Khalid Mujahid’s death raises vital questions about justice delivery in terror cases
Khalid Mujahids death,in the custody of the Uttar Pradesh police,has touched off questions about how terror cases are investigated and prosecuted,and the difficulty of drilling down to the facts when religious identity and politics are factors. After the serial blasts at the district courts in Lucknow,Faizabad and Gorakhpur in November 2007,Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi were arrested; they were allegedly in possession of detonators and RDX. The police version,however,had several inconsistencies. After public protest,the then-BSP government set up a panel under Justice R.D. Nimesh to investigate the arrests. The commission report,submitted in 2012,found police claims on the date,place and timing of arrests doubtful,but it failed to identify those responsible for picking,detaining and torturing the two men.
The Samajwadi Party then brought its own political calculus to the case. After extravagantly promising,in its manifesto,to free all those who are falsely implicated terror suspects,it tried to use the case to endear itself to the Muslim community. But instead of presenting the Nimesh Commission findings in the assembly,and to the court,so that a fair investigation could begin,the state government merely petitioned for the case to be withdrawn in public interest and for the sake of communal harmony. The court predictably rejected the plea,saying the government had not filed an affidavit with the application,or proved how withdrawing these cases contributed to communal harmony.
Now that Mujahid has died in mysterious circumstances,while under the protection of the state,these questions have become even more muddled. This is not the first time that terror investigations have been compromised by the police,and it would be hard to deny that social prejudice plays a part. Recall Imran Kirmani in 2006,held for a 9/11-type plot in Delhi,until the court cleared his name four years later and showed up the callous and inferior quality of investigation. Or the 2006 Mumbai attacks,when a large number of Muslims were arrested without proof; the ATS blamed SIMI while the Mumbai Police crime branch identified the Indian Mujahideen as the plotters. These incidents corrode trust in impartial investigation and justice delivery. The state should redirect its concerns there,instead of trying to speak for and exonerate entire groups.