THERE APPEARS TO be a pattern in the acquittals in cases pertaining to a series of bomb blasts mainly targeting mosques during a two year period of 2006 to 2008. The investigations and prosecution by the National Investigations Agency (NIA) are falling in the courts one by one.
The latest was the acquittal of all the accused, including the prime accused Aseemanand, in the Samjhauta Express blast case by a Special Court located in Panchkula.
During the initial period when a series of such blasts took place, the finger of suspicion was towards extremist elements from across the border in Pakistan but later investigations led to a small group of radical Hindus allegedly responsible for the attacks. Just as such cases were reported all of a sudden, the alleged bursting of the group and arrest of some key suspects led to a sudden cessation of such incidents. In the meantime a key suspect Sanjay Joshi, who was believed to be the key conspirator, was killed under mysterious circumstances and his killers have remained unidentified.
All these cases were initially investigated by the Special Investigations Teams of the States affected and were later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Subsequently on the formation of National Investigation Agency (NIA), all these cases were passed on the agency.
Among the half a dozen such incidents was the blast in the two unreserved coaches of the Lahore-bound Samjhauta Express on February 18-19 night in 2007 near Panipat.
Out of the 68 casualties, 43 were identified as Pakistan citizens, 10 Indians and 15 remained ‘missing’ in the blast. After a long trial the Special Court has now acquitted Aseemanand, who had earlier admitted to his involvement in the blasts by giving a statement to a magistrate under Section 164 Cr PC. His original name is Naba Kumar Sarkar. Others who have been acquitted are Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary.
In the Mecca Masjid blasts, in which nine devotees were killed and 58 injured at Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, all the accused including Aseemanand, Sanjay Joshi, Lokesh Sharma, Devendra Gupta and others were acquitted by a Special Court in April 16, 2018.
Similarly in the Ajmer Dargah blast case, a bomb had ripped through the Ajmer Sharif Dargah on October 11, 2007, killing three and injuring 17. Again among the accused were Aseemanand, Sanjay Joshi, Lokesh Sharma, Bhavesh Bhai Patel and some others. A Special Court acquitted Aseemanand as well as some others giving benefit of doubt but convicted RSS pracharaks Bhavesh Bai Patel and Devender Gupta.
There were two incidents of bomb blasts in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008. However trial is yet to begin in both the cases. Multiple chargesheets SMS have been filed by Maharashtra Police, the CBI and NIA. Besides Aseemanand (pic)
, the accused in Malegaon blast cases include Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Purohit.
Going by the track record in similar cases, the accused are likely to be acquitted in Malegaon cases too. The BJP and other Hindutva organisations have been strongly denying involvement of any Hindu organisation and had been blaming Muslim terrorists behind these blasts to ‘discredit’ Hindus. Union Home minister Rajnath Singh has said on record that the government would not challenge the verdict of the special courts before any other higher court.
Mr V N Rai, a retired Director General of Police, Haryana, who led the initial investigations and cracked the Samjhauta Express blast case, said it appeared that neither the NIA nor the government was interested in pursuing the cases. He said very few in India had a stake in the investigations of Samjhauta blast case as a majority of the victims were from Pakistan and the case was lost due to poor ‘pairvi’ or supervision. He said unless the investigation agency was sincere and determined to get convictions for the accused, the cases are bound to fail.
Given the similar line of investigations, almost the same accused in all such cases, it would be prudent to investigate whether the charges were all cooked up or whether the investigations were not done in right earnest. A dark chapter of violence appears to be over now......but justice for the victims remains awaited.
(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident
Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political
developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal
Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)
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