9 Dead. 11 Years. 0 Con­vic­tions Hyd Blast Case Back To Square One How the pros­e­cu­tion’s case crum­bled

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - | MECCA MASJID CASE - Ma­hesh.Buddi@ Sa­garku­mar Mutha, Sri­nath Vu­dali & U Sud­hakarreddy

Hy­der­abad: Twenty months af­ter it took over the Mecca Masjid blast case from the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI), the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA) claimed to have made two key ar­rests from Mad­hya Pradesh in De­cem­ber 2012.

The NIA had nabbed Ra­jend­har Chowdary, a 35-yearold farmer, and Te­jram Par­mar, a 31-year-old ma­son, for al­legedly plant­ing bombs at the his­toric mosque on May 18, 2007. Later, the NIA did not even in­clude Par­mar’s name in the chargesheet and Ra­jend­har was ac­quit­ted, bring­ing the ter­ror nar­ra­tive — that started as a cross-border Harkat-ul-Ji­had al-Is­lami (HuJI) con­spir­acy and ended as a do­mes­tic Hin­dutva ter­ror plot — back to square one.

Af­ter the blasts, the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (SIT) of the Hy­der­abad po­lice launched a probe and ar­rested several per­sons sus­pected to be HuJI op­er­a­tives.

Five sus­pects, in­clud­ing an MBA stu­dent, were even sent to Ben­galuru and sub­jected to narco anal­y­sis at Bowring and Lady Cur­zon Ho- spi­tal, where they al­legedly con­fessed to have car­ried out the ter­ror strike with RDX sup­plied by their as­so­ci­ates from Bangladesh.

Sub­se­quently, the Mecca Masjid blast case was handed over to the CBI and two cases were reg­is­tered by it in June and Oc­to­ber, 2007.

When the CBI ar­rested Deven­dra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Asee­m­anand in 2010, who were also ac­cused in the Ajmer Dar­gah blast case, the ter­ror nar­ra­tive took a new turn from HuJI to Hin­dutva.

Al­most four years af­ter the CBI started its probe into the case and filed a chargesheet ac­cus­ing per­sons af­fil­i­ated to var­i­ous Hindu re­li­gious out­fits of hav­ing planned and ex­e­cuted the blasts to avenge ter­ror strikes on tem­ples, the probe was handed over to the NIA in April 2011.

The NIA con­tin­ued the line of in­ves­ti­ga­tion pur­sued by the CBI and ar­rested three more per­sons, in­clud­ing the al­leged bomb planters — Ra­jend­har and Te­jram — along with a tex­tile busi­ness­man from Gu­jarat, Bharat Bhai.

With the spe­cial court ac­quit­ting all the five ac­cused, de­fence coun­sel claimed that the case was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and ev­i­dence was fab­ri­cated, while some vic­tims rightly said that “jus­tice de­layed is jus­tice de­nied”. Hy­der­abad: The ‘shoddy’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion car­ried out by the three in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies that probed the Mecca Masjid blast con­clu­sively led to the pros­e­cu­tion’s case col­laps­ing like a pack of cards and ac­quit­tal of all ac­cused, in­sid­ers say. With the re­sult that even 11 years af­ter the in­ci­dent, there is no clar­ity as to who ac­tu­ally car­ried them out.

The case was probed by the Hus­saini Alam po­lice for the first two months. Po­lice pointed the fin­ger of sus­pi­cion on Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Ji­had al-Is­lami and rounded up a few lo­cal youths on the charge that they trig­gered the blasts.

The CBI then took over the case and, in the first chargesheet, named a few per­sons be­long­ing to RSS and Hindu Vichar Manch, in­clud­ing Asee­m­anand of Ch­hat­tis­garh-based NGO Van­vasi Kalyan Ashram, as ac­cused. The case was then taken over by the NIA from the CBI in 2011 and over the next three years, the NIA filed three sup­ple­men­tary chargesheets.

“The wit­nesses pro­duced FREE NOW: by the pros­e­cu­tion and the tes­ti­mony of Asse­m­anand and his re­trac­tion later doomed the case for the state in the Mecca Masjid Case,” top in­ves­tiga­tive sources told TOI.

Out of the 226 wit­nesses cited by the NIA to prove its case, only 66 of them were cru­cial whose state­ments were ca­pa­ble of show­ing se­ri­ous bear­ing on the re­sult of the case. All the re­main­ing wit­nesses were ei­ther doc­tors who con­ducted the post-mortem on the de­ceased in the blasts and po­lice fir­ing, or probe of­fi­cials who at­tended panch­nama, etc.

How­ever, even the 66 wit­nesses turned hos­tile and ren­dered the NIA help­less. The ma­jor­ity of these wit­nesses be­longed to places like Jhark­hand and In­dore from where many ac­cused in the case hailed from. “These wit­nesses were teach­ers and small traders who said they knew the ac­cused and their plans. But with their dis­in­cli­na­tion to sail with the pros­e­cu­tion mid­way, the bal­ance was ti­tled in favour of the ac­cused,” said the sources.

Added to the key wit­nesses turn­ing hos­tile was the con­fes­sion fi­asco of Asee­m­anand, key ac­cused in the case. He had de­posed be­fore a Delhi mag­is­trate in 2010 stat­ing that he had car­ried out the blast as he was up­set over the at­tacks on tem­ples that tar­geted Hin­dus. Fur­ther, Assee­mand told the mag­is­trate that since the Nizam of Hy­der­abad opted to merge with Pak­istan at the time of in­de­pen­dence, he chose Hy­der­abad as the tar­get in or­der to “pun­ish” the city for sid­ing with Pak­istan. Asee­m­anand’s state­ment was recorded un­der Sec­tion 164 of the CrPC by the Delhi judge.

How­ever, in 2011, Asee­m­ananda wrote a let­ter to a Hy­der­abad court judge re­tract­ing the state­ment he made be­fore the Delhi judge. “I made the state­ment con­fess­ing to my in­volve­ment in the Mecca Masjid case ow­ing to pres­sure from CBI,” he said.

The sources told TOI that the NIA judge who de­liv­ered the ver­dict on Mon­day com­pletely dis­re­garded the state­ment made by Asee­m­anand be­fore the Delhi judge. “This, cou­pled with the wit­nesses turn­ing hos­tile, led to the pros­e­cu­tion’s case col­laps­ing like a pack of cards,” they said.

There were other is­sues too. The pros­e­cu­tion re­lied on the state­ment of an al­leged jail mate of Asee­m­anand who claimed that the lat­ter con­fided in him about the con­spir­acy be­hind the Mecca Masjid blast. But the NIA could not even show proof that this wit­ness was in jail along with Asee­m­anand.

TOI

Asee­m­anand be­ing pro­duced for a court hear­ing in 2011

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