Human Rights

Mumbai 13/7: can we take CBI’s words for granted?

Caution is the need of the hour as a gruesome tragedy has again raised its ugly spectre in the murder and mayhem in Mumbai. Again the façade is there: the 24th birthday of Ajmal Kasab, and the proximity to the fifth anniversary of 7/11 or July 11, 2006 attacks on the local trains, the scheduled meeting of the Indian and Pakistan foreign officials on July 27. And what has not been added to the list is that Hindu festivals are coming up soon and therefore the likelihood of attacks.

This is the rut through which the investigation agencies under the parentage of Intelligence Bureau have moved so far. But a cautioned nation and enlightened citizenry should make a check.

A fortnight before the “attack” on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS headquarters at Nagpur the director of Intelligence Bureau EML Narsimhan had gone to meet RSS chief SK Sudarshan in Dombivili, Mumbai, to warn him of an imminent attack of Lashkare Toyba on RSS headquarters. And the “attack” came. The police had fired 63 rounds of bullets on the attackers and the remaining 37 bullets were fired by the so called terrorists. However a fact finding commission under Justice Kolse Patil visited the site and found that the terrorists could not have fired any bullet as there was no trace of it on the walls, roads or the other surrounding places. Of course IB patted its back for having prevented a Hindu Muslim riot and the central government heaved a sigh of relief. After all its National Security Advisor MK Narayanan had dispatched Narsimhan on the mission. This he had done on the basis of the confession of  Firoz Ghanswala of Bharuch and Mohammed Chippa of Ahemdabad who were arrested by the Delhi police on terrorism charges on May 9. The government had enhanced the personal security of the RSS boss as well as the headquarters. Will a terrorist group still go ahead after this kind of preparedness of the government?

Given this kind of scenario, it would rather look like an orchestrated attack mounted by the intelligence/security agency itself. Is there any need to heave a sigh of relief after 13/7? The nation has earlier heaved such sighs of relief after Malegaon 2006 as well as attacks on Akshardham, and other temples and mosques. On the heels of it, and to bank on public paranoia, comes the incredible report “Terror threat to Bhakra Nangal dam, reveals IB report” (Times of India, July 16, 2011).  

Even before the rains wash away the blood in Zaveri bazaar, Opera House and Dadar Kabuterkhana the IB was ready with its facile conclusion that the Indian Mujahideen and the ISI were behind the attacks. The Sakaal Marathi newspaper headlined “On Kasab’s birthday, attack on Mumbai” (Kasabcheya vadhdivishi Mumbaiwar hamla). Two operatives of terror of that outfit were recently arrested and, therefore, the attack. So what is a logical inference, Kasab’s birthday or the arrest of the LeT operatives? Another explanation is that 13 and 27 July are “chosen days” of the operatives (Times of India, July 14). In tandem is the reaction. LK Advani visited the site (remember he never visited Malegaon or any mosque targeted by Hindutva groups) and called for the destruction of the terrorist network in Pakistan. After the December 2001 attack on Parliament he had visited the site and remarked that the terrorists looked like Pakistanis. How could he know the Hindutva terrorists like Sunil Joshi who wore saffron dress like his female counterpart, Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur  and who turned out to be the  terrorists? Of course some people joked that he was born in Pakistan and should know how the Pakistanis looked. Said Bal Thackeray: now instead of relying on the government for security, the people should defend themselves, when they see the extremists they should kill them with whatever weapon they can lay their hands on (aata jantene sarkarwar visambun na rahtaa swata che rakshan karawe, ateereki disle ki, hatat meedel tya shashastra ne teyana khatam krawe.) This well hearsed knee-jerk reaction of Thackeray really calls for a rap on the knuckles even when he is inciting mob violence and is directly calling for lynching.

We should thank IB for both, the way, ready made explanation is given and the reactions based on it. Resurrecting the dead is one way of handling an explosive situation so the IB and its support groups and individuals will bring back the genii of Ilyas Kashmiri. He is said to be alive and kicking in the tribal areas in the north west of Pakistan. Whether the people there like India and have no enmity is another matter. The IB had followed the same after Mecca mosque attack by recreating Shahid Bilal. He was supposed to have been killed in Karachi.   There is another figure called Danish Riyaz . But he is already in a jail in Ahemdabad. As they are fond of many aliases it is left to the discretion of the agencies to supply them to suit the occasion. One “Bhatkal’s” mother even repeatedly objected that her son is not “Bhatkal” but the name is used habitually as the errors that appear in the list of the most wanted fugitive criminals who have sought sanctuary elsewhere or are languishing in the prisons of India, nay riding their motorbikes in Mumbai streets under the nose of the police. The two Bhatkals who are regularly brought back to life are Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal.

They have fled to Pakistan. Yet in all recent bomb attacks like Pune German bakery attack and now 13/7 the hunt for them has restarted. They are far from Mumbai or Pune so why do the agencies resurrect them? In doing so, they seem to be burying deeper into oblivion the most distinguished Hindutva terrorists and RSS pracharaks, Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange.  There is no Red Corner notice given out to Interpol or any agencies of any state or country for them.

They are at large and yet the nine accused in Malegaon 2006 case are left to the dark dungeon to begin their fifth year in prison. There are three fugitives in the case; one of them was Arsalan who according to the nine was with them in prison. And yet he is not in jail. The CBI came to Malegaon recently before the NIA took over and made a heroic effort to trace the three. But did they ask the local police why and how Arsalan was in jail and got out and disappeared. Munawar was seen in a police van by the local corportator Ismail Mulla who gave an affidavit to that effect. What have the police done to him that CBI was earnestly asking him to surrender?

It would mean that like Azamgarh, Bhatkal  is also turning into a familiar hunting ground for the IB and going after the fugitives is a strategy for dilly dallying. On this fifth anniversary of Shab-e-barat in Malegaon as I was returning home from the market I passed the two blasts sites and saw huge barricades raised with lofty watch towers and wondered at the inanity of all this, calling for the halter when the horse has bolted! There was no such elaborate arrangement of security and check posts on that fateful day of September 8, 2006 when I had taken the same route. The police were absent from the site, the gate of the cemetery had the third bomb hung by it. Many were blown up there and others died in the stampede. Zahoor of the Sahara channel was ready with his Sony camera to make a feature programme of the holy day. The clipping clearly shows no police man around and yet the NIA claims that 16 police men were on duty there and were given shelter in a room fearing mob violence. On September 1st 2006 itself the Nasik control room received actionable intelligence that terrorist attack would take place within a short period. The ASP of Malegaon Mr. Kumbhare had informed the SP (Rural) Mr. Rajwardhan that there was imminent threat.

The ASP had gone to the trustees of Hamidiya mosque at the grave yard a day before the bomb blasts and apprised them of the danger. He mentioned that police would be deployed within and outside the graveyard and beggars would not be allowed within the vicinity of the mosque and the graveyard. Inspite of this, there were no police men in sight when the blasts occurred and many beggars were injured and killed within the premises of the mosque. Why were there no police men at the mosque?

In the present context of Zaveri bazaar and Opera House there were scores of CCTV lenses focused on the scenes and must throw light on the events. But Mumbai has plenty of examples in previous terrorist attacks of how the cameras were tampered with at CST and the Saki octroi junction on the periphery of the commercial capital of India. It is also incumbent on the people that they remain on their guard that such records are in safe hands so that the real culprits are caught and punished.

It was in this context that Digvijay Singh observed that no group should be excluded from scrutiny, including the Hindutva terrorists. The people of Malegaon had met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had assured them that investigation will not leave out any suspect organization from the purview of the inquiry. And, yet, on the fifth day of the blasts the police called 20 Hindus from Tilak road and nearby lanes teeming with yarn merchants and cloth merchants. Then they changed the course of investigation. Writing on it at that time I called it changing horses in mid stream. We still rue the day it happened and rue everyday that innocent people languish in prisons because of the false confession extracted from them by use of brutal force and third degree torture. How wonderful it would be if the police and investigators solve the case and focus on the present disaster which has the potential of becoming the first incident of a suicide bomber enmeshed in wire on his death at one of the sites. Mere denial of it does not cut any ice.

The intervention into the inquiry is more troublesome than anything else. MK Narayanan had intervened in the case of the Samjhauta express. IB in the case of  Malegaon. DGP of Maharashtra Dr Pasricsa had said that Bajrang Dal was involved in the September 8 attack. On the next day Punya Nagri carried an editorial and rejected this observation of the senior most cop. Interestingly this mainstream Marathi paper also carried a report on the front page that Jalgaon had a university of terror. This was ascribed to IB. As I have argued in my online book “Aggressive Hindutva terror and Malegaon” that “critical thinking” is absolutely necessary in trying to get at the truth. It would mean that critical analysis can completely change your views on terror. There is every chance that it could also alter your attitude as to who a is terrorist. It could turn out that you discover ‘the terrorist at your dinner table’. Another way of discovering ‘the heart of darkness’ within you.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2011 on page no. 11

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