LESSONS FROM MALEGAON: Punish those guilty of misleading probes; Compensate the victims!

(Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, September 13, 2011, Supplied by Manisha  Sethi)


The NIA has finally put the official seal on what many activists, the families of the accused and the people of Malegaon had been saying for long: that the arrest of nine Muslim men for the 2008 Malegaon blast was a result of a communal witch-hunt, which passes for investigations into terror charges. As a consequence of the investigating agencies’ hubris and prejudice, nine innocent men had to spend five long years in jail, while their families suffered and they were stigmatized.


Malegaon sadly is hardly an exception but more a norm. Remember Mecca Masjid bombings, where scores of young men were tortured and incarcerated. Or the CBI enquiry report in Delhi, which established that Special Cell had kidnapped and framed two Kahsmiris, both IB informers, as operatives of a terrorist group, Al Badar. Or more recently, the acquittal of five Kashmiris by a trial court in Delhi, where the court demonstrated that the encounter in which these men were allegedly involved, was a product of the Delhi police’s creative minds. It did not occur at all! From Maharahstra to Delhi, from states ruled by BJP to those presided over the Congress regimes, the story is the same.


First, let us be clear that these are not minor or technical problems, where police and investigative agencies have followed wrong leads or conducted erroneous investigations in good faith. These were investigations which were deliberately diverted on a wrong track because it was convenient to produce someone as SIMI activist; or where false confessions were manufactured through torture knowingly—as in Hyderabad; or innocents were rounded up deliberately with knowledge of their innocence simply because no one asked questions about police claims. These are not matters that can be ignored as well-intentioned but inefficient investigations—they were cynical and communal targeting of innocents in the name of national security.


Second, this acknowledgment has not led to either compensation for victims or prosecution of erring police officers. The Andhra Pradesh government shamelessly challenges the claims for damages filed by the young men who were brutally tortured by the AP police. Judge Virendra Bhatt’s verdict earlier this year seeking the filing of FIR against those officers of the Delhi police—included the decorated hero of Special Cell, Ravinder Tyagi—who faked an encounter in 2005, and a departmental enquiry is being contested by the Delhi police department.


For all the tears that the PM may shed about the minorities’ perception of being unfairly targeted, till such time that the government actually stops defending those who indulged in frame-ups and punishes them, the faith in the fairness of the investigating agencies—and the government’s intent—is unlikely to be restored.


Signatories (Manisha sethi, Ahmed Sohaib, Adil Mehdi, Sanghamitra Misra, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Anwar Alam, Tanweer Fazal, Farah Farooqi, Azra Razzack, Arshad Alam, M.S. Bhatt, Ambarien Al Qadar, Shakeb Ahmed, Haris Ul Haq)

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