Analysis

Anti-Muslim Bias Denies Them Fair Trial

Who is to be blamed for Indian Muslims being denied a fair trial and their being wrongly accused of being “terrorists”? Consider the irony of the situation, seven Muslims were released on bail earlier this month due to there being lack of evidence of their being responsible for Malegaon blasts of 2006. Please note, they were picked up by Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (MATS) within a few days after the said blast. They were released earlier this month, that too on bail, despite there being no substantial proof of being responsible for the 2006 Malegaon blasts. They have managed to step out of prisons primarily because of the role played by certain secular activists and bail paid on their behalf by an organisation. Had secular Indians and organisations not pursued action, relentlessly questioning their arrests, they may have still been languishing in their prison cells.

 Compare so-called “judicial” action faced by these seven Muslims with that of those responsible for the Gujarat carnage of 2002. The majority of rioters responsible for having incited mob frenzy and targeting Muslims have yet to face any punishment. A significant number of these may not ever be summoned by any court to explain their communal conduct in Gujarat (2002). Despite their having brutally targeted Muslims during Gujarat-carnage, they may never face any sentence.

 Against this backdrop, what does sentence received recently by 31 people for rioting in Sadarpura village, Gujarat, in which 33 Muslims were burnt alive suggest? The Indian system has taken almost a decade in holding 31 as responsible for rioting in Sadarpura. Besides, seven years passed by before charges were framed in 2009 against 73 accused for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and arson, following which 21 persons were arrested.

 Please compare the case of a blast with that of a riot. Whenever there is a blast-incident, it is practically impossible to nab the guilty almost instantly. Elementarily speaking, in blast incidents, the criminals or terrorists responsible for these are least likely to be present at or near the site, unless suicide bombers are involved. In these circumstances, the investigating authorities are naturally expected to spend considerable time in studying the blasts before reaching any conclusion on who or which group is responsible for the same. In other words, the guilty party and/or persons cannot be nabbed almost soon after the blast-incidents. Yes, there have been cases of calls being made or emails sent, claiming that such and such group was responsible for certain blasts. But it would be foolish to accept such claims as genuine without investigating the same. The callers’ motives may simply be to misguide the investigating authorities. When there is a blast-case, there also remain strong possibilities of there remaining no clue as to who/what was responsible for the same. In fact, there remain strong chances of pursuing wrong presumptions, especially if these are guided by prejudiced notions.

 The situation is totally different in the case of a riot and/or a group of people targeting another. The guilty parties, primarily responsible for targeting another or being engaged in communal violence are present in person at the site of the incident itself. Sadarpura is one of numerous places in Gujarat where rioters were almost permitted to target Muslim communities at will. The state’s law and order system failed, perhaps deliberately refused, to stop rioters and check the violence. Here again, it may be noted, whenever peaceful demonstrations take place, the concerned authorities are vigilant enough to take them into custody, that is arrest them for a few hours, if they violate any legal provision. In Sadarpura, while rioters were guilty of targeting Muslims, the concerned authorities were “guilty” of not being vigilant enough to check the same and take the rioters immediately into custody.

The ironical complexity highlighted by comparing the “judicial process” speaks loudly of bias displayed against Muslims in both the cases. In Malegaon, despite the possibility of reasonable evidence surfacing immediately against the guilty were extremely dim, it did not take long for several Muslims to be pushed behind bars as “terrorists.”   In contrast, despite there being little doubt about who were the persons engaged in targeting Muslims in Sardarpura, it has taken Indian system almost a decade in sentencing 31 of 73 accused while leaving the masterminds untouched. While 11 have been freed for lack of evidence, 31 got the benefit of doubt. Had Muslims in Sadarpura fallen victim to blasts, a delay in investigation leading to sentencing the guilty would have been understood. If blasts and not rioters were responsible for their deaths, owing to their own prejudiced bias, the concerned authorities would have probably immediately picked up a few Muslim youths and held them responsible for violence. And this apparently explains the nature of their functioning in Malegaon and elsewhere. The same attitude is responsible for Muslims being targeted in fake encounter cases, including the murder of college girl Ishrat Jahan and three of her friends seven years ago in Gujarat. It is time substantial and constructive attention was paid to removing the discriminatory bias held by certain keepers of law and order against Muslims!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2011 on page no. 14

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