The Akhilesh Yadav government’s ‘benevolence’ in the dropping of a few terror cases against Muslim suspects is leading to a communal polarisation in the state of Uttar Pradesh (perhaps this was the ruling dispensation’s intention anyway) ahead of the looming Lok Sabha polls. Five high court lawyers, all from the Hindu community, have now filed a PIL challenging the UP government’s “unconstitutional act”. In the first week of June, a two-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court stayed the process of withdrawal of prosecutions and referred the matter to a larger bench. The matter is due for a hearing sometime next month.
The general impression the whole episode has created is that the Muslim community ought be indebted to the Samajwadi Party for extending it inordinate privileges. The only ground touted before the courts by the government in defence of its decision is the “fostering of communal harmony and public interest”. But a fundamental question is still not addressed here—were the Muslims against whom the cases are being sought to be withdrawn guilty of said acts of terrorism? In other words, the government has proceeded to drop the cases without first establishing the innocence of those whom it wants to exonerate. Not surprisingly, the courts are unwilling to accept this fallacious method, especially since the cases involve not any ordinary act of criminality but the actual cynical mass murder of innocent civilians.
A year-long research based mainly on the internal and classified records of different anti-terror agencies, including the UP anti-terrorism squad, revealed that successive regimes in the state have consciously followed a process that is calculated to thwart the course of justice.
In a letter petition filed with the Allahabad HC a week ago, I have annexed dozens of classified documents that have been in the possession of the UP government but were never shared with the courts. These documents compellingly establish that the police agencies in UP have all along had evidence of the innocence of at least nine of the accused Muslims (three of whom are Bangladeshis) arrested in seven different terror cases but still persisted with the prosecutions. Now the Samajwadi government, instead of revealing the full truth and restoring the constitutional rights of these innocent Muslims (most of them are poor and very young), is turning the issue of national security and justice into an incendiary communal discourse. Clearly, the object is the potential electoral gains in the coming elections.
These documents also show that one of the ‘suspects’, Khalid Mujhaid, who recently died in mysterious circumstances in judicial custody and whose death has led to widespread protests, was not involved in the terror act for which he had been incarcerated. If these documents had been shared with the courts in time, Khalid may have still been breathing today, living a free life with his family.
This politics over terror is not only perpetuating a gross injustice against those wrongly implicated but also denying justice to the victims of the terror strikes. Over the last 10 years, hundreds of innocent lives have been lost to terror attacks across the country. The least that the near and dear ones of the victims deserve is the full truth established through a credible and fair process of law.
In Uttar Pradesh, this is how the story of the terror investigation unfolded. Between 2005-07, different cities in UP were repeatedly hit by bomb attacks. Dozens of ordinary citizens perished and many more were maimed. Different agencies of the UP police like the Special Task Force, the UP ATS and district police of Lucknow, Faizabad, Gorakhpur and Varanasi investigated these cases. The end result: about a dozen Muslim youths like Khalid Mujhaid, Waliullah and Tariq Qazmi were arrested for different bomb attacks.
Tariq was a Unani doctor and married with four children—three girls and a boy, the eldest is now 11 years old—when he was picked up. Khalid was a teacher at a madrasa in Jaunpur. He got married less than a year before he was arrested. Both Tariq and Khalid were shown as being involved in the Lucknow and Faizabad court blasts. Similarly, Waliullah was a cleric at a mosque in Allahabad. He was made an accused in the Sankatmochan mandir blast case. Many of these accused were separately booked for the possession of arms and explosives that the police claimed to have recovered from them at the time of their arrest. Waliullah has already been given a 10-year sentence in one such case of recoveries. The question is, if they were not involved in the bomb blasts to begin with, then how credible is the case of such recoveries.
After September 2008, anti-terror agencies across India came together claiming to have unearthed a single, integral terror plot hatched by a mysterious terror outfit named Indian Mujahideen. Combined efforts led to the arrest of dozens of terror suspects across India and subsequent pooling of information. Many of the suspects arrested post-September 2008 apparently told their interrogators of their involvement in several blasts across UP besides blasts in other parts of the country like Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
Our portal Gulail has managed to unearth interrogation reports of six terror suspects—Sadiq Israr Shaikh, Arif Badar alias Laddan, Mohammed Saif, Saifur Rahman, Sarwar and Mohammed Salman—who were nabbed by different agencies like the Mumbai Crime Branch, Madhya Pradesh ATS and UP ATS on different dates between September 2008 and March 2010. According to the internal records of these agencies, all six accused have given a detailed and meticulous account of their involvement in the ‘single terror conspiracy’ of which the seven terror strikes pertaining to the state of UP were also a part. These seven terror cases are:
- Sankatmochan mandir blast, March 7, 2006, Varanasi
- Cantonment railway station blast, March 7, ’06, Varanasi
- Triple blasts, May 22, 2007, Gorakhpur
- Varanasi court blast, November 23, 2007
- Faizabad court blast, November 23, 2007
- Lucknow court blast, November 23, 2007
- Shramjeevi Express blast, July 28, 2005
Significantly, these ‘interrogation’ reports make absolutely no mention whatsoever of the involvement of the nine youths who were originally arrested and chargesheeted by the UP police for these blasts. In fact, the terror plot as narrated by these six terror suspects (as recorded by different agencies on different dates) completely debunks the state prosecution’s case as its stands today in all seven terror strikes in both material and minute details. The narrative given by these six accused is consistent with the case of different agencies in different cities outside Uttar Pradesh. But in UP, instead of reinvestigating all these cases and finding the real culprits, the UP police launched a massive cover-up. Either the revelations of this new set of six accused were brushed under the carpet or were doctored by the UP police to persist with prosecutions that they full well knew to be completely farcical.
So, in the case of the Lucknow and Faizabad court blasts and also in the Gorakhpur triple blasts case, the UP police fabricated an imaginary connection between the accused originally arrested and the terror suspects arrested many months later (in some cases a few years after the arrest of the original ‘accused’). Two completely conflicting narratives were thus married to retrospectively validate the old investigations and to cover-up the wrongful arrests made previously. So, while on the one hand the investigating agencies kept pursuing sham prosecutions, state regimes like the Samajwadi Party made a wishy-washy attempt to withdraw some of these farcical prosecutions. But even here, the evidence of innocence was not presented before the courts trying these cases. Nor was it made public.
(The author is founder of the website www.gulail.com)