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Agonized families, resolute protesters and barefaced government

Friday July 08, 2011 08:30:45 PM, Aleem Faizee,

Main gate of the Hamidia Masjid where the blast had taken place on September 08, 2006

(File Photo)

“My life changed beyond imagination after losing legs in the 2006 blast. I had to fight for every small or big thing thereafter to say the least. All my sufferings, however, are nothing in comparison with the trauma the innocent youths in jail and their families are going through”, said Dastageer Shaikh Ameer, one of the more than 300 victims of the 2006 Malegaon blast.

Dastageer sat for the 24-hour long hunger strike seeking release of the Muslim youths arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blast case. The protest - underway in Malegaon since April 25, 2011, moved into 50th day June 13 when Dastageer, with two other victims Anees Ahmed and Abdul Qayyum, joined ‘the fight for justice’, as they describe their struggle. Dastageer’s feelings are also endorsed by the other victims and also by innumerable people in Malegaon. Like a hard solid rock, they are firm in their belief about the innocence of the Muslim youths and equally strong in their demand for withdrawal of all charges against them.

More than 225 people including women and children have so far participated in the 24-hour long hunger strike, which completed 75 days July 07. The protest received a shot in arm when Kul Jamaati Tanzeem going beyond moral support too decided to take part in the hunger strike. Formed after the 2006 blast, Kul Jamaati Tanzeem is already running the ‘fight for justice’ ever since its inception. Analysis of this campaign, kept alive since 2006-07 in one way or the other, will not only expose the police high handedness and prejudice towards the Muslims but will also throw light on how the investigating agencies are given free hand to play with the innocent lives and yet survive punishments.

Case background
September, 08 2006 was a Friday and thousands of people had gathered at the Hamidia Masjid located inside the Malegaon Qabristan. As the day had coincided with the Shab-e-barat, the worshippers had outnumbered those at the regular Friday prayers. The Imam had already finished the compulsory prayers and was preparing for Dua when a powerful blast was heard just outside the mosque in the veranda. Another followed a few metres away couple of minutes later. Dozens of people fell dead on the spot and hundreds were left with injuries. Before people could ascertain what actually had happened, one more powerful blast was heard – this time at Mushawerat Chowk, few hundred meters away from the Hamidia Masjid. Dozen others were dead and hundreds were left injured here as well. Some of those killed and injured at Mushawerat Chowk were those who had survived the death trap at the Hamidia Masjid.

Three blasts in a span of just few minutes had taken more than 32 lives and had left over 300 injured. Most of the dead and injured were juveniles and some of them belonged to a single family. The entire town was giving a grim look. Malegaon in its hundreds of years history had seen many ups and down, and worst kind of communal clashes and police brutality. But it had never experienced such a terror on its soil before! Yet the Malegaonians remained calm and composed, and tried successfully to recover from the shock– totally unaware that a “more severe terror attack” this time by the state is being scripted against them.

Flawed investigations
That the state investigating agencies would follow a pre-written script to nail Muslim youths in the case became evident when reports after reports suggesting the motives behind the terror attack began appearing in corporate media. The initial versions of these reports suggested the sectarian differences among the Muslims as the reason for the blast. Soon the line was changed and the October 2001 riot’s revenge theory started floating in the newspapers. Muslim leaders met the ministers and everyone concerned and unconcerned in the establishment, and demanded for a transparent probe into the incident. However the state investigating agencies remained adamant and did what they had in their mind since the day of incident.

The first to be framed in the case was Nurulhuda Shamsuddoha – a newly-married youth who was under continuous police surveillance since the age of 16. Later on other youths were picked up one by one and lodged in jail for the sin they had never committed.

Yes, for the crime they were not responsible of – the notion easily shared by the Malegaonians with everyone.

Incidentally, the Malegaonians are not fully wrong in their belief. To give credence to their belief - apart from a pile of proofs to suggest the innocence of the Muslim youths, is the charge sheet filed by the state investigating agencies itself. For, one of the planters in the chargesheet is Mohd Zahid. He was picked up from Phoolsawangi – a town about 600 kms to Malegaon and about whom there is ample proof to establish that the poor chap was not in Malegaon at the time of the incident. Yet the investigation claimed him to be a planter! Ironically, they charged him even after the affidavits claiming Zahid’s presence in Phoolsawangi at the time of the incident appeared in all leading newspapers.

The result of this flawed investigation was natural. The case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in December 2006 for a re-investigation.

Confused CBI
The CBI initially did not show any sign of deviation from the state version which put the blame of the blast on the Muslim youths. It, however, showed some sign of correction in its stand when on November 16 in 2009 it admitted in the Bombay High Court that it could not find any evidence to establish involvement of the arrested Muslim youths in the case.

The CBI’s admission in the High Court made three years after it had taken the investigation of the case in its hand revived the hope of justice. But the CBI took a turnaround again. When it submitted its chargesheet, it had in it the same old story which was earlier told by the state investigating agencies.

Blow after blow
During this tenure, damaging further the line taken by the investigating agencies, the lone witness in the case Abrar Ahmed, who was an approver, turned hostile. There was now no reason left to keep the Muslim youths behind bar. But Muslims as they are! Injustice against them prevailed and the government did not show any indication of correcting itself.

When everything looked lost for the Muslim youths, the investigation received a further blow. Aseemanand in his confessional statement - made sometimes in December 2010 - admitted his role in the 2006 Malegaon blast. Was there any reason left after Aseemanand’s confession to still keep the Muslim youths behind the bar, the entire Malegaon shouted in unison. But the adamant government did not relent, little realising the fact that the claims made by its investigating agencies, which have been proven to be a mere fabrication, have already done enough damage to the accused and their families.

Endless investigations
Strangely, on the basis of the Aseemanand’s confession, the Court granted the CBI permission to re-investigate the case but declined the accused bail on the same basis. Moreover, when the CBI after a re-investigation done by a totally new team hinted of getting the breakthrough while working on the line of the Aseemanand’s confession, the case was transferred to the National Investigating Agency (NIA).

While we write this, the NIA has already chargesheeted Aseemnanad in Samjhauta Express blast but are tight-lipped about Malegaon. They have not even arrested Aseemanand in the 2006 Malegaon blast case.

Testing Time
While the government continues to play politics with the Muslim youths and their families, and many a time even provoked them by unwarranted attitude, the Malegaonians reciprocated by maintaining total calm, peace and dignity – something never expected from them. In these five years they demonstrated in every possible way and at many places in the state to raise their demand for justice. They did all this with surprising frequency and spectacular consistency. Yet they failed to move the government.

They met everyone in the country - right from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P Chidambaram to the State Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan, his predecessors Ashok Chavan and Vilasrao Deshmukh and the state Home Minister RR Patil, not once, twice but innumerable times and sought justice from them. Everyone ignored them and never tried to realize the trauma of the Malegaonians which is bringing them to their doors again and again. They remain blatantly ignorant even though among those fighting for justice are the people who themselves are the victims. Their being among the people seeking release of the jailed Muslim youths is not something which can be ignored easily. It shows their concern for the poor accused and their families. And more strongly, it gives a clear message to the government that though the pain caused to them by the “Hindutva terror” has receded, the trauma of the “state terror”, which has transformed the life of the jailed Muslim youths and their families into a hell, has become unbearable. Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2006 Malegaon blast, the Malegaonians are raising the same old question again. How and when justice to these Muslim youths would find a place in the government’s priority list.







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