The acquittal of all accused in the Samjhauta Express blast case places a horrible moral equivalence between India and Pakistan. It not only calls into question the shoddy work by the National Investigation Agency, which took 12 years to finish the probe, but worse, turns India’s accusing finger at Islamabad inwards.
In the 2007 blast, which took place near Panipat in Haryana, 68 men, women and children were killed – most of them Pakistani.
For more than 10 years, Delhi has been pointing a finger at Islamabad for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed. The charge put Pakistan on the back foot. It was unable to explain why and how key masterminds Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi were either roaming free or spending time in jail or under house arrest with all of the privileges usually reserved for free citizens.
Now that India has found that no one killed 68 people in the Samjhauta attack, the accusing finger is now on India. There is absolutely no answer to the shocking question as to why no one has been found guilty for the Samjahuta terror attack.
The shoddy court investigation allows people like Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a politician with a penchant for gold crowns and one who has hopped and skipped between so many political parties that one has lost count, to crow unseemingly.
Pakistan strongly condemns the Indian version of sham justice which translates to exonerating all perpetrators of the heinous #SamjhotaTerrorAttacks after more than 11 years, callously heedless to the families of the 44 Pakistani victims.
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) March 21, 2019
The worst is that Qureshi is at least partially right. For him to point to the “sham justice” for the families of the 68 people who were killed that dreadful February morning, strikes the solar plexus. After the acquittal, it will be difficult for Indians to look Pakistanis in the eye and ask them tough questions about Mumbai.
Questions like: Why did ten Pakistanis decide to float a dinghy in the Arabian Sea off Karachi and sail up to Mumbai only to wreak mayhem for 64 hours? Why did Pakistan pick Mumbai? If the Pakistani press is finally coming to terms with Kargil, why did it refuse to ask questions about the Mumbai attacks to its own establishment?
Certainly, after the acquittal, Delhi’s high moral ground on cross-border terrorism from Pakistan has taken a huge hit. Worse, this terror attack has taken place inside India, by Indians, also against Indians.
When Indians raise Mumbai, the Pakistani answer is now bound to be: Yes, but what about Samjhauta?
Indian diplomats have already been reduced to weakly responding to the Pakistani charge that India has deliberately done nothing on punishing the Samjhauta guilty. India’s high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria is believed to have told the Pakistanis that they never cooperated in serving court summons to Pakistani witnesses on the train blast; these summons were returned. He also wanted to know why Islamabad was delaying investigations on Pulwama, Pathankot, and of course Mumbai.
Whether or not Swami Aseemanand, born Naba Kumar Sarkar, was actually guilty of so-called “saffron terror”, an ugly epithet if there was one, is not the point. Anyway, he recanted on his “confession” soon after he made one in 2010; then, after the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, one by one, the witnesses began to turn hostile.
Moral equivalence on the India-Pakistan terror question aside, the Samjhauta acquittal undermines the ordinary citizen’s faith in justice. Under the UPA, Aseemanand made a long statement on terror attacks between 2006-2008, then it all began to unravel after 2014.
Moreover, the timing of the acquittal also raises several questions. It comes within weeks of the Balakot strikes, which sent the powerful message that Prime Minister Modi was willing to take risks if it meant avenging terrorism. As he emerged from the court, a free man, Aseemanand raised his hand and shouted, “Jai Shri Ram.” Note that Lok Sabha elections are around the corner.
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