The special court of National Investigation Agency April 16 order — that all accused in the bombing at the iconic Mecca Masjid be set free for want of evidence — is stunning for police, intelligence and security agencies that were supposed to bust terror plots and communal conflagration.
While nine died and 58 were injured at the historic mosque, where the Nizams of Hyderabad lay interred, another five were killed in a police firing after the incident. Consequent to the uproar, within weeks, on June 2, 2007, the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government appointed a one-man commission of retired high court judge V Bhaskar Rao to investigate the police firing.
Despite accusations of police excesses, the government has not disclosed the findings of the inquiry commission, submitted in October 2010. Now, to add to that mystery, K Ravinder Reddy, the fourth additional metropolitan sessions judge, Hyderabad, has concluded that adequate evidence against any of the accused is not available and virtually put a lid on the case.
On the other hand, the Mecca Masjid blast probe moved from a Special Investigation Team of the Hyderabad Police, to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and finally to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) without bringing the offenders to book.
The Mecca Masjid terror narrative has gone through dramatic twists and turns at each stage. It started as a cross-border Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJi) conspiracy in the hands of the Hyderabad police. Five HuJi suspects allegedly confessed to have carried out the terror strike with RDX supplied from associates in Bangladesh. Now, it has reached a dead end. No wonder, those who lost their loved ones at Mecca Masjid and in the violence that followed, feel terribly let down by law enforcing authorities and the state.
The NIA says it will examine Ravinder Reddy’s judgment and decide the future course of action. But it fails to raise hopes. Aseemanand, first arrested by the CBI in the case in 2010 before it was transferred to the NIA, was acquitted along with six others in the case of the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast that killed three and injured 17. The NIA has not challenged those acquittals. Aseemanand and five others are still facing trial in another 2007 case — the Samjhauta Express blast where 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed while the train was on its way to Lahore from Delhi.
After the CBI arrested Aseemanand and the other accused in the Ajmer Dargah case in 2010, they became accused in the Mecca Masjid case too “as persons affiliated to various Hindu religious outfits (seemed) to have planned and executed blasts to avenge terror strikes on temples.” There was not much headway in establishing links and the case was handed over to NIA in April 2011. The body followed the CBI’s line of investigation without discovering adequate material that is clinching to impress and convince the court.
Either the CBI or NIA, or both, have apparently botched the probe and the prosecution. NIA sources have disclosed in anonymity that investigators did not brief the 226 witnesses properly, prompting 66 of them to turn hostile. The NIA did not go in for an appeal when Aseemanand and another accused, Bharat Bhai, were granted bail in March 2017 and, thereafter, transferred a principal investigator back to the Uttar Pradesh cadre abruptly before she completed her five-year tenure in Hyderabad.
All this happened after the Hyderabad police chasing the HuJi narrative rounded up more than 125 Muslim youth and faced allegations of excesses. “Our fight against terrorism is weakened after these acquittals,” laments All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president Asaduddin Owaisi, claiming, “It was a biased investigation by a deaf and blind parrot.” Judge Ravinder Reddy has only heightened these apprehensions by sending in his resignation, hours after announcing the verdict, to fuel speculation that he was quitting under pressure.
Vote-bank politics is apparently gaining the upper hand at a time when the state is bound to respond to relatives of victims over its failure to ensure justice.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)