Malegaon 2006: bail or acquittal do not write off the crimes

Human intelligence is most resourceful as well as helpful in solving the mystery of a crime. In the case of Malegaon 2006 it was preposterous to accept the police charge sheet that Muslims would use the pious occasion of Shab-e-Barat and kill fellow Muslims in order to create a Hindu-Muslim riot. The night of the festival, according to Muslim belief, is the occasion when their life is judged and future is shaped for them as well as their dead are forgiven their sins. All this hinges on their prayerfulness. So the question does not arise of causing terror.

Compare this with the carnage at Hashimpura, Meerut, on a similar night on May 22, 1987 when Provincial Armed Constabulary had killed 42 Muslim youths point blank and let their bodies flow down the river.

Writing on Malegaon has been extremely delicate and dangerous. There are cases of adultery, homosexuality, rackets, illegal activities of police informants, in which politicians, policemen (by no means all) and their informers are involved. There was a typical case reported by The Milli Gazette (1-15 May 2008): “April 2008. The Malegaon police raided a pathological laboratory situated in the basement of a private hospital and recovered five live RDX explosives, three used RDX explosives, one pistol, a laptop, a scanner, two mobile phones, four fake currency notes of Rs one thousand each and Rs 5000 in cash and arrested three persons, viz., Nitish Ashire, Sahebrao Dhurve and Jitendra Khema belonging to some unknown organization.” The case made headlines for several days in Marathi newspapers like Lokmat and then the matter simply disappeared from the paper and also the minds of the people. Students Islamic Movement of India has been so much etched in the minds that people do not bother about the ‘unknown organizations’ to which the three belonged.

However, there is a very serious angle to this. Were the three used RDX explosives remains of the three bombs that went off at the graveyard on September 8, 2006? And, was the bomb that went off at Bhiku chowk on September 29, 2008 from the five live ones seized? In the absence of the resolution of the case of seizure it would be logical to ask what happened to the arms cache.

The police had also seized arms and ammunition from Malegaon in the second week of May, 2006 and some of the accused were also arrested in the bomb explosions three months later. The police allegedly recorded statements on the phone in which one who planted the bomb speaks of the difficulty in bringing ‘material’ into the town. Was this a reference to the RDX seized? In another failed attempt to record a phone conversation, a witness Hamid Iqbal is asked to issue ominous threats that betraying Muslims would result in bloody revenge. Was this made out to be a threat of a terrorist group? Un/fortunately, Hamid Iqbal refused to oblige the police or their informer. He wrote all this in an affidavit submitted to the court. Today, September 13, 2011 I ran across him on his way to meet National Investigation Agency (NIA). He had the same clear determination that he would depose the same truth to the officer.

Another instance of human intelligence is that of the retired teacher Sadique Ansari whom the police had especially taken to Nasik from Malegaon to depose before the chief of CBI Kandasamy. He had said that he had heard a colleague in the Home Guard making frequent calls on his two mobiles to Nagpur. One of them has the number 9422253996. He was retailing information of the explosions. His house is in Satana naka where Tulsi lodge is located, a place where the alleged terrorists may have stayed. When NIA officer Pradeep Mani called me to discuss some points I argued with him that if the bombers had bought cycles from Pangrapole shopping complex then it would be in the fitness of things that they started from the west at Satana naka and came to the shopping complex and then went straight to Super market near Juna Faran hospital and turned into Ghalib road that first reaches the Mushawarat chowk and leads to the adjoining graveyard. One of the cycles was assembled by quarter to one by one employee Iqbal who gave a trial by riding to the post office a couple of shops to the south. It was past 12. 45 mid day, that is, less than 40 minutes before the explosions. Then the buyer rode it towards the Shivaji statue and disappeared. It would be unimaginable for him to ride all the way to the workshop of Shabbir Masiullah and have the bombs fitted and then return to the graveyard area.

Afterwards the investigation agencies and the Home Minister Chidamrbrum claimed that they had got the addresses where the bombers had stayed. This is another example of absence of human intelligence and the trial turning cold.

Even so having said all this, is not to say that guilt has been proved. The named persons, Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi, or organizations, like Abhinav Bharat, have every right to enjoy the benefit of doubt.  They can also be innocent unless proved guilty. Earlier this day NDTV reported that the agencies have given a clean chit to the 9 Muslims accused and under detention for the past five years. How wonderful it would have been if the agencies had done an honest job much earlier or do the same in the case of the newly alleged right wing extremists, from outside and within the town!

Today also saw a meeting of the brother of one of the nine accused with Gangurde, Shaikh Rafiq and Ghatkoper crime branch officer Rathor.

The brother asked havaldar Shaikh Rafiq who had taken away the accused assuring the scared family that he would return with the accused within fifteen minutes. The brother asked the havaldar why he has taken away five years of his brother’s life! There was no answer.

Sometime back I accompanied Sanjoy Majumdar, correspondent of the BBC, to the house of that accused there was his woebegone wife. Grief had aged her and changed the contours of her face. She had spent just a month with him after their marriage and then her husband was snatched away. Destiny had played such a cruel joke. What for? There was no answer.

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

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