April 29, 2018

India: Mecca Masjid blast - is there a pattern to 'Hindu terror' acquittals or has justice prevailed? (Apr 16, 2018, The Print)

I remember I was among the first to reach the scene after the blast in May 2007. The police picked up and took into custody nearly one hundred young Muslims. In many cases, the families were not even aware till much later where the youth were being kept and questioned. It was as though the investigators were hoping that questioning so many would yield them some leads. There were allegations of torture, of people being coerced to give confessions. Subsequently, they were booked, not for the Mecca Masjid blast case but in several other random cases of conspiracy or watching videotapes of Gujarat with the alleged intention of creating trouble.Then came Aseemanand's confession in a very dramatic turn of events. Tales of how he had met Abdul Kaleem inside jail did the rounds. Kaleem had been allegedly picked up for a crime he did not commit. Aseemanand is said to have had a change of heart and confessed. That too was later retracted. The idea of 'Hindu terrorism' surfaced at that point. In the course of a botched-up investigation, witnesses turned hostile and now 11 years later, all the accused have been acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Not only do the people not have any closure about who bombed the Masjid, they will lose faith in the entire justice system because of a possibly shoddy investigation and inability to collect material evidence. It calls to question the way the investigation was conducted and the trial proceeded. To say now that there is nothing called 'Hindu terror' is to send out a message that terrorists in India come from only one community. This is a massive setback for the premier terrorism investigation agency in the country, the NIA. It puts a question mark on the quality and integrity of the agency.