Justice denied - I
One Year After Malegaon
On the anniversary of Malegaon blasts Muslims note with deep sorrow and a sense of colossal betrayal that they have consistently been denied justice, writes DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM
At the moment of writing this piece a deep, enduring feeling of sorrow and betrayal gnaws at the hearts of India’s 150 million Muslims. This feeling of betrayal by the Indian state has been there for years, but it has deepened in the recent months. They have seen how the Mumbai blast accused have been brought to justice, but the people accused of the more heinous Mumbai riots have been let go.
Not only the Shiv Sena-BJP government but two Congress governments in Maharashtra have, through their acts of omission and commission, consistently denied justice to Muslims not just in the case of Mumbai riots, but in the more recent Malegaon blasts of September 8, 2006. At this particular moment in time, as I move on with writing these words, thousands of fellow Muslims are protesting in Malegaon, peacefully, sorrowfully, with black bands on their arms, black flags, black posters. The message is clear: "See, the state has failed us, failed the august Constitution, by failing to deliver justice."
This denial of justice has become an established pattern over the last several decades from one end of India to the other, from the North to the allegedly more enlightened South, from East to the West. On August 8, as many as 31 people were killed in a blast at the Hamidiya Masjid in Malegaon. Three hundred others were injured. Another blast was triggered at the Mushawarat Chowk, which is the venue of the large, peaceful demonstration today against the denial of justice.
The overwhelming sense of betrayal is perfectly understandable and justifiable. One of our national newspapers has reported a young widow, Shakeela Bano’s, feelings on the state’s role. She has said that she got a paltry compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the death of her husband, the sole bread-earner of the family. He had gone to offer Juma prayers at the Hamidiya Masjid, and only his shattered dead body returned. Shakeela Bano is intelligent enough to know that the state has discriminated against her even in the compensation for death, just because she happens to be a Muslim. In other cases, where the victims were not Muslims, the compensation has been much higher.
We have persistently been telling the state that if you can’t be just and fair in life at least be fair in death. Follow the constitutional standards of equality before law, compensate for deaths on an equal footing, make the compensation for 1984 riots victims a benchmark.
Yet another horrific dimension (among many, many others) to this monumental betrayal is that all the victims were Muslims, and all of the nine people arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on "charges" of committing the heinous act are also Muslims. Nobody, least of all the victims’ kin, can figure out why Muslims would cause a blast in Friday prayers a few hours before the Shab-e-Barat.
The victims’ families are convinced that the real culprits have not been caught, or let off wilfully. They sympathise with the families of the blast accused, sure in the belief that the accused (and arrested) persons are not the real culprits. They have a sense of solidarity with the accused and their families and think that the same Shiv Sena-Bajrang Dal gangs, which were behind Ghatkopar blasts in Mumbai, are behind this also.
The suspicions of Malegaon families are not without foundation. All of us remember how the BJP-led NDA looked kindly at the murderers of Sikhs in Chhatisingpura at the time of President Bill Clinton’s visit. The visiting dignitary had to carry the impression of "Muslim terrorists" killing not only Hindus but Sikhs also in Kashmir. The only problem was that the Sikhs themselves were not really sure as to why should "Muslim terrorists" target them. Soon it turned out that they had been killed by security forces personnel probably to convince the US president that "Islamic terrorism" had reached new heights.
And the security personnel did not stop at that. They killed another half a dozen innocents soon after that. This time the victims were Muslim youth, who had allegedly killed the Sikhs. The security personnel claimed they were terrorists, while later official investigations revealed that those unfortunate youth had nothing to do with terrorism. Before that the then Union home minister LK Advani had congratulated the murderers for their great act of heroism. The falsehood was later established by a court.
If the Malegaon victims’ families don’t believe the ATS version they have cases like the above to deepen their suspicions. The responsibility for the investigation was handed over to the CBI in December 2006. They began to work on it three months later. In the meanwhile, more bungling of police and investigating agencies all over India have confirmed the forgery, fakery and dubiousness of such investigations. Two different persons in different parts of India involved in two different blast cases have been claimed to have been "killed" in six different police encounters. Even if we accept that the two have been finally killed, the question arises as to who were the other unfortunates whom the police claim to have killed. The chances are all the six were innocent people, and the real two are still at bay.
With a police system like this nobody should expect justice. And with the political class that we have today we should not expect any change in the way this country is run.
I will return to this subject again in IOSCA. Watch this space.g