Be it Kathua and Unnao rape – or Mecca Masjid the core issue has got diverted from the crime to the religio-political dimensions of it.
That the CBI and the NIA investigations came to naught should not be a surprise to anyone. So much so, the ancient proverb, ‘collapsing like a house of cards’ can be easily be replaced with ‘fizzled out like a CBI investigation’.
The point is not, as some are alleging, if the CBI and the NIA let the case slip at the instance of their masters. Such an insinuation can always be countered with the argument that in the first place, the accusations were shifted from the Bangladeshi outfit Harkat Ul-Jihad al Islam to the RSS and Hindu Vichar Manch because the previous regime wished to create the myth of ‘saffron terror’. Either way– CBI and NIA have not covered themselves with glory. But, such embarrassments must by now, be par for their course.
However, irrespective of whether Aseemanand and company were the real perpetrators of the crime, the judgement and acquittal have far larger implications for the country. First, it gives a very poor account of the states’ ability not only to prevent such acts of terrorism but also to bring culprits to book. Although some may feel eleven years in confinement is punishment enough, it clearly gives the signal that in India it is possible to get away with sinister conspiracies to destabilise the country whether by internal or external elements.
A bigger concern arises from the purported statements of Aseemanand that he subsequently retracted. None can vouch if those were actually Aseemanand’s words or concocted by the so-called witnesses at the behest of a biased prosecution. But, even if those were scripted out of someone’s imagination, it highlights the dangerous levels pent-up communal hatred has reached in our society. Assuming it was not Aseemanand, the realisation that someone else could also have been thinking on the same lines is by itself scary.
Everyone understands that the play of Islamic terror vs saffron terror can only be a zero-sum game. It is unfortunate that a self-proclaimed ‘secular party’ coined the latter term, no matter how vehemently Rahul Gandhi denies it. But that is politics. What is more dangerous, however, is the politicisation that is happening today.
By questioning the judgement and insinuating the complicity of the CBI and the NIA in scuttling the case, the Congress is doing a huge damage to the institution of justice and demolishing what is left of the credibility of the investigating agencies. This might come to haunt them in future should they come back to power anytime.
BJP is understandably gloating over the discharge. But, in doing so, they too are sending out the wrong message at various levels. They are justified in pillorying the Congress for making political capital out of the case giving by painting it saffron but in all the discourses heard so far while celebrating the acquittal there has been no demand for finding and punishing the guilty. By default, therefore, the verdict giving a clean chit to Aseemanand may appear to be a result of the CBI’s and the NIA’s incompetence or lack of actionable evidence rather than actual absence of guilt.
On another plane, there is no denying that there are people in the country to whom the views attributed to Aseemanand would have resonated. The same sections may have even found justification for such an act and given a chance, or under extreme provocation, have indulged in similar attacks. But, there is no strong and unambiguous message from the BJP or RSS stalwarts that neither the party nor the Sangh will ever condone terrorism in any form irrespective of religion, caste or creed.
As with most cases – be it Kathua and Unnao rape – or Mecca Masjid, the core issue has got diverted from the crime to the religio-political dimensions of it. This is most unfortunate and all parties are equally culpable for turning it into an exercise of political upmanship at the expense of communal harmony.
Finally, our judiciary needs to take accountability for such inordinate delay in settlement of such cases despite setting up special courts for dealing with terror investigations. The media too must take its own share of responsibility. They are quick to jump to conclusions immediately after an incident and again get hyperactive when a judgement is passed but lack interest in following through when the investigations languish for years.
While one can only hope and pray that another Mecca Masjid does not happen – terrorism is too serious a business to leave in the ‘bharosa‘ of Ram and Rahim alone. It is time to reclaim the system through the long-awaited police reforms and fast-tracking both investigation and justice. For that, the politicians have to rise above partisanship – if they really believe terror has no colour or religion as they repeatedly profess.
Sandip Ghose is a marketing executive and popular blogger on current affairs. He tweets @SandipGhose