In 2007, a pipe bomb exploded in the Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad. After 11 years, all accused, including some from Hindu organistions, have been acquitted due lack of evidence.
Similar acquittals have also taken place in the Malegaon bombing of 2006 and Ajmer Dargah bombing of 2007.
ThePrint asks: Mecca Masjid blast – is there a pattern to ‘Hindu terror’ acquittals or has justice prevailed?
Saying there’s nothing called ‘Hindu terror’ now is to send a message that terrorists come from only one religious community
On a Friday afternoon, Mecca Masjid is particularly crowded. Security routinely is on high alert every Friday during prayers and this time it was as though all hell had broken loose.
I remember I was among the first to reach the scene after the blast in May 2007. There was a sense of disbelief– for a blast to take place in the Masjid seemed out of place. Total confusion prevailed.
The police and other security forces were caught off-guard and started cordoning off the entire area. After all, the most high profile Muslim place of worship in the city had been targeted. Why and by who was the question on everyone’s mind. Emotions and sentiments took over. Some angry youngsters started pelting stones. The police retaliated with gunfire. As many as five people died in the firing outside and nine in the blast inside.
It was a terrifying scene in an otherwise tranquil place.
The first angle the police explored was the involvement of a Bangladesh-based terror group who, it was suspected, could be trying to foment trouble. They had no evidence to support their theory. Why would Muslims bomb a mosque? There was tremendous pressure on the police to get some leads whereas they seemed to have none.
The police picked up and took into custody nearly one hundred young Muslims. In many cases, the families were not even aware till much later where the youth were being kept and questioned. It was as though the investigators were hoping that questioning so many would yield them some leads. There were allegations of torture, of people being coerced to give confessions.
Subsequently, they were booked, not for the Mecca Masjid blast case but in several other random cases of conspiracy or watching videotapes of Gujarat with the alleged intention of creating trouble.
These people were later released on bail and in 2009, acquitted and absolved. But their lives had been destroyed. They were stigmatised at their workplaces, ostracised by society and persecuted by the police.
Then came Aseemanand’s confession in a very dramatic turn of events. Tales of how he had met Abdul Kaleem inside jail did the rounds. Kaleem had been allegedly picked up for a crime he did not commit. Aseemanand is said to have had a change of heart and confessed. That too was later retracted. The idea of ‘Hindu terrorism’ surfaced at that point. In the course of a botched-up investigation, witnesses turned hostile and now 11 years later, all the accused have been acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Not only do the people not have any closure about who bombed the Masjid, they will lose faith in the entire justice system because of a possibly shoddy investigation and inability to collect material evidence. It calls to question the way the investigation was conducted and the trial proceeded. To say now that there is nothing called ‘Hindu terror’ is to send out a message that terrorists in India come from only one community.
This is a massive setback for the premier terrorism investigation agency in the country, the NIA. It puts a question mark on the quality and integrity of the agency.
The biggest casualty in the communally motivated Mecca Masjid case was national security
Author, ‘Secrets of RSS: Demystifying The Sangh’, and columnist
It is very typical of the Congress to selectively colour incidents communally and divide people. So, suspected cases of terrorism by some individuals became ‘Hindu terror’, or ‘saffron terror’. But when attacks were undertaken by professed Islamist jihadis, terrorism conveniently had no religion.
It was clear from the beginning that the second chargesheet of the Mecca Masjid case was fabricated. It was filed to defame an entire community and Hindu organisations. The earlier chargesheet, implicating some Muslims, was changed, and evidence fabricated against a few Hindus. Both had different details than the one that was filed later, just as in the case of the Samjhauta Express case.
Which government can file two contradictory chargesheets and let both be presented in the courts? Which government could negate confirmed and corroborated witness reports and create hearsay evidence? The case was bound to fall on its face.
What the then UPA government did was despicable. It not only compromised the case but also weakened our national security. It put one security agency against the other. It was an unseemly sight and made India the laughing stock of the world.
The UPA government decided to create this bogus idea of ‘Hindu terrorism’. They framed people so they could create a narrative. Monday’s verdict clearly shows that when you play with evidence and law to implicate a certain section of society for the sake of vote banks, the case is bound to fail. This case unraveled just like the cases against Sadhvi Pragya and Col Purohit, who suffered heavily from the UPA government’s foul play.
I hope the ‘saffron terror’ narrative will be quietly buried, and the defamation of the Hindu society will stop. This case should prove that the Congress thrives only on divisive policy. The blame for this compromise on national security must lie at the door of Sonia Gandhi, who enjoyed unfettered power without responsibility during the UPA rule.
Zero convictions in the Mecca Masjid blast case is a failure of the NIA
It is a globally accepted pattern to point fingers at Muslims after every blast. We saw the same approach in Malegaon, where most of the accused were already on the police radar, and Hyderabad (Mecca Masjid), where a hundred Muslims were persecuted without any evidence.
As far as the Mecca Masjid acquittal is concerned, the course of any investigation depends on evidence. It is a failure of the NIA. It wasn’t able to provide any evidence to prove the case.
Why the leading investigation agency of the country does not provide any evidence is anyone’s guess. You will hear whispers that they work on the direction of whoever is in power. A couple of years ago, former special public prosecutor Rohini Salian had stated that she had been advised to go soft on the Malegaon accused. That complicates the situation even further.
There is also talk that the actual perpetrators have been protected by the NIA. But, in India, Muslims are not in such a strong position that a central agency can be manipulated to save them. However, there should be a thorough probe if the NIA was indeed manipulated to arrest Hindus.
In contrast, evidence has seemingly been manipulated after this government came to power. There is a marked difference between the confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand and those accused in the Mumbai blast. The latter were convicted, while the former has withdrawn his confession.
A narrative that a Hindu cannot be a terrorist and ‘Hindu terrorism’ doesn’t exist is trying to take shape. There is a political motive behind what all is happening today. Day in and day out we talk about eliminating terrorism. If we want to fight terrorism, we should keep religion aside. In the 2006 Nanded blast, there was evidence to show that people had used Muslim caps and fake beards to mislead the investigation. In Goa, a Hindu extremist was caught red-handed. There is ample evidence to prove all of this, but their guilt is being covered.
The main question remains — if not Muslims, if not Hindus, who was behind the Mecca Masjid blast? The people of this country deserve an answer.
The Congress had tried to frame Hindu organisations for the Mecca blast
Lawyer, RSS member
The UPA government, after the blast, raised the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’. The investigating agency was under the control of the UPA’s home ministry when the investigation began. Still they raised this war cry. This is a serious egg in the face for the UPA.
First of all, by creating a category called ‘Hindu terror’, they attempted to create enmity between the two largest communities in the country. It was clearly done so that they could play divisive vote-bank politics.
Second, we need to factor in that the chargesheet was filed during UPA-II. They could find no evidence linking the people to the blasts. Either this means they were incompetent or that they did it for purely political purposes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Congress now begins the vicious cycle of casting aspersions on the verdict. They will stoop as low as to level allegations against the integrity of the Indian judiciary. Considering their history, the Congress is very likely to do such a thing.
The Congress must apologise for defaming the Hindu religion before they can make a bid for 2019. People like P. Chidambaram, who spoke about ‘Hindu terror’, have a lot to answer for.
The Congress consistently tried to induce a collective guilt psychosis in the Hindu community. They tried it with the Kathua rape as well. The BJP and the RSS, on the other hand, have always tried to unite the country using cultural nationalism. Still, they attempted to frame Hindu organistaions for the Mecca Masjid blast. It was a deplorable move and now the judiciary has put them in their place.
In trying to please political masters in Congress and the BJP, investigators overlooked cardinal principles of natural justice
Editor (Investigations & Special Projects), ThePrint
Yes, there is certainly a pattern to the acquittal of Hindus allegedly involved in cases of terror. Justice is said to have prevailed only when an accused is convicted or acquitted after a fair trial, when the investigators have conducted a free-and-fair investigation, when the agency investigating the case and its chief are not beholden or “close” to the government of the day, when the government is not seen as controlling. Because the ruling party and the government have a vested interest in the outcome of a case(s) and in the direction of the probe.
Questions arise when material witnesses or documents necessary for securing conviction of the accused inexplicably go missing.
Several of these crucial factors are what make it clear that the investigation and prosecution in the Mecca-Masjid case was not, to put it mildly, impartial. And, the blame doesn’t lie only with the current BJP-led NDA government; the previous Congress-led UPA government also worked overtime to ensure that the role of RSS affiliates or right-wing Hindu outfits in fomenting terror was highlighted through their alleged involvement in cases like these. In trying to achieve this, the cardinal principles of natural justice were often overlooked.
At first, investigators in the CBI and the NIA were more than eager to arrest people without any evidence just to prove the UPA government’s point that country was facing Hindu terror too, a different set of investigators in the CBI and the NIA. Later, the same investigators were happy to do what they imagined will make their current political masters happy.
Today’s order once again underlines the need to ensure, through proper legislation and checks-and-balances, independence of our probe agencies and the prosecutors.
Till that happens, every judgment in a politically-loaded case will lead to people asking the question if justice has actually prevailed?
Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj, journalist at ThePrint.