Why does Aseemanand's acquittal not bother nationalists?

Modi government may be making the same mistake it often accuses Pakistan of by shielding homegrown extremists.

 |  4-minute read |   10-03-2017
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A special NIA court has acquitted Swami Aseemanand and six others in the 2007 bombing at the Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan by giving them "benefit of doubt". There is, however, little doubt the verdict has been along predicted lines under the BJP regime.

The former RSS activist's acquittal comes despite his 2011 confession in which he admitted to executing various explosions — including the Ajmer shrine blasts — targeted at minorities “to avenge attacks on Hindu temples”. He had even claimed that he played the role of an ideologue to militants and had picked the location of the attacks. Of course, his counsel later told the court that his client’s statement was obtained under duress.

rajnath-singh_031017025249.jpg Rajnath Singh had earlier accused the Congress of  the inventing (the term) Hindu terrorism to appease Muslims and give Hindus a bad name.

Aseemanand has been in jail since December 2010 following his arrest in the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad in 2007. He also faces charges in the 2007 Samjhauta blasts case and 2006 Malegaon blasts. That's one reason he will remain in jail despite the acquittal as he is facing trial in the other blast cases.

The fact that he has been let go by the NIA special court in the Ajmer blast case doesn't come as a surprise, especially with a BJP government at the Centre that strongly believes there is no such thing as "saffron or Hindu terrorism".

While the government is expressedly, and rightly, worried over the radicalisation of Indian Muslim youths by terrorist groups in the Islamic world, Hindutva or saffron terrorism for them is still a "myth". The latest development will only help radical Hindutva groups bolster their claims that the "fear of saffron terror was invented to appease Muslims".

These claims, of course, come with a high-level of political backing.

Sample this: Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who on Wednesday (March 9) said in Parliament that he was proud of suspected terrorist Saifullah's father because he refused to accept his son's body, had in the same Parliament in 2015 accused the Congress of inventing (the term) Hindu terrorism to appease Muslims and give Hindus a bad name.

It had damaged India’s image, "weakened" its fight against terror, and helped terrorists from across the border, he had said.

It's also not surprising why he believes so. The man who says he is not ready to believe that Sadhvi Pragya Thakur (an accused in Malegaon blast case) is a terrorist, certainly has reasons to believe that the father of a suspected terrorist who refuses to accept his son's body deserves to be congratulated.  

How did it not occur to him or any of the "nationalists" that in a country where the atmosphere has been vitiated so much by the right-wing narrative of nationalist versus anti-nationalist debate that Saifullah's family will either be allowed to accept his body and live the rest of their lives hounded by bhakts, or disown him and not be asked to "go to Pakistan".

Of course, like any other religion, Hinduism too doesn't promote violence and terrorism, but the argument that Hindus are incapable of resorting to terror tactics sounds utterly stupid.

Aseemanand's acquittal also raises doubts over the independence of the investigative agencies in cases where the accused share ideological and political connections with the ruling BJP or/and the Sangh Parivar.

But most importantly, it also in a way validates the accusations of senior prosecutor Rohini Salian, who had accused the Modi government of asking her to “go soft” on Hindu extremists accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. 

She had even said that she received verbal instructions from the NIA — which is tasked with probing the Malegaon case — asking her to give the accused an easy ride. Salian was later dropped from the list of public prosecutors appointed by the NIA in Maharashtra.

Again, it's a no-brainer why the pace of investigation into terror cases involving suspected Hindu terrorists has slowed down in the past two-and-a-half years with witnesses often turning hostile. 

In Aseemanand's case as well, more than three dozen witnesses (of the total 149) turned hostile and refused to confirm to the court what they had earlier told the police and NIA officers.

Perhaps, the day is not far when a spate of other cases involving militant Hindu nationalists will meet a similar fate.

While the BJP government's immediate concern over radicalisation of Muslim youths by forces from across the border is understandable, there's one important lesson it can learn from the neighbouring country.

Just like Pakistan allegedly patronised the Islamic terror groups only to face the consequences later with a spate of attacks on its own soil, the Modi government too should be careful.

Is it not making the same mistake by shielding Hindu extremists and terrorist modules?

Also read: Free NIA. It's become a 'caged parrot' like CBI

Writer

Sanghamitra Baruah Sanghamitra Baruah

Works at DailyO.

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