ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Systemic Flaw?

Anti-terrorism investigations must not be communally biased.

The discharge of the eight accused in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts by the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court recently, exposes and reaffirms the ingrained prejudice against Muslims among our law enforcement and investigative agencies. It also shows that despite dealing with a large number of acts of terrorism, these agencies neither generate confidence nor exhibit professionalism in their investigations. The trajectory of this particular case—there are others along similar lines—contains many unique twists, all of them bordering on the farcical. However, there is nothing absurd about the human costs that these twists have demanded from their victims. The nine accused (one of them died last year) spent five years in prison burdened with the tag of “terrorists,” and their families faced financial and social ruin, not to mention the years of anxiety and sense of betrayal no citizen should be forced to endure in a democracy, solely due to his religion.

The facts of the case are popular knowledge thanks to the widespread media coverage. Nonetheless, the fact that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) went ahead and arrested nine Muslim men for blasts that took place in a Muslim cemetery, adjacent to a mosque, after the Friday prayers and which claimed a majority of Muslim lives and injured mainly Muslims, is notable. Malegaon in Nashik District is known for its power loom and PVC pipe manufacturing industries and nearly 78% of its population is Muslim. In 2011, the National Investigative Agency (NIA) arrested four Hindus for the blasts and told the court it had no evidence against the nine original accused. Meanwhile, Swami Aseemanand, an accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts “confessed” that a Hindu right-wing body was responsible for the Malegaon blasts (the Muslim youth arrested for this blast too were released due to lack of evidence and alleged that they had been tortured in prison). He later retracted his statement. All the nine were granted bail in 2012 and the NIA continued to pursue the case against its second set of suspects. Later the NIA suddenly opposed their discharge.

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