“Let 99 Muslims be hanged to death rather than a Hindu be accused of terrorism”

There is logic of sorts among the Hindutva votaries for their goal of the Hindu Nation. The accused in 2008 attack in Malegaon had their conspiracy meeting recorded by Lt Col Prasad Purohit and Sudhakar Dwedi aka Dyanand Pandey on their laptops. Hemant Karkare and his team collected evidence from these laptops to prove their complicity in many terror crimes. In one such audio tape they discuss how to proceed with their goal. Their ultimate aim is the Hindu Rashtra, “to achieve that [there are] two options. Option 1: we wait till we achieve -- we don’t do anything; Second: till we achieve the Government in Exile. .. we work within the system.” Major (retired) Ramesh Upadhya then elaborated that they have the advantage of the BJP as it has the hidden agenda of the same, Hindu Rashtra, camouflaged as “cultural nationalism.” At this juncture in the meeting of the Abhinav Bharat, Lt Col Prasad intervenes to say that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has given the best principles to achieve the same. “No Hindu can be wrong. A Hindu is Hindu. If he is a Hindu, he cannot be wrong ever.” They hearken back to Savarkar and Golwalkar that a fetus in the womb of a Hindu woman is predestined to be a Hindu and after birth grows into a Hindu.

Given this as base of Hindutva strategy,  Hindus cannot be terrorists but Muslims can. So an act of terror can be performed only by non-Hindus like Muslims. Even if there is involvement in terror, it is reaction of the Hindu but not a terror action because they are not terrorists.

This strategy works at the sectarian level but at the political level there is another strategy. The RSS is a cultural organization which can decide political matters because politics is also an aspect of culture according to their sophistry. Therefore, if a member of RSS commits an act of terror he cannot be a member but he is a sympathizer who becomes a former pracharak. The archetypal figure was Nathuram Godse. He never left RSS, asserted his brother and co-accused Gopal Godse in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, but LK Advani defended RSS saying that Godse had left the organization.

That archetypal pattern has been the standard ploy in all subsequent terror acts. On April 5, 2013 Dileep Kumar riding his motor bike was killed and his friend injured at Maruthayil near Mattannur in Kannur distirct of Kerala. He was identified as “AV Dileep Kumar,” 27, son of Ambiloth Sankaran, a worker of RSS. Such powerful was the explosion at the wee hour of 5.30 am that it not only destroyed the vehicle but badly damaged three buildings within a radius of 50 metres. The bomb squad,  Kannur Range IG Jose George and Kannur SP Rahul Nair visited the spot. A member of the bomb squad said Dileep was carrying 3 kg explosives. The leader of the RSS Valsan Thillenkeri remarked that Dileep was a sympathizer and not a member. The point to ponder in the reports is that it begins calling Dileep as RSS worker and ends with the claim that he was member of a family of traditional firecracker-makers and he was returning from a temple after prayer.

Thus no sooner does an act of terror take place than the police and the media whittle down the gravity of the crime because the person involved is a Hindu. This has happened in the Nanded blasts of 6 April, 2006 and again in Nanded February 2007. First, they said it was an accident, and then they said it was firecrackers in the first incident and in the second a short circuit in a biscuit factory. In both the incidents, Bajrang Dal, RSS and Shiv Sena activists were killed because the bombs blew up accidentally. In the case of Dwender Gupta, he not only was a pracharak who got the bomb assembled in the RSS office in Mithijam, Jamtara (Jharkhand), but he also lived in the same office. When caught, the RSS said he was no more a pracharak.

On the other hand, even if an innocent Muslim is killed he is glossed over as a “terrorist” or a member of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). On 26 March, 2012 the police in Aurangabad killed Azhar Quershi as he was a “terrorist” and a member of SIMI in the eyes of ATS (Inquilab, 30 March, 2012). They identified him as Khalil Qureshi, a member of a “dreaded terrorist” outfit called “Mal-e-Ghanimat” of the Fazal group of now-defunct SIMI at Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. Their professed aim was to loot “kafirs.” The police said that the group justified their acts as sanctioned in Islam. This flies in the face of reason because Islam does not have any such injunction. There has never been any such group and if their aim was only looting, they must be bandits or dacoits. Madhya Pradesh abounds in these characters. A bandit is a bandit. Phoolan Devi was just Phoolan Devi.

A bandit would not enter a house and first check whether the inmates read Quran or Gita. The ATS seems to be doing that. It did so well in Malegaon 2006. But in Aurangabad, they chose to go through some more macabre farce. First, the ATS called Azhar Qureshi as Khalil Qureshi. But the MP police denied that the killed person was Khalil Qureshi whom they wanted for terrorist acts. Next the ATS took a somersault and began to say that the dead was Khalik Khilji. Again the MP police gave away the lie when it published the photo of Khalil Khilji which was quite different from Azhar Qureshi’s. Now the ATS had a third act in the dark comedy. One of the two injured in the encounter was Shakeel Ahmad who was wanted for the murder of a BJP leader in UP. The second injured person, according to ATS, was Mohammad Shakir. They said that Mohammad Shakir had an alias and it was Mohammad Shakir alias Khalil and hence he was Khalik Khilji.

The father of Azhar Qureshi went to Aurangabad and saw the dead body of his son. He told mediapersons that his son was SSC pass and had done a course in computer. As Azhar was selling chocolates, biscuits and peppermints and wanted a job for his future, he travelled to Aurangabad after he saw an ad in a newspaper. His father Mohammad Wakil Qureshi says that his son had no record of any criminal behavior in any police station of MP.

In the encounter, Azhar was killed but the head of the group Abrar alias Asif alias Baba Khan was arrested. Till his arrest, there was no charge against him and then suddenly the ATS charged him for 35 offenses (Inquilab November 26, 2012).

Abrar was made an accused in the 2008 Ahmadabad serial bomb blasts and Khalil Qureshi was shown as his accomplice. Therefore, the question arose: how to frame them and to which group they should be put in. The Commissioner of Police Ahmadabad PC Pande had a very automatic answer because framing is the object irrespective of the bona fides of the accused as they are invariably only “Muslims” to the Police. (This would remind you of the senior police officer in Dhule who said during the 2008 riots all the masterminds are generally Muslims. Pande smirked as he said, “You remove S and I from SIMI and it becomes IM, that’s all.”  This is a very cogent and eloquent illustration of what journalist Mathiur Rehman Siddiqui calls “institutional bias” against the Muslims in the police force.

The Khandwa police had accused Abrar and others as members of SIMI. This organisation became defunct after the ban in September 2001. How to give a bad name to a dog is that easy as Pande says.

As the judge of the tribunal (inquiring whether the ban on SIMI should be continued) Geeta Mittal said in 2008 that there was not a single incident presented to her to show that SIMI was involved in terror and, therefore, the ban should be withdrawn. In contrast to this, Bajrang Dal members killed and wounded in the Nanded blast Naresh Rajkondwar and Himanshu Panse, Maroti Keshav Wagh, Yogesh Deshpande (alias Vidulkar), Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar and Rahul Manohar Pande, were also behind the blasts in  mosques of Marathwada towns like the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November 2003), the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and the Merajul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August 2004). But Bajrang Dal till today has not been banned. The police did not bother to go after them and arrest or kill them as they did in the Himayat Bag encounter where they killed Azhar Qureshi.

In the investigations of terror crimes we cannot afford to dismiss “what is in a name” approach as adopted by PC Pande. There is much in a name. In the Thane-Panvel-Vashi blasts of 2008, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Dharmakranti Sena, Sanatan Sanstha and Guru Kripa Pratisthan were suspected of involvement. But the police did not stage any encounter like that of Himayat Bag in Aurangabad. The government also continues to dilly-dally in banning Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanatan Sanstha publishes its mouthpiece “Sanatan Prabhat,” a daily newspaper, from Khandwa where the so-called terror module “Mal-e-Ghanimat” of the Fazal group is claimed to be based. It is pertinent to note that the Madhya Pradesh police did not bring under its scanner the Sanatan Sanstha contrary to what Karkare did in inquiring Thane-Panvel-Vashi blasts. There are several staggered stages of prevention of Hindus being named or caught in terror acts.

(1) The initial automatic response is blaming Muslims. In the latest attack in Bangalore of April 17, 2013, within less than half an hour the media (Zee News) said that Indian Mujahideen was behind it. Then they churned out that Abdul Nasser Maudani supporters were behind it. Next, they said it was IM and they had targetted Chinaswamy stadium and not the BJP office. All this was propagated through the news coverage and the guilty were fixed. But something what was of significance was not highlighted. It was the first vehicle-borne bomb attack in India. That was overshadowed by blaming Muslims behind the attack. The disclosure of the ground-breaking and innovative use of a bomb embedded in the motorcycle chassis itself by any group signals a step-up effort at greater mass atrocities without being caught or identified. So it begs the question: who was behind the attack? In the Boston Marathon attack on Monday 15 April, 2013, the Americans did not mention either Al Qaeda or any Jihad group. They did well even by not considering Sunil Tripathy who was still missing. They did not call him absconding. Nor did they go to the other extreme saying that the Hindus were behind the blast. From the video and other sources, they went after the two brothers Tamerlain and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The motive of revenge is so vaunted in India. In the Boston attack it is skewed. The US helped Chechens more than any other country except Saudi Arabia.

(2) Another way of preventing the true identity of the bomber is fudging the evidence. In 11/26 Mumbai attacks, the only person, Anita, a fisherwoman, who saw the ten Pakistanis land at Cuff Parade, was whisked away by the FBI to America but her testimony was relegated to the limbo in India itself. It was also the case of the Marathi-speaking gun-wielding terrorists in the hospital near VT/CST during the 11/26 Mumbai attacks.

(3) Getting a vital witness killed right in police custody is crucial. Such a murder can only be extra-judicial killing with a purpose. The police fear that a fuller inquiry of the accused and what he knows could be disastrous. On the other hand, other members of the group can kill one of them outside the prison. Sunil Joshi is an example of this latter scenario while Qateel Siddiqui and Nagaraj Jambagi of Bajrang Dal killed by his fellow prisoners in the Hubli court room attack of May 10 2008, offer an example of the former. Safdar Nagori was to be presented in the court. Jambagi was also a bandit who wanted to spill the beans.

(4) Eclipsing the potential bomber as insane or recluse is another plot. In Malegon on 13 September, 2006 the Additional Superintendent of Police Rajwardhan had shielded and then allowed a Hindu to run away after he was alleged to have planted a live bomb at the window of a tailor’s shop in the Mohammadiya shopping complex. The cop said he was mental. Dyanand Bhaurao Patil, who was carrying the bombs in Pune at Jangli Maharaj Road, was pronounced a “recluse” so much so that his neighbours did not even know his name and yet he was commuting to Pune daily and working in his own tailor shop.

On 1 August, 2012, four bomb blasts shook the area in Jangli Mahraj Road and around in Pune. In the first blast at Balgandharve Rangbhavan, Patil was injured when the bomb he was carrying in a bag exploded. He claimed that he had picked the bag from the India Against Corruption pandal put up there for protesters. But the IAC volunteers present there denied that he picked it from there. People saw two other objects in the bag as he tried to run away from there. The Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad seized them later. A theatre artiste S Lokhande was on the spot and remarked: “We saw the injured man. He had cake splattered on his body. He suffered stomach injuries. He had an empty fuel can in one hand and the bag in the other. We are not completely sure... it was either cake or pastry or some sticky substance. The man was also not sure what it was…He told us he picked up the bag containing cake in a box from near the IAC pandal.” Another artiste R Punekar with his fellow artistes stopped Patil who was leaving the place although he was injured in the face and in stomach and blood was oozing. Nobody had seen him pick the bag or pinch it.

The police searching his house in Uruli Kanchan found his passport that showed he had visited Middle Eastern countries like Jordan. Sanjivkumar Singhal, joint commissioner of Pune police, refused to give details of Patil’s interrogation. Patil was isolated from other patients in Sassoon Hospital and tight security was maintained. The police took two days to question his wife Satykala and then released her. His wife wailed: “I don’t know why he picked up that bag. I will ask him but they (Police) are not allowing me to speak to him or see him once... He’s been injured in the blast. He is a victim and we are very poor. The government should give us help instead of detaining and interrogating us.” She also claimed, “They also seized my mobile and haven’t returned it yet. They were not rude to me.”

However, the stage manager of Balgandharve Shaikh Rashid had a different story: “He panicked when we asked him what had happened. He had a bag, an empty plastic can and another plastic bag that had exploded. As he could not explain anything, we asked him if he had stolen that plastic bag to which he told us that he had lifted the bag by mistake.”

(5) If a Muslim comes to know the Hindutva extremist planting bombs, he risks elimination. Azhar Pervez had seen Rajendra Chowdhary planting the bomb in 2006 Malegaon attack and therefore Chowdhary got him murdered on 27 Septermber, 2006. The case of Qateel Siddiqui is nuanced as he came to know that the ones who had planted the bomb at Dagduseth Halwai mandir were in jail with him. But he was blamed for what they had actually done and he knew more.

The murder of Qateel Siddiqui is also a grey case in the annals of how the police, jail authorities and investigation agencies are fighting terror. Two known gangsters, Sharad Mohol and his aide Alok Bhalerao, had murdered him on 8 June, 2012 in the top security Yerwada jail near Pune, Maharashtra. It had disturbed the Home Minister P Chidambrum so much that he paid a visit to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to show his concern over the matter.

After nearly five months came the disclosure in a newspaper box that “He (Qateel) had taunted the gangsters Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao about planting bombs at Pune’s Dagdusheth Halwai Temple on his release.” At the time of the murder, it was rife in the media that the duo were “nationalists”. This would make anyone from the right wing groups to believe that they were staunch Hindus and ultra nationalists. Such a description will also enhance the image that the cultural nationalists be they members of RSS or otherwise are in the mainstream nationalism. Hence, they are justified in their criminal deeds, nay, it is not even criminal but a duty.

What makes the whole episode doubtful is the fact that what/where the proof of Qateel having taunted them is. He was supposed to have known many serious matters relating to terrorism, anti-terror campaign and was a “security risk” from the point of view of the Police and IB. Those who were real terrorists or their protector would not let him out or be taken to Delhi for the fear that he was in the possession of such deadly truth. Finishing him off in the high security jail was much easier than facing music when he would come out with real facts.

Another disturbing aspect is the failure of Maharashtra police to thoroughly investigate how could the murder take place in a top security prison. Even more ominous is the timing. Qateel was about to be flown to Delhi as he was not found to be involved in any crimes except the ones which the police habitually frame Muslim youths in with a view to keep them behind bars. Was he going to expose very secretive matters in Delhi?

In the aftermath of this, the police have woven a web of obscurity by arresting three to have been “planning revenge” for Qateel’s daylight murder inside a jail. The three are said to have had two accomplices whose names, as often, have not been released for reasons best known to the police. The three arrested are Asad Khan, Imran Khan and Sayyad Feroz. The Maharashtra police is wont to include several Pakistanis or Kashmiris as “accused” in crimes who are shown  as absconding or having fled the country. This leaves the trail of a hot story cold. Even in the serial local trains blasts of 11 July, 2006 this mind-boggling phenomenon resurfaces. Added to these obscure and never-found are the ones who end up in prison like Qateel or are bumped off outside as Rizwan Baig.

For years on end it was difficult to investigate suspected members of the Hindutva outfits. Muslims had to pay and are still paying for this unwillingness of the police and IB to name any Hindus in terrorism. As the then Union Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai acknowledged on 9 December, 2009: “It took us a few years to convince the system that we need to look out, and we were able to finally lay our hands on the Colonel Purohit [of the Malegaon blasts] network.”

What is rueful is that the “few years” of Pillai have now been extended into a decade and there seems no end. More than 20 Muslims were arrested in the three bomb blast cases of 2003 in Mumbai. All except one, Muzammil son of Abdul Rahim of Malegaon, were discharged. He obscurely continues to languish in the dungeon for no reason but that he is a Muslim and innocent. Ten long years have passed on his incarceration and his youth is finished. The career of the only breadwinner of his family, a bright software engineer, was so easily smashed. Is there any hope for him? For whom he was made a scapegoat?

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2013 on page no. 7

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