Malegaon Blasts- Partisan approach and biased police
Asghar Ali Engineer
The Milli Gazette
Malegaon blasts took place on 8th September 2006 in which 37 people were killed and many more were injured. It was Friday and Shab-e-Barat, a holy festival of prayer for the dead. Thousands of people had gathered on that day to pray for their dead in the cemetery and for noon prayer in the mosque. It was when worshippers were coming out of the mosque that three bombs went off at short intervals causing death and destruction.
Unlike Mumbai train blasts the police showed hardly any enthusiasm for investigation. In Mumbai the Anti Terrorist Squad worked overtime and finally solved the case in one month. In case of Malegaon it appeared, as the police is hardly interested in catching the culprits. Most of the human rights activists and Muslim leaders from Malegaon felt that the bombs could have been planted by some extremist Hindu organisations like the Bajrang Dal.
The Malegaon Muslim leaders maintain that in Nanded in the month of April 2006, before Malegaon blasts, there was explosion in the house of a RSS activist Laxman Rajkondwar in which two persons were killed, one of whom was Laxman Rajkondwar’s son Naresh Rajkondwar. Also, in Ahmednagar, some bomb shells and 195 Kgm. RDX was caught from one Shankar Shelke’s shop on 16th September. The shop owner committed suicide next day. Then more than 300 Kgms. of ammonium nitrate, timers and fusers were caught from the house of a Sarpanch of a village few kms from Aurangabad.
Many activists and Muslim leaders urged upon the government and police authorities in Maharashtra to investigate the connection between Malegaon explosions and these incidents but the police and the ATS authorities turned deaf ear. The ATS and district police had prejudged the whole issue and was connecting these blasts to Mumbai train blasts and were looking for ISI connection.
There was no headway until recently when the police started arresting some labourers from Malegaon and then they arrested two Unani doctors alleging they have Pakistani connection. There is no doubt police is highly biased in investigating Malegaon bomb blasts and it has as if inbuilt bias against Muslims in investigation.
I visited Malegaon along with Nandini Chavan of our Centre to meet people and try to find out possible cause of the blasts and persons likely to be responsible. We met Hindu as well as Muslim leaders, Hindu as well as Muslim politicians and social activists and ordinary Muslims and Hindus on the street to assess their opinion as to who could be responsible for the bomb blasts in Malegaon.
We found that the city of Malegaon was completely polarised between Hindus and Muslims; all Hindus maintaining that some Muslims are responsible for the bomb blasts and all Muslims saying extremist Hindus have done it. However, both Hindus and Muslims said the perpetrators are not from Malegaon. It is job of some outsiders. They emphatically said that no one from Malegaon would do it. They all love Malegaon.
And ironically the ATS has arrested some young Muslim men from Malegoan only. They are allegedly ex-members of SIMI Somehow police has its fixation with SIMI and thinks all ex-members of SIMI are involved in bomb explosions. Those persons arrested are ordinary workers and two Unani doctors. All Muslims in Malegaon irrespective of their political and religious affiliations strongly refute police approach that it is handiwork of Nurul Huda, a worker in battery factory of Shabbir Batterywala.
Malegaon Muslim leaders also say that though so much RDX, ammonium nitrate and fusers, timers etc. were caught from some Hindu shops and houses, police is not prepared to look into this aspect and interrogate these persons in connection with Malegaon blasts. I met the S.P. Rural of Nashik district who is in charge of bomb blast investigation in Malegaon and had detailed discussion with him. It was quite clear that he also had same approach that it is work of some Muslims and there is no possibility of any Hindu being involved.
His logic was that Malegaon city is a Muslim majority area and no Hindu will dare do it in Muslim majority area. It was strange logic indeed. It is just Malegaon that is Muslim majority area, not even district. Along with rural areas it is Hindus who are in majority and then what about the district, state and country? He also argued that if a Hindu had done it he would have tried to inflict maximum loss of life and would have planted bomb at night when many more people gather.
But the time bombs went off on 8th September (1-30 P.M.) was also a peak time as thousands of Muslims go for prayer on Friday specially on Shab-e-Barat and if loud speakers had not stopped for few minutes, thousands of Muslims would have come out of the mosque and damage would have been much greater. There was no explanation for this. The Muslim leaders also told us that bombs were kept on two cycles, which were bought from a shop in Malegaon and buyers’ sketches were prepared by the police.
However, Muslim leaders say, police has made no efforts so far to arrest those two persons whose sketches were prepared and instead arrested Nurul Huda and others. What happened to those two persons who bought cycles? Who were they? Can the police jump to the final conclusion as to who the culprits are without first tracing those whose sketches were prepared? Police has no answer.
The Malegaon Muslims are very perturbed that why police is not interrogating extremist Hindus and why is it after some Muslims from Malegaon? Has the police completely written off the possibility of some extremist Hindus being involved? Mr.Rajwardhan, S.P. Police told us that he has interrogated some Hindus but he is not prepared to disclose their names? Why? When the police interrogates Muslims their names are publicised through the media. Nurul Huda was detained and his name was publicised in the media. But so far no Hindu who was interrogated or detained has come out in the media. Why keep these names under wrap?
We feel that no Muslim, much less from Malegaon itself, would keep bombs in a mosque that too on Friday and a holy festival. When I asked Shri Rajwardhan why should a Muslim keep bombs to kill Muslims on such a day of festivity, his reply was that they intended to cause Hindu-Muslim riot. Again if Hindu-Muslim riot takes place, it is Muslims who will heavily suffer as the past riots in Malegaon clearly show. Why then Muslims from Malegaon itself should do something to cause Hindu-Muslim riots? Perhaps he was suggesting that ISI of Pakistan was interested in inciting Hindu-Muslim riots.
This is hardly convincing. In case of Mumbai train explosions ISI involvement seemed quite possible and the police claims to have established ISI links in case of Mumbai blasts and it appears to be quite convincing. But to suggest this in case of Malegaon is absurd. Even the police has not claimed so far that there is any ISI link. It has only suggested SIMI connection so far. But it is beyond ones understanding as to why ex-SIMI members from Malegaon should cause death and destruction of their own people where they have to live for rest of their lives.
It is also beyond ones understanding that how can police investigate with such one-sided approach? Is it not the duty of police to investigate impartially without pre-judging the issue? Does police pursue only one line of investigation with such determination eliminating all other possibilities. It is totally unfair by any standard of police behaviour. Even Hindus in Malegaon, including the Shiv Sena leader Shri Bhuse maintained that no Muslim from Malegaon can do such a ghastly thing. Yet, the ATS and Malegaon police is pursuing such a course with single minded determination.
The Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh and the Congress Chief Smt. Sonia Gandhi have stated publicly that one community should not be targeted. In case of Mumbai blasts also the police had arrested many Muslims indiscriminately and there was unrest among Muslims in Mumbai also. It was only after repeated protests that the Police Commissioner of Mumbai wrote a letter to prominent Muslims in Mumbai that police is not after Muslims and that if any one is harassed by the police his attention should be drawn. This letter was also just a formal letter and there was hardly any sincerity behind it.
Even the Congress Government, complain Muslim leaders bitterly, seems to be totally indifferent to the woes of Malegaon Muslims and is doing nothing to assure them. The police theory of ex-SIMI members’ involvement seems to be unconvincing and it has so far failed to give cogent reasons for arresting these persons. All the evidence they have is traces of RDX in the soil from the Battery factory where Nurl Huda works. This is hardly convincing evidence. For the rest it relies on the statements given by the accused to the police in custody. These statements might have been extracted under duress and might be retracted in the court.
However, ATS Deputy Inspector General S.K. Jaiswal claimed, that the police were conducting the probe in a fair manner. He also said that “We will gain the faith of the community once we file the chargesheet.” In fact there is great need for police-Muslim dialogue to bridge the gap and police have to take initiative to gain confidence of the Muslims of Malegaon.
The Maharashtra police has not acquitted itself from the charge of one-sided investigation. It hardly did anything to book the culprits named in the Srikrishna Commission Report and closed many cases which now the Supreme Court has asked it to reopen. Not only this, the Congress Government which had promised that it would implement Srikrishna Commission Report within three months of coming to power but did not do anything and turned a blind eye to this demand. In Malegaon too it is hardly winning the confidence of the Muslim community. At the time of election it will make some symbolic gestures and try to woo them again. This approach will not work forever.
(Secular Perspective, November 16-30, 2006)