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Three years on and mystery still surrounds the 2006 Malegaon blast case

Thursday, August 06, 2009 12:57:04 PM, Aleem Faizee

People coming out of the Qabristan on first blast anniversary in 2007. (File Photo)

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Two Years into the Blast: The Terror Goes On

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In the Name of SIMI

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Malegaon: Today is again 14th of Shaban, the month which precedes Ramadan, the month of fasting and one among the holy months in the Islamic calendar. As the sun sets on this day, millions of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent thronged the Qabristan, the Muslim burial ground to offer special prayers for their dead, and for their own self. Preparation for this special occasion is normally on in every household, weeks before the actual event. Children are especially ecstatic, busy in buying new clothes and other merchandise to suite the night. On September 8 in 2006 the scene was somewhat similar in Malegaon. That the day had coincided with a Friday, the day when most of the people opt to offer Friday prayers in mosques near the Qabristan had just doubled the crowd and also the euphoria that associated the occasion. Everything however vanished all of a sudden.


Two, and by some accounts three, powerful bombs exploded inside the Qabristan in a span of few minutes even as the worshippers were still wrapping their prayers. Three to five minutes later the terrorists struck once again. This time a powerful blast took place at Mushawerat chowk barely 200 meters from the Qabristan.


The serial blast had killed 32 worshippers, by some accounts 34, 37 and even 39, and had injured over three hundred others. Tragically some of those killed and injured were those who had escaped the death at Qabristan only to be caught at Mushawerat chowk. Some of the victims were also those who had rushed to the Qabristan after hearing the blast to help the victims totally unaware that they would themselves be killed at Mushawerat chowk. Many of the victims were children and were belonging to the same families. Weeks of excitement vanished in just few minutes and the ecstasy that was rampant since many days was replaced by unending agony and despair.


Muslims blamed for Muslim killing

The town already saddened by the terrorist attack and yet fully out of the shock received a severe blow again when it found the reports in the electronic as well as the print media speculating the involvement of local Muslims, more specifically SIMI members in the blast - a popular trend in the country during those days. About the motives, they had that to take the revenge of 2001 communal riots in the town.


More painful for them was the reported official version that said, the tragic incident was result of the sectarian differences among the Muslims and since some of the Muslims donít believe in Shab-e-Barat they masterminded the blast inside the Qabristan to disrupt the occasion.


Realising where this kind of speculations would lead the investigations to,  local Muslim leaders from all the religious sects came on a single platform and forming a Kul Jamaati Tanzeem tried to reject all these theories that were receiving momentum with every passing day. In their endeavor they were also joined by secular Hindu leaders and NGOs. The Shiv Sena MLA of the neighboring town had in fact out rightly rejected the involvement of any local Muslim behind this heinous crime. The government however remained unfazed and the police began detaining Muslim youths one after the other for the blast that clearly appeared as an attack solely on the Muslims.


The Myth of the official version

Ever since the terrorist attacks became a trend in the country and the home department led by former Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the investigating agencies persisted with the SIMI theory involving its members in almost every such attacks, Indian Muslim leadership, many NGOs and the Human Right Activists demanded from the government to widen the investigations if they were really interested in combating the terrorism. To justify their demands they were having the investigation reports of the blast that had occurred in Nanded in April 2006 and later at few other places in the country in which the Hindu terrorists were reportedly killed while making the bombs. The government and the investigating agencies however did not show any kind of interest and they continued to nab Muslim youths from various parts of the country while the terrorists were free to strike at will anywhere in the country killing innocent lives.


After the 2006 blast in Malegaon, the demand for a broader investigations into every terrorist attack that had occurred in the country of late became vociferous. It became so also because some of the Muslim youths detained for the 2006 blast were neither having any criminal record nor had any link with SIMI. Moreover, one of the accused who has been termed as the planter in the charge sheet was not even in Malegaon on September 8 when blast occurred. He was working in Phulsawangi, a small town near Nanded some 500 kilometers from Malegaon and was there on the fateful Friday. Muslim leaders in Malegaon hence questioning the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) investigations, demanded from a high level Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) inquiry into the case.


CBI investigates the case

Though it took several visits to Delhi and Mumbai for the Malegaonians before the state government agreed to request the CBI for an inquiry into the 2006 Malegaon blast, it was not before filing of the charge sheet by the ATS against those who were detained in the case. That the state government was not ready for any additional inquiry and it was seemingly relying on the ATS version that blamed the Muslim youths for the terror attack became evident when it allowed it to file its charge sheet before requesting the CBI.


Jamiatul Ulema meanwhile filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) challenging the application of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) charges against the accused and the CBI reportedly says, till any judgment comes on the petition and the three other accused in the case on run are caught, the investigations are difficult to carry on.


Enduring Investigations and lasting Trauma

In between, the town witnessed one more blast this time in Ramadan 2008 and though this time around too it was widely speculated that the Muslims would be made convenient scapegoats once again, the slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare came out with what that still makes alarm bells ringing in a section in the country and exposed the hitherto hidden face of the Hindu terrorism.


After the arrests of Lt. Col. Prohit, Sadhavi Pragyasingh Thakur and other Hinuds in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, Muslim leaders, NGOs and the Human Right Activists received a shot in their arms and they began demanding from the government to reinvestigate the other bomb blasts also that had recently occurred in the country. Some of them even believed that the accused might have been involved in the 2006 blast also.


To compound the situation even further, the lone approver in the 2006 blast case on whose confessional statement, advocates observe, the whole charge sheet was based, turned hostile and withdrew all his earlier statements.


The relatives of the victims and those who are in jail since 2006 meanwhile continue to experience an everyday trauma and the government is not at all willing to pay any attention to their demands for fast track court and speedy completion of the CBI inquiry.





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