It has taken six years,four agencies state and Central and a confession by the real accused for four Hindu right-wing men to be established as the masterminds behind the Malegaon 2006 serial blast case.
In the aftermath of the blasts in Malegaon,a powerloom hub near Nashik known to be communally sensitive,the local police and then Maharashtras premier Anti-Terrorism Squad had raided Muslim mohallas,rounded up scores of men,and allegedly illegally detained and tortured them for months. The chargesheet filed by the ATS in 2006 and later validated by the CBI in 2007 alleged to have recovered RDX,arms and ammunition,jihadi literature,incriminating cellphone records,and records of journey to foreign countries for terror training by these young men.
This line of investigation now stands exposed by the NIA probe as well as the confession by Swami Aseemanand,prime accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts.
If the Muslim youth originally charged are now acquitted,the point of contention remains whether the state government will take the erring officers to task. Since the men were booked under the stringent legislation MCOCA,mandatory sanctions for prosecution were granted by top IPS officers and bureaucrats. Seven of the nine accused were said to have confessed their crimes before magistrates (they later denied making the confessions).
Under MCOCA legal measures can be taken against officers in such cases,and they can receive up to three years of imprisonment. With the NIA investigation report submitted to the court,will the police officers and judicial officers who built up what appears a false case against the Muslim youths now face this action?
This is not the first time that men from minority community have been wrongly picked up and left to languish in jail. In the February 2007 Hyderabad twin blasts case too,as many as 70 Muslim men had been rounded up,only to be later exonerated.
Maharashtra should look into the matter,particularly as most of the officers in this case are also handling other terror cases in the state and are mired in similar controversies,as well as compensate the affected youth handsomely. This is essential if faith in the police force has to be restored.
Sukanya is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai