PROF SHAMSUL ISLAM | Caravan Daily
FINALLY, the judgment in 2007 Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad blast case is out after 11 years. As was expected for a long time all perpetrators affiliated to the Hindutva organizations have been acquitted. On May 18, 2007, a bomb exploded at the Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers, resulting in the death of eight persons and injuries to 58. Five others were shot dead by police during a riot that followed. According to the Special National Investigation Agency [NIA] judge Ravindra Reddy, who delivered his judgment in Hyderabad on April 16, 2018 “the prosecution could not prove its case” because “no evidence was presented to prove the conspiracy”.
NIA court acquitted five main accused, including Swami Aseemanand, a renowned face in the Hindutva circles. The other accused were Devendra Gupta alias Bobby alias Ramesh, Lokesh Sharma alias Ajay Tiwari alias Ajay alias Kalu, Bharat Mohanlal Rateswar alias Bharatbhai Mohanlal Rateswar and Rajender Choudhary alias Samundar alias Dasarath alias Lakshman Das Maharaj. There were three other accused. One Sunil Joshi, a senior pracharak of RSS was found shot dead under mysterious circumstances in Dewas in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007 while the other two accused, Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra, have been absconding. Unbelievable but true that Devendra Gupta, RSS pracharak (whole-timer) was also acquitted despite the fact that on March 8, 2017, an NIA special court in Jaipur had sentenced him to life imprisonment in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast.
INVESTIGATION FOR SAVING THE TERRORISTS
So nobody or no organization caused Mecca masjid carnage! How lop-sided and criminally inefficient was the investigation of the State and Center’s intelligence agencies can be known by three examples. Firstly, soon after the blast Hyderabad police picked up 58 Muslim youth were given third-degree torture in police custody established by the State Human Rights’ Commission. They were released on bails only after the identity of the alleged Hindutva terrorists surfaced.
Secondly, disappearance of immensely crucial evidence against the perpetrators, a red shirt, suspected to have belonged to one of the persons who placed the bombs, was recovered from the blast site by the local police. But at some point during the probe, it disappeared.Former NIA special director N R Wasan, who supervised the case in its later stages, confirmed the existence of the red shirt and the fact that it never reached the NIA. He said he did not know what actually happened to the shirt or who was responsible for its safekeeping. The availability of this red shirt was crucial in identifying the real culprits as the latter had left behind two bomb-laden bags at the Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007. But only one exploded. Police recovered an unexploded IED from the second bag along with a key and a red shirt.The red shirt could have identified the DNA of the person who left it behind as was done in the Bodh Gaya blasts of July 2013. The accused had left behind a bag containing a monk’s robe. When the NIA later arrested Hyder Ali on suspicion of planting the bomb, it matched the DNA samples collected from the robe with his blood. The insiders who destroyed it knew of the importance of this evidence.
Thirdly, of the 230 witnesses examined by the prosecution, 35 turned hostile. One of the main witnesses declared hostile was Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit who was made a witness by NIA.
In another dramatic development the special NIA judge Ravinder Reddy hours after he delivered the verdict resigned from judiciary. He was the fourth additional metropolitan session judge to have put in his papers. In a letter to the metropolitan session judge and the chief justice of the high court, Reddy said he was resigning due to personal reasons.
TWO SYSTEMS OF JUSTICES IN INDIA
No justice in cases of violence against minorities:
Mecca Masjid judgment proves once again that whenever the country witnesses the large-scale violence against minorities and Dalits, the search for perpetrators continues endlessly and criminals rarely punished. Major incidents of violence against minorities like Nellie massacre (1983), Sikh massacre (1984), Hashimpura custodial massacre of Muslim youth (1987), pre/post-Ayodhya mosque demolition violence against Muslims (1990-92), Gujarat carnage (2002) and Kandhmal cleansing of Christians (2008) are living testimonies to this shocking reality.
No justice in cases of violence against Dalits:
The status of anti-Dalit violence is no different. The major incidents of persecution and massacre of Dalits; 1968 Kilvenmani massacre, 1997 Melavalavu massacre, 2013 Marakkanam anti-Dalit violence, 2012 Dharmapuri anti-Dalit violence (all in Tamil Nadu), 1985 Karamchedu massacre, 1991 Tsundur massacre (all in AP), 1996 Bathani Tola Massacre, 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe massacre (all in Bihar), 1997 Ramabai killings, Mumbai, 2006 Khairlanji massacre, 2014 Javkheda Hatyakand, (all in Maharashtra), 2000 Caste persecution in (Karnataka), 5 Dalits beaten/burnt to death for skinning a dead cow 2006, 2011 killings of Dalits in Mirchpur (all in Haryana), 2015 anti-Dalit violence in Dangawas (Rajasthan) are some of the thousands of incidents of the Dalit persecution. In almost all these cases perpetrators are yet to be identified. Even if identified the prosecution rate never exceeded 20%.
Fast-track justice if ‘perpetrators’ are minorities and Dalits:
On the other hand, the Dalit and minority ‘perpetrators’ of violence are efficiently put on trial by constituting special investigation teams and punished by fast track courts. In order to meet the end of justice and national security they are hanged and jailed. But when the victims are Dalits or minorities no such urgency is shown. In such cases Indian State is fond of playing commission-commission. Commissions after commissions would be constituted to see that the heinous crimes disappear from the public memory. The horrendous acquittal of the Hindutva perpetrators in the Mecca Masjid carnage is another living example of the communal/Casteist attitude of the Indian justice delivery system.
(Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi. The views are personal and Caravan does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.)