Mecca, Ajmer blasts: Were wrong men prosecuted?
Uma Sudhir, Sudhi Ranjan Sen, Rajan Mahan
Tuesday May 4, 2010
Hyderabad, New Delhi, Rajasthan
When blasts took place first at the Ajmer Dargah near Jaipur and then at the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, the police and the government immediately blamed Pakistani-based terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJi).
The attacks in Ajmer and Hyderabad took place nearly five months apart in 2007. Three people were killed in the Ajmer attack; another nine died in the Hyderabad explosion. Immediately after them, young Muslims were arrested in Hyderabad for Mecca Masjid blasts.
Three years later, new evidence suggests that the investigating agencies and the government got it all wrong. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) says it believes that radical Hindu groups planned those blasts.
What's led to this new theory is the arrests last week of three men by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad. They were tracked down because they were using SIM cards found in the debris after the attack at Ajmer.
The men arrested are all Hindus, and are believed to be associated to Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu radical group that India confronted for the first time in 2006.
In September 2006, a series of blasts in Malegaon in Maharashtra left 37 people dead and another 25 injured. Almost two years later, Mumbai Police Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested Sadhvi Pragya Thakur on October 10, 2008 and then serving army officer, Lieutenant Colonel S P Purohit, believed to be the leaders of Abhinav Bharat. Their alleged agenda: to target Muslim crowds.
Purohit, in recent interrogation, has allegedly said that a man named Sunil Joshi was behind the Ajmer blast. That's what the Rajasthan police also suspects. Sunil Joshi, who was an RSS pracharak in Madhya Pradesh's Mhow area, had links with Devendra Gupta, the first suspect arrested in the Ajmer Dargah case. Joshi, a resident of Indore, was killed in Dewas in December 2007. The call details of Gupta indicate that both were in touch.
"Colonel Purohit, arrested for Malgaon blast, has confessed that Sunil Joshi had organised the Dargah operation with the help of Devendra Gupta," Rajasthan Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal told the Hindu newspaper on May 2.
The CBI says that in both the Ajmer and Hyderabad blasts, identical explosives were used. Cellphones triggered both bombs.
So in two different cities, Pakistani groups were held responsible, and young Muslims paid the price. Muslims like Ibrahim Junaid, who, along with 25 others, was picked up from the Old City of Hyderabad and accused of terror links. They were reportedly tortured in illegal custody. There was no chargesheet accusing them of links to the Mecca Masjid attack. Instead they were accused of conspiring to wage war against the state, of preparing and playing out CDs of the Gujarat communal riots of 2002 to create communal tension.
Junaid was at that time was a Unani doctor; he was finally acquitted after 2 years.
"Without proof, they arrested our children. They didn't even inform us. We didn't know their whereabouts for 7-8 days," said Arifunnisa, Junaid's mother.
All 26 men were later acquitted but they say the stigma never goes away. Junaid says, "When there is a blast, youth of a particular community are targeted. They are playing with our lives. That happened to me. I lost a year in college. I was not able to do my MD because of this.''
Junaid and some of the other Muslims who were arrested have gone to court seeking compensation.
"We are demanding compensation from the police officers who tortured us. That they should be made to pay compensation from their salary, says Rayeesuddin.