In a grotesque replay of every investigation that follows a bomb blast, prejudice, misinformation and media blitz rules the direction of Dilsukh Nagar bombings investigation too. The same suspects and shadowy organizations are being paraded as executors of the Hyderabad bombings.
But should we be surprised? A day after the Home Minister’s humiliating capitulation to the RSS-BJP, virtually giving them and their affiliates a clean chit, the message to the investigating agencies must have been crystal clear. When the Home Minister himself discards the bulk of allegations and material pointing to the existence of Hindutva groups in planning and executing terror attacks, should we really expect the investigating agencies, whose past record inspires hardly any confidence, to sincerely pursue all possible angles and leads? This, when Messrs Aseemanand and company are being tried for the 2007 bombing of the Mecca Masjid. By asserting that Hyderabad bombing may have been a reaction to the execution of Kasab and Afzal Guru, the Home Minister himself foreclosed any possibility of unbiased investigation.
Hyderabad Police: Can we trust them with the investigations?
The same Hyderabad Police which had, in the aftermath of the Mecca Masjid, raided Muslim mohallas, rounded up scores of young men, tortured them at private farmhouses, alleged to have recovered RDX, arms and ammunition, jihadi literature, incriminating cellphone records and laptops, as well records of journey to foreign countries for terror-training by these young men – all proven to be false now – have been entrusted with the investigation of the Dilsukh Nagar blasts. Have we already forgotten that the additional metropolitan Sessions Judges in throwing out the two related cases of Mecca Masjid blast found the police unable to produce any evidence except for the confessional statements of the accused – statements which had obviously been extracted under harsh and brutal torture, as attested by the Advocate Ravi Chander report.
And sure enough, the various SITs formed by the Hyderabad Police have knocked on the same doors. Mohammed Rayeesuddin, Mohammed Azmath, Arshed Khan, Abdul Raheem, and Abdul Kareem were detained for questioning, while Dr. Ibrahim Ali Junaid was hounded over the phone. Not only were the same people targeted once again, the methods were no improvement over 2007: the same surreptitious whisking away without information to relatives, reviving the horrors of 2007.
Why have the police officers, who indulged in and who supervised the frame-ups in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts, not been punished? Indeed, Hyderabad investigations demand that the policemen who deliberately tried to fabricate and derail a genuine probe the last time, be first punished. What is the guarantee that they will not influence the course of investigation of the recent twin blasts as well? Is there any reason for us to believe that they will not avenge the humiliation of their 2007 fiasco by harassing their victims, many of whom have filed a civil suit seeking damages for their illegal detention and torture?
The detentions of Rayeesuddin and others have in fact again confirmed our fears of collusion and complicity between the Andhra and Gujarat Police over encounter killings and communal witch-hunts. Rayeesuddin is key witness to the cold-blooded murder of Mujahid Salim Islahi by the Gujarat encounter specialist Narendra Amin – currently in jail for Sohrabuddin fake encounter, another instance of the ‘cooperation’ between the police of the two states – at the Lakdi ka pul police station in Hyderabad in 2004. While the Hyderabad Police has shown no inclination to pursue the case against Amin, not even once seeking his custody, there is reason to believe that the cases against Rayeesuddin are a way to intimidate him into withdrawing his witness in the case. In fact, many of the terror accusations against Muslim youth in Hyderabad relate to this incident in 2004.
In sum, the Hyderabad police has shown itself to be thoroughly communal and corrupt, and should not be entrusted with the investigations of the Dilsukhnagar blasts.
Media Trial: Return of the Stenographers
Lack of journalistic skills and ethics, a perverse sense of ‘national interest’, the mad rush for TRPs has produced a lethal cocktail of ‘breaking news’, each more pernicious than the other. If nothing else, one has to admire the media’s consistency: their refusal to learn from their past gaffes and their unrestrained urge to act as judge, jury and executioner. So what if they flash the photograph of the recently assassinated MQM leader Manzar Imam as one of the key accused? MQM-MIM-IM, all the same, as long as it’s a bearded face and a name that fits.
Confessions and Interrogation reports are being dramatized on prime time. Hawala transactions via Dubai, and dark conspiracies are being breathlessly screamed about, slowly coagulating a narrative of guilt. One could have dismissed these televised kangaroo courts as mere rantings, if only they did not play a role in keeping accused in custody for long periods. While in many cases, this media trial may not affect the eventual outcome of the trial; it is enough to pressure the courts into denying the accused bail repeatedly, and even the accused from moving bail applications. Just six months ago, Muti Ur Rehman, a reporter with Deccan Herald, was touted as “the face of modern violent Islamic extremism”. He was held up as an example of how “the profile of the various groups who come under the rubric of the ‘Indian Mujahideen’, can be from any segment of society.”
While the NIA has now failed to even file a charge sheet against Rehman and his two roommates, also falling in the educated Jihadi profile, the media’s unrelenting mastermind hype ensured that he spent close to six months in jail.
In other cases, we know, that such biased reporting can manufacture a ‘collective conscience’ that demands retribution even where guilt is not established beyond reasonable doubt. It is this power that the media gloats over, and in its crazed delirium, forgets that it is human lives they destroy by uncritically relaying the deliberate leaks by agencies as scoops and investigations. If appeals for restraint and previous mistakes breed no introspection, then perhaps large-scale defamation suits would be the only deterrence.
So grave is the situation now that that the Chief Justice was forced to admit recently that (media trial) “can prejudice against an accused in a case.”
What about Pune and Nashik modules?
As proof of IM’s existence, security experts and agencies have cited the emails that the organisation purportedly sent after every blast they executed. Though no emails were forthcoming this time, the BJP Chief of Andhra Pradesh, G. Krishan Reddy, received by post (not known whether it was speed post favoured by the Home Ministry) a letter from LeT, claiming responsibility for the blasts.
While the investigating agencies see an IM module in every Muslim concentrated town and a sleeper cell in every madrasa, they must explain why those organisations currently being tried for exploding bombs in the same city in 2007 are not even being mentioned as potential suspects. While forensic evidence is still being collected and analyzed – much of it destroyed by the media trampling all over the site – agencies through trusted mouthpieces are chanting about the discovery of trademark IM bombs. What is the basis of this claim? Media reports suggest that Dilsukh Nagar bomb was an IED, as indeed was in the Mecca masjid blast. In December last year, not many months ago, the NIA arrested Tej Ram, which it accuses of planting an IED at Mecca Masjid, the one that did not explode. His alleged partner Rajender Choudhary, whose IED did go off, has been in NIA’s custody for a while now. Given that Tej Ram was arrested only months ago, and given also that many of the key aides of Aseemanand and Purohit are still at large, why is there an absolute refusal to pursue that line of investigation?
Are we to forget the conversations between the retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay and the serving colonel in the Army, Purohit, which revealed not in their ability to procure explosives but also their international linkages and patronage? To quote:
Maj. (Retd.) Ramesh Upadhyay:“…for example what happened in Hyderabad Mosque or at other places was not done by anybody from ISI; it was done by our person. On the basis of my information, I can say that it was done by this particular person.[ …]
Lt. Col. Purohit:“…I have done two operations. They were successful Swamiji (Dayanand Pandey), I have the capacity to carry out operations. I have no dearth of equipment [explosives]. Once I decide I can procure the equipment…”
Lt. Col. Purohit: “…I am in contact with Israel. One of our captains has visited Israel. Very positive response from their side. They have said “You show us something on ground”. […] Secondly, they say they cannot support us in the international forum under the present circumstances for two years, till our movement does not gather some momentum. Political asylum any time; equipment and training once we show something on ground. I am trying to achieve that…”
What has happened to the full contents of the laptops recovered by the late Mr. Hemant Karkare? We fear that they may be destroyed to hide the names and details of Right wing terrorists. It is surprising that while one elite anti-terror agency has leaked the Interrogation Report of a suspect to the media, there has been a silencing and secreting of the contents of the two laptops.
The full contents of these laptops should be transcribed and placed in public domain with immediate effect. These transcripts are neither confessions, disclosures nor statements made in police custody – whose genuineness is vitiated by the fact that custodial confessions carry the threat of real or potential violence – these are recordings of their own conversations made by the men themselves under no duress or pressure.
And it might be in order to remember here too that Aseemanand’s ‘confession’ was not made in police custody either, but to the Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate under section 164 CrPC, after he was given two days to reflect upon his decision, as is required to ascertain the voluntary nature of the confession. Those commentators and TV anchors who push the virtuous line that terror has no religion whenever Hindutva terror is as much as mentioned, would do well to reflect on this civilized adherence to procedure against the horrors of torture endured by the young men of Hyderabad in 2007 whose private parts were electrocuted to extract confessions from them.
While NIA teams raid villages and towns in Bihar, and interrogate ‘IM terrorists’ anew, a man whose name has consistently appeared in Ajmer blast chargesheet, in Purohit’s interrogation and Aseemanand’s confession, remains free. No raids at the home or office of Indresh Kumar, national executive member and the sahprachar pramukh in the RSS, who is said to have been present at a secret meeting to plan the Ajmer Sharif bombing, held in a Gujarati guesthouse in Jaipur on October 31, 2005, in which six other functionaries of the RSS were also present; and who is named by Aseemanand to have financed the now conveniently murdered Sunil Joshi’s terror activities. Has a deal been struck to absolve Indresh of all allegations of involvement in terrorism?
Having just exorcised the ghosts of his Jaipur statement, the Home Minister would probably not want to be reminded of this: but the Nanded and Malegaon investigations pointed to arms trainings and camps at Bhonsale Military School in Nashik. But who dare raid Bhonsale Military School, set up by the ardent fascist B.S. Moonje, and at whose platinum jubilee celebrations almost exactly a year ago, Mohan Bhagwat was the main speaker? A madrasa in Hyderabad is easier to pull down and interrogation of a cleric – even one who has been in jail for a while – likely to fetch you more popularity. “Highly placed intelligence sources” are therefore letting it known through their friends in the media that they intend to question Abdul Nasir Madni, old, ailing and nearly blind.
What we are seeing is not simply a blatant and deep institutional prejudice playing out. It is as if our institutions are hell bent on ensuring that injustice is not only done, but also seen to be done. For all the inane and pious assertions of ‘Let’s not politicize terror’, in fact terrorism has been the subject of the most cynical political competition. Vulnerable targets are being picked on. Hindutva terror is being denied under pressure from the RSS BJP combine and a rabble-rousing media. None – neither the UPA which hoped to add muscle to its anti-terror image by hanging Kasab and Afzal; nor the BJP, the original tough guys, nor the hawks who froth at the mouth demanding blood on TV, are concerned with the fact that the mastermind of the biggest terror attack is safely secreted in the US, having cut a deal with the US agencies, will never be tried for his crimes in India. The continuous cries of Lashkar by various investigative agencies in the aftermath of the Hyderabad blasts should surely fuel the demand for David Headley’s extradition?
Only a genuine and unbiased probe will be a true homage to those who lost their lives in the utterly senseless violence of Dilsukh Nagar bombings. But sadly, that doesn’t appear likely.