Human Rights

Terrorism, Inefficient Investigations and Delayed Justice

By Anis Ahmad

India has long been facing the menace of terrorism, which at some point of time even threatened a full-fledged war. Punjab faced that situation for nearly a decade while Jammu & Kashmir is yet to overcome it. Maoist/Naxal terror is yet another big problem. While the problem, no doubt, is serious, rather grave, the question we ought to ask ourselves is: how serious are we in tackling this menace? Rather, are we at all serious about it? And, if we have indeed failed to tackle terrorism, what exactly is the reason and who exactly is to be blamed?   

At the outset the needle points at the investigating agencies. It has become a fashion to pick up some innocent Muslim youths after every terror attack and boast before the media about the successful "cracking" of the case. On its part, the loyal media also goes out of the way to prove how efficiently the investigators are doing their job! It's a different matter that more often than not these agencies are unable to prove the charges in courts against these innocent terrorists. Recently, two such “terrorists”, Faheem Ansari and Sabahuddin Shaikh, accused of being involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attack, were acquitted by the court. The honourable court accused the investigating agency of carrying out a shoddy investigation.  

Till the arrest of some Hindus in Rajasthan, the perpetrators of Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad, Malegaon and Ajmer Dargah blasts too were believed to be the handiwork of Muslims. This amply proves the line towed by the police and other investigating agencies: arrest Muslim youth, brand them as terrorists, torture them to get their confession and the case is solved. But, when the case comes to the stage of trial in front of a court bound by laws, such false charges fall flat, leaving these agencies red-faced.

The eagerness that the agencies showed in the case of Ansari and Shaikh, is an example of their fraud, incompetence and inefficiency. False information and weak evidence cannot escape judges' scrutiny. In the end the judge rightly noted that the charges against the two were frivolous and unreliable. But in the process, Ansari and Shaikh’s reputations have been scarred beyond repair, their careers ruined and they may never be able to wash out the "terrorist" stigma.

What is particularly concerning is that while the police show unprecedented eagerness in framing, accusing the innocents, displaying them at press conferences and leaking specific fake information to their media buddies, and at times even killing the accused in fake encounters, the real culprits slip away beyond their reach or their leads are not followed up as is clear in all the cases of Hindu terrorism from Nanded to Goa. There are suspects who have been languishing in jails for years together without any charges being framed against them or bail granted to the accused. Reason: investigations have not been concluded as yet!

There is no denying the fact that we do have a fairly good judicial system in our country, but more often than not it is defeated by inadequate handling of cases by the police and investigating agencies as also by the judiciary itself in addition to the inability of the poor accused to bear the high charges of lawyers. Often the prosecution fails to present a foolproof case, while protracted trials and delayed judgements result in denial of justice. In the end, what we witness is a mess, an obvious result of the pathetic mishandling of sensitive cases by the incompetent police and investigating agencies and the delay on the part of judiciary. The judiciary, however, cannot be blamed squarely for the reason that it is indeed short of staff. Millions of cases lie pending in the courts throughout the country which, with the present pace of disposal, will take decades to be cleared. In the process of this delay, sometimes judges get transferred or the accused or crucial witnesses pas away.  

 Take, for example the cases of Malegaon and Ajmer dargah blasts. Years have gone by but the investigations have not been completed as yet. While as usual, these events were initially seen as the handiwork of Muslim terrorists, it later came to light that some majority community members associated with a Hindutva organization called Abhinav Bharat were involved in these attacks. The organisation's key members, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt-Col. Srikant Purohit and some others are among the accused. With the arrest of two RSS men from Rajasthan recently, the investigating agencies are now trying to establish a link between the Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca masjid blasts. What would finally emerge is yet to be seen because the investigations are "still going on".

While the BJP leadership promptly condemned terrorism of all varieties, conveniently forgetting its earlier wisodm that “not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslim” it is not parrotting that terror has no religion and that it must be dealt with firmly. The RSS on the other hand has at least admitted that one of its members was indeed involved in the blasts but it also promptly added that the person concerned has been stripped of all responsibilities and that the RSS was strictly against violent activities! Confirming this, the RSS General Secretary, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, said the organization would neither support nor give protection to illegal or violent activities.
After the involvement of Abhinav Bharat/ RSS workers became clear, many civil rights organizations started demanding that RSS should be banned. Some Muslim organizations and associations have demanded action against officers heading investigating agencies accusing them of trying to protect the RSS members. But the home ministry which has rushed with a long list of prohibited organisations, many of which has nothing to do with India or even South Asian region, it is still studying the Hindu terror outfits files.

While it has been rightly said that terrorism has no religion, the problem should not be looked at from the religious perspective. It is a serious menace faced by the country and must be regarded as a national problem. The government should pull up the investigating agencies to not only act fast, but also in the right direction and without bias. Delivery of justice needs to be put on the fast track.  

After more than seventeen long years since the Babri Mosque was demolished by religious zealots, even the statements of all the witnesses have not been recorded till date. Going by the current pace, Babri cases might take decades for getting settled. Those accused are aware of this and are, therefore, sitting carefree  moving around enjoying highest forms of security provided by the state. If at all some of them are pronounced guilty, the verdict might be handed over posthumously!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2010 on page no. 11

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