ATS haste brought hell to an entire family in Malegaon

On 6 March, a few days before the crucial hearing in the Special MCOCA court on the bail application filed by the Muslim youths charged in the 2006 Malegaon blast case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) hinted that Mumbai Police’s elite Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) had in its rush to solve the case named two of the accused without realising that one of them was languishing in jail at the time of the alleged crimes while another was 700 kms away from the scene of the crime on September 8, 2006 when a series of blasts struck outside a mosque in Malegaon – the Muslim-dominated town in North Maharashtra.

Strangely, the CBI took more than four years and waited for Swami Aseemanand’s confession to come to this conclusion. Otherwise, earlier it too was following the same ATS line, though it gave hints of breakthrough in the case on November 16, 2009 when it said in the court that it did not have any evidence against the Muslim youths arrested in the case.

ATS named innocent Muslims in haste in Malegaon case: CBI

CBI has hinted that Maharashtra ATS investigating the 2006 Malegaon blast case named two innocent persons in a hurry without realising that among those named, one was in jail while another was 700 km away from the city when the bomb exploded. Chargesheet filed by the ATS claims that Mohammed Zahid was present in the town on 8 September, 2006 when three bombs went off that killed more than 35 people. CBI which is at present investigating the 2006 Malegaon blast case has said that the testimony by one of the eyewitness says that Zahid was leading the Friday prayer at a place 700 km away from Malegaon on the day of the explosions. According to CBI, ATS officials inquiring the Malegaon case chose to by pass the eyewitness accounts in haste and wanted to close the case at the earliest. The new Minority Commission chairman, Wajahat Habibullah has said that he would take up the matter with the government soon.

That the incident should be probed with transparency and professional manner was demanded ever since the incident and even before the victims were taken for their last journey. It was raised in front of RR Patil, who as Home Minister of the state, had rushed to the town the same evening. A week later, the demand was again raised in front of the same man when a high level delegation met him at Sahyadri Rest House in Mumbai. Thereafter, there are countless instances when the demand for a transparent investigation was raised in front of everyone, right from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to Maharashtra Governor and state CM Vilasrao Deshmukh. They all offered futile promises that fair and impartial probe into the incident would be done and that no injustice would be done to anyone. However, the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) was perhaps working on totally different game plan. It was hell-bent on implicating innocent Muslim youths in the case and as is now hinted by the CBI, was “in a rush to close the case.” Despite big claims about justice and fairness by its masters, the ATS arrested one by one the youths who were under continuous police surveillance for years and booked them for a crime they did not commit.

The people in Malegaon, who believed that the arrested Muslim youths had nothing to do with the inhuman and shameless terror act, were helpless. They could not do much due to the hapless government which turned a blind eye to their legitimate and just demand. But, when they learnt that the ATS had arrested Mohammad Zahid from Phoolsawangi, a place some 700 kms from Malegaon, they sent a team comprising of dignitaries, advocates and journalists to inquire about his whereabouts at the time of the incident. They were aghast to find that Mohammad Zahid was in Phoolsawangi at the time of the blast yet the ATS implicated him in the case.

Incidentally, the team that visited Phoolsawangi called a press meet on its arrival in Malegaon, and in front of the media disclosed their report, and the undertakings given by more than 200 people confirming that Mohammad Zahid was present in Phoolsawangi on September 8, 2006. The same was published by everyone including leading English dailies.

Moreover, after it was established that Mohammd Zahid was not in Malegaon at the time of incident, people in Malegaon wondered what charge the ATS would impose on him. They were surprised to note that the ATS, despite the fact that the entire story of Mohammad Zahid had already hit the headlines, described him in its chargesheet as one of the bomb planters.

As is now hinted by the CBI that “the ATS was in a hurry to close the case,” so it did what it wanted. But its chargesheet that indicted Mohammad Zahid as bomb planter gave further credence to the local claim that the entire ATS case was actually cooked on purpose in order to frame innocents.

However, in its rush to close the case, the ATS never realised what kind of hell it was unleashing on Zahid’s family. The family was already under tremendous pressure as the police had arrested Zahid’s younger brother Mohammad Javed only a few months before the 2006 Malegaon blast, claiming that Mohammad Javed is actually “Mohammad Zahid.” The arrest was a severe blow for the family as it said that Mohammadd Zahid, fed up of police interrogations because of his alleged association with the banned outfit SIMI, had left home years earier and the family was not aware of his whereabouts ever since.

The horrified family’s trauma did not end here. Left with sleepless nights due to enormous pressures and mental torture unleashed by the biased investigating officers, the family had to bear the brunt of a natural disaster when the younger brother of Mohammad Zahid died in an accident. He was coming to his house one night during the previous monsoon when lightening took his life.

Though the court that was supposed to give its decision on the bail plea of the accused on 10 March, did not take note of what the CBI had already hinted on 6 March and again deferred its ruling till March 15, one expects that the CBI will at least now mend the mistakes committed, intentionally or unintentionally, by the ATS.

At the same time, the government too needs to answer whom it would make accountable for the trauma the families of the accused have undergone during this entire period since 2007? Who will pay for the mental torture Mohammad Zahid’s father had to endure in his old age? Who will compensate for the sufferings of Zahid’s mother who is now half mad due to the unbearable trauma and, sitting outside of her house, keeps asking every onlooker when her sons would come out of the prison? (ummid.com)

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

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