals. He also intended to join direct ISIS operations in Syria and Iraq later.
Immediately after his arrest, the terrorist’s family claimed the usual victimhood. They declared that Abbasi struggled with mental health concerns in 2017 and sought medical attention from several specialists. These problems also caused tension in his marriage, which led to their divorce. All these assertions were refuted by police and doctors who treated him after the vicious attack.
The ruling may now be challenged in higher courts by Abbasi. In Bharat, the use of the death sentence is limited to “rarest of rare” crimes that disturb public morale. In the twenty-first century, we have only used it eight times.
Soon after the incident, the UP Home department termed the attack an ‘act of terror’ that brave PAC and police personnel foiled. The UP government announced a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each for the two PAC jawans and one police constable injured by the accused. CM Yogi visited his temple to take stock of the security arrangements and ordered a special team to investigate.