Victims of Terror
By Jyoti Punwani
With Malegaon also being attributed to Muslims, the alienation is complete. Initial fears of a communal backlash to the July 11 bomb blasts in Mumbai quickly disappeared as the media flashed images of Muslims helping out feverishly at blast sites and hospitals. If indeed Muslim extremists had carried out the blasts, it was obvious they were completely out of touch with their community in Mumbai.
The police’s handling of the blasts has sent someone else’s stock
soaring. His community had voted him out two years back. Today, even
those who detest his methods acknowledge that state Samajwadi chief
Abu Asim Azmi is the only politician to have taken up, at the
highest level, the way Muslims are being exclusively targeted by the
police. It’s no secret that the PMO’s intervention has had some
impact on harassment faced by Muslim families.
Dismissing allegations of harassment, the ATS chief cites the
Al-Qaida manual which directs its operatives to accuse the police of
torture as soon as they are arrested. Does one need to visit
Al-Qaida’s website to make allegations against Mumbai police? What
these families have allegedly undergone is not half as savage as
what was done to many Muslim families after the March 12, 1993
blasts. The targets then were random (anyone surnamed Memon, for
instance). Now, they are uniform: SIMI and Ahle-Hadees followers.
After the Malegaon arrests, astute Muslims are wondering whether
the Indian government is trying the US tactic of pitting Muslim
sects against one another.
The Ahle-Hadees obey the Qur’an strictly; their women wear the much
maligned naqab. Tearing it off, throwing it on the faces of male
relatives who are the accused, trampling it under foot, and
threatening that this would happen to all the women in the family —
what could be the consequences of such action by the police on the
victims and the community?
A substantial number of SIMI and Ahle-Hadees followers are
educated. At least five of those arrested, and many of those “picked
up’’ (for questioning, often for days, with no record of their
detention), are professionals. First-timers at police stations, they
initially felt incredulous and indignant, and finally helpless and
bitter at the way they, their parents and their religion have been
humiliated, for no ‘crime’ other than being related to a SIMI
member, or being active members of a mainstream Muslim sect.
They have not been allowed to inform their families of their
detention, and, in exchange for their release, have had to point out
a friend’s home to the police for ‘questioning’.
All this has been done with ‘suspects’, or families of the accused.
Treatment meted out to the accused has been vintage Mumbai police.
One of them was reported by the press as having being “propped up’’
when brought to court. Yet the court dismissed his mother’s
application alleging torture, because he refused to say anything
against the police.
Have such tactics been used to investigate another blast in April,
where two Bajrang Dal boys died while making bombs inside an RSS
activist’s house in Nanded? How widespread were the links of that
conspiracy, given that fake beards and moustaches were found at the
site? The ATS has been uncharacteristically discreet here.
If having once been a member of SIMI makes you a terror suspect,
what does that make members of the Bajrang Dal, which openly
instigates violence against minority Indians? What is certainly
suspect is the July 11 investigation.
The writer is a political commentator
courtesy The Times of India
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