On May 18, 2007 a bomb ripped through the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, with eight persons killed on the spot. Five died in clashes soon after in police firing.In the first instance at least a 100 Muslim youth are rounded up by the police as the prime suspects, in completely mindless action prompted by the suspicions that the state and its agencies harboured against the minorities since, and before, that time.
Most of the 100 were taken in, tortured, beaten before being released. Several of them spoke to this writer in Hyderabad at the time of the days in police custody with a few fortunate enough to be released after just verbal and “light physical” abuse, but most being detained for days ranging from five to longer. This period left them pale shadows of their former selves, with the torture taking the form of continuous beating on the soles of the feet (in several cases these were separated almost from the foot), electric shocks, rollers over the legs, and other forms of torture that the police excels in but is too foul to be gone into here.
But again the majority were fortunate enough to be out after a week of this torture, with 38 Muslim youth then identified by the Hyderabad police as the prime accused in the planning and execution of the blast. The case was first registered at the Hussaini Alam police station.
A month after the blasts, that is in June the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The 38 were incarcerated for varying periods of time, that for each was a lifetime. After the torture they found some relief in jail, but during the intervening period the lives of their very poor families were ruined. Shunned in their neighbourhoods many had to leave their one room tenements altogether, others went from poverty to penury during the period, and in a few cases close relatives died unable to take the shock. (This writer had documented several cases at the time).
The young men were eventually released with their lawyer Shafeeq Mahajir told The Citizen that he has been fighting for compensation that has still not been given except for a paltry Rs 20,000 or some such amount awarded earlier. Most of them were unable to find employment again after their jail sentence, regardless of the acquittal.
By 2007 December the investigators had started getting the whiff of a larger conspiracy in which the youth arrested had played no part. A RSS functionary Sunil Joshi who had by them emerged as a key accused was shot dead by unknown persons in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. There were contradictory findings in his murder, and hence this case was never solved.
Another key witness Ramprasad Kaloda went missing and his body was found near the railway track in Baloda Takoon village in Indore on June 24, 2008. The investigators at that time were in possession of evidence that Joshi was the key organiser, and had procured the explosives for both the Mecca Masjid and Ahmer Sharif, Samjhauta, Malegaon blasts from Kaloda. Kaloda’s death too did not yield results, with the case being dismissed as one of financial dispute.
Two others then went missing. The investigators had put together missing pieces to identify the gang of four from Malwa district, including the two above who died. The missing me—Sandeep Dange and Ram Chandra Kalsangra disappeared–and were finally declared ‘absconding.’
The CBI following these cases finally decided it had sufficient evidence to nab Swami Aseemanand for the Mecca Masjid blasts. This was in November 2010, three years after the blasts. RSS leader Indresh Kumar was also questioned by the CBI at the time. The trial continued with the NIA in charge, and representing the government. Both the CBI and the NIA filed chargesheets in 2011 against ten members of the Abhinav Bharat, with the list including Nabakumar Sirkar alias Swami Aseemanand; Devender Gupta; Lokesh Sharma alias Ajay Tiwari, Lakshman Das Maharaj, Mohanlal Rateshwar and Rajender Chowdhary. Dange and Kalsangra still remain ‘absconding.’
The BJP government came to power in 2014. On March 23, 2017 Aseemanand is granted bail. This despite the fact that he had earlier given a signed declaration that he and several members of the Abhinav Bharat had conspired to execute the Mecca Masjid attack. In February 2018 another high profile accused Lt Col Shrikant Purohit turned hostile. And in two months, April 16, 2018 all the accused are acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence.
Within hours the judge who rendered the ruling Ravinder Reddy MSJ resigns citing ‘personal reasons.’
As advocate Mahajir said, “primarily the court would examine the calibre and integrity of the evidence. And it is easily possible for an investigating agency or individual officer that the evidence is not presented with the same commitment as often seen in the manner in which terror cases, be it Naxalites or Muslims, is handled.”
He said that such efforts are to rob the marginalised of the confidence and the security that justice will be done. And is calibrated to demoralise them to a point where they decide not to take any action, in either the present or future instances, and thereby come under easy control. That there is no point in even trying to seek justice, as that will be a tough path with no results.
Interestingly the Muslim youth who had been acquitted at the first instance are not of the hook. They remain on the police list despite the acquittal and are rounded up on every possible sensitive occasion and taken to the police station. Many had been required for years to present themselves for regular screenings at the local police stations and as several told The Citizen at the time, “we cannot even get a job, but even if we do we cannot keep the job because we have to appear at the thanas. And that takes a full day as they keep us waiting.”
If this is not a travesty of justice, then what is? #KhabarLive