Monday, June 17, 2013

Hindutva Terror in Karnataka: Malleswaram or Was It Hubli 2.0

- Subhash Gatade
I
BANGALORE (April 17)—A bomb blast rocked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office near Malleswaram 11th Cross around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, injuring 11 police officers and four civilians, police said. The explosion in the north-central area of the city initially was reported to have been caused by a gas cylinder, but the police later said it was caused by a bomb.

The right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP is the ruling party in Karnataka. Elections for the state assembly are to be held on May 5.

R. Ashok, Karnataka’s deputy chief minister and home minister, said the blast was “a clear act of terror” targeted at the BJP.

..Congress national spokesman Shakeel Ahmad tweeted: “Karnataka HM R Ashok says blast near our office was aimed to kill BJP leaders due to elections. This will also generate some sympathy.”

                                                                                                                 (The Soft Copy)

Imagine a bomb blast in a lane near the ruling party's office just before the elections which is immediately attributed to an ubiquitous terrorist group by the powers that be. As expected the incident comes in handy not only for the newshungry 24 7 TV channels but helps the beleaguered ruling dispensation gain little breathing space bit far away from its internal squabbles and growing frustration of the people over cases of corruption and policies which have benefitted only a few.

This 'terrorist activity' - as claimed by the home minister - propells the police machinery into action which promptly nabs within record time few of the alleged perpetrators alongwith the 'mastermind' who according to the police executed the cowardly act. Perhaps the matter should have ended their 'happily' with justice being done to the accused after a longwinding judicial process.

Site of the blast near BJP office at Malleswaram in Bangalore. (PTI)

But a spate of fresh questions has put the whole probe in jeopardy.



Now it appears that the police in its rampant hurry has not investigated the case properly, not only leaving many loose ends but has supposedly resorted to third degree methods to extract confession from the said accused. Around a month after police claimed success in unearthing the case, a news item in a leading daily rather blew the lid from the lofty claims which makes it evident that despite having knowledge of the identity of the person whose SIM card was used to trigger the blast the police have not deemed it necessary even to question him as he happens to be an 'influential RSS leader'. According to the report ( Malleswaram blast: RSS man not questioned? Deccan Chronicle | Johnlee Abraham | 27th May 2013) :

Bengaluru: The city police have not yet questioned the RSS activist whose allegedly stolen SIM card was used to trigger the April 17 bomb blast in Malleswaram. It is reliably learnt that even though the cellphone and the SIM belonging to the RSS activist, who is said to be an influential leader, were said to be stolen a day prior to the bomb blast, no police complaint was ever registered about the theft, a senior police officer confirmed.

The RSS leader, whose identity the police have chosen to keep secret, wields considerable influence in the region bordering Kerala and Karnataka. Police are yet to ascertain how this man ‘lost’ his phone and how the alleged plotters came to be in possession of his SIM. Had the matter been reported and the SIM card been cancelled, the perpetrators could not have used it for their nefarious purpose.

The investigators found that the improvised explosive device (IED) that injured 11 policemen and five civilians was triggered using a SIM card. The team tracked the mobile tower near the bomb blast area and traced a number that was registered in the name of a prominent RSS leader from Karnataka. It was then established that the cellphone was allegedly stolen from him just a day before the blast. The man has not been questioned.

In addition, the police have also found that 16 SIM cards were used while planning the attack. All the SIM cards were either stolen or had been procured using fake documents.

Definitely the police needs to do lot of explaining about its silence over the RSS leader. Question naturally arises whether the police was under political pressure from the outgoing regime to tailor the investigation to suit its electoral needs ?

It is really surprising that despite having enough documentary proof (refer to this link) that activists of different hindutva formations such as Sri Rama Sene, Hindu Jagran Vedike, Hindu Janajagriti Samithi, Sanathan Sanstha, and affiliated organisations of Sangh Parivar have used 'terror of the bomb' to pin the terror tag on Muslim community in the state the police did not even seek information from the said person about how he "..‘lost’ his phone and how the alleged plotters came to be in possession of his SIM."

Looking at the fact that, merely ten day before this incident in Malleswaram, "[A] suspected terrorist belonging to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was killed when the motorbike on which he was travelling, with explosive materials, exploded at Maruthayil near Mattannur in Kannur district of Kerala " at a place which is hardly 300 kms away from Bangalore, the police should have observed more care. The deceased was identified as AV Dileep Kumar (27), son of Ambiloth Sankaran. He was a noted RSS worker in the area. The intensity of the explosion was such that it not only destroyed the motorbike but also damaged three houses within a 50 metre radius, police said. As it usually happens in all such cases the local leader of the RSS denied that Dileep was an activist but rather a sympathiser of the organisation and was carrying 'firecrackers' on his bike.

Extracts of a fact finding done by a human rights organisation in the Malleswaram case appeared in a section of the media which has accused both the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu police for falsely implicating innocent Muslims in the April 17 Bangalore blast case and demanded that the case be handed over to the CBI, for fair and speedy investigation. According to their detailed investigation "evidences were fabricated against them by the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police."

..[T]he report, to start off, draws attention to a preliminary complaint, lodged by one traffic police Sub-Inspector Nanjappa, who was physically present nearby the blast site. Nanjappa goes on to mention that the explosion was carried by some “anti-national” terrorist organization members with the intention of waging war against the country. The Fact Finding team alleges that, such stereo typing of the case, without any evidence or proof, subverted the investigation in a specific direction at its very onset.

Mr. Bhavani B Mohan, who spoke to the media, said the fact-finding committee had visited the site of the blast, spoken to the accused and their advocates in the case to get to the crux of the matter.

Kichan Buhari, the prime accused in the case has narrated to the team that, he was tortured with electric shocks to several parts of his body, including his private parts to implicate Kerala’s PDF leader Abdul Nazer Madani as the kingpin behind the blast. Abdul Nazer Madani is currently lodged in a Bangalore prison for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Bangalore serial blasts and 2010 Bangalore stadium bombing case...

The report also alleges that Buhari, who has previously served 10 years in prison in connection with the 1998 Coimbatore blast case, is also being pressurised to give up his efforts to provide legal assistance to those falsely implicated in that case.

Another accused Peer Mohideen has told that he was tortured to falsely admit the involvement of one Police Fakrudeen, Banna Ismail and Bilal Malik in the blast case; however, as he had never seen these people before, he refused to comply. Subsequently, Peer Mohideen himself was implicated as an accused.

“The erstwhile BJP government and the police machinery hand in glove with the Tamil Nadu police spun a banned outfit organisation’s erstwhile members, who are actively fighting for justice in the appeal before the Apex Court pertaining to the bomb blast occurred in 1998 at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The police also conveniently fixed the absconding accused as Muslims in Tamil Nadu to be perpetrators of the crime..” alleges NCHRO.

The arbitrary manner in which police handled the case could also be gauged from the fact that a footage taken from a CCTV near the BJP office clearly shows a person parking a motorcycle in the spot before the blast. But the police did not release the footage or photograph of the suspected person. In this particular blast, there was an additional factor as mentioned by an analyst : propaganda that the blast took place "near BJP office", when in reality the blast was 300 metres away from the office.

II

Definitely this could not be said to be the first investigation of its kind where the role of the police and investigating agencies has come under a scanner. There are n number of cases where law and order people have badly fumbled and have received enough opprobrium from the judiciary. Not some time ago ' Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association' had brought out a report 'Framed, Damned and Acquitted' which looks at the operations of the Special Cell of the Delhi police, the stereotypical manner in which they conducted investigations in cases arresting Muslims for being part of terrorist outfits and how in most of these cases the accused were acquitted by the courts. Or look at the ongoing Dharana/ sit in before the UP assembly under the auspices of Rihai Manch - a forum for the release of innocent Muslims imprisoned in the name of terrorism - about the custodial death of Maulana Khalid Mujahid who was languishing in jail alongwith Tariq Qasmi for the last six years. In fact Justice Nimesh Commission report - which was appointed by the erstwhile BSP government to look into this particular case - and whose report was finally released by the SP government after lot of dilly dallying has not only brought out the role of many senior police officers in the the 'abduction' of the duo from their home towns and charging them with role in terror attacks in Lucknow and Barabanki. It is said that there was tremendous pressure from justic loving people to take action against these guilty officers and Khalid Mujahid was killed by these very elements who wanted to save their own skin.

The recent developments in the Malegaon bomb blast case 2006 where a terror module of RSS workers has been finally chargesheeted, is also a pointer to the prejudices entertained by the police.The report filed by the NIA in this case has completely discarded the earlier FIRs by ATS, Maharashtra and by CBI, which had led to great miscarriage of justice in the lives of nine innocents and their families. First the Anti Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra handled the case and despite evidence to the contrary blamed it on Muslims, arrested many amongst them and put them behind bars ; CBI took over the probe when there was tremendous uproar over the way ATS had handled the case which sat over the case for five years and then itself dittoed ATS's conclusions ; since the case was based on flimsy grounds the charges could not be sustained and the accused were granted bail. Ultimately when NIA took over the case, it could finally lead to dropping of charges against the innocents and charging the Hindutva terrorists for the heinous crime.

We have end number of such examples where the actual perpetrators were never caught and innocents were apprehended, tortured badly and asked to ‘confess’ a crime which they had not committed.

Or refer to the expose by Ashish Khaitan which has unearthed:

“.[i]nternal documents from more than half a dozen anti-terror agencies that show that the State has been knowingly prosecuting innocent Muslims for terror cases and keeping the evidence of their innocence from the courts...”

In a press conference held in Mumbai he presented his investigation and had even screened a film with candid interviews of accused Muslim men. He has even sent a letter petition to the Bombay high court with nearly 400 pages of evidence in the form of official investigation and interrogation reports of the accused men and other documents which clearly indicate huge discrepancies. According to him his research into the July 11, 2006, train blasts, the Malegaon 2006 blasts and the Pune German Bakery blasts of February 2010 showed that the ATS has deliberately created bogus evidence, extracted false confessions by the most inhuman torture, planted explosives in the houses of the young men and implicated innocent youth. In the name of internal security, the ATS and other agencies were misleading the courts. According to a report which appeared in a section of the media:

..Khetan said he wasn’t out to prove anyone’s guilt but expose the farcical criminal investigation which also reflected deepset anti Muslim prejudice. What is serious is that one of these men Himayat Baig has been given the death sentence for the Pune German Bakery blasts when clearly police had found evidence of another man’s involvement. The case of Qateel Sheikh who died in a high security Pune prison just before he was to testify in a Delhi court is not longer a mystery going by what Khetan’s documents show. The ATS arrested Himayat Baig from Udgir and claimed he had carried out the German Bakery blast. However, a year later the Delhi police arrested Qatil Siddiqui and Interrogation Reports obtained by Khetan show he is linked to the Pune blast. These reports were not produced in the court which finally gave Baig the death sentence. Police then tweaked reports to show Sheikh’s involvement in another case.

Presenting all the facts, Khetan has asked the high court to order an independent commission of inquiry into the conduct of the investigating officers, action against officers guilty of violations and relief for the victims of such operations.

III

Incidentally, the Malleswaram bomb blast, where the police could immediately find the ‘mastermind’ reminds one of another bomb blast in Karnataka itself which occurred during last elections in Hubli court (May 2008). In this case also many innocents belonging to minority community were illegally detained and quite a few among them also were booked for their ’role’ in the blasts. The police had promptly claimed that ’sleeper cells belonging to LeT and SIMI’ had executed the blasts.

And when the BJP government was firmly in the saddle and the accused in the bomb blasts case had already spent months together behind jails, had come the news which was definitely not soothing to the ears of the saffron commanders. The IGP of North Karnataka Ragavendera Auradhkar addressed a press conference telling the media that the mysterious bomb blasts which had struck the Hubli courts were the handiwork of a criminal gang led by one Nagraj Jambagi with links to Sangh Parivar.

Hindutva terror has struck Karnataka. The Karnataka police arrested nine persons with Sangh Parivar links for allegedly setting off a bomb in the court of the junior first class magistrate in Hubli May 2008. They were also accused of planting a live bomb on the Dharwad-Belgaum road. This points to the presence of Hindutva terror suspects in the state.

The police had initially blamed SIMI for both the Hubli court blast and the planting of the live bomb. (Mailtoday 13 Jan 2009)

According to the IGP it was the same team which had planted a bomb on the Belgaum-Hubli highway in the year 2008.However, this bomb failed to explode as it was raining heavily. After high drama, the bomb squad had finally retrieved the bomb. In fact Nagraj had led the gang which was also involved in seven murder cases in North Karnataka and several cases of abduction also. Interestingly the police had stumbled upon this gang while investigating the murder of a Bagalkot businessman. Police had also seized live bombs, gun powder, lethal weapons, Rs 11.08 lakh in cash, gold, silver and two motorbikes from them. Apart from Nagaraj Jambagi (24), a resident of Heggur Plot in Bilagi taluk; the arrested persons include Ramesh Pawar (24), Basavaraj Diggi (22), Manjunath Binjawadagi (19), Deepak Govindakar (28), Lingaraj Jalgar (24) - all from Bagalkot; Basavaraj Rugi (20) of Honakuppi village in Gokak taluk; Hanamanth Sainasakali (22), and Channabasappa Hunasagi (35) of Indi taluk in Bijapur.

What happened later was more tragic. The criminal Nagaraj Jambagi, who was miffed at the treatment meted out to him by his patrons in the parivar, decided to turn an approver and provide details of the wider Hindutva terror network existing in the state and therefore was killed by his own colleagues in crime lodged in jail with him. Since the state was then ruled by the saffron dispensation itself, no further enquiries were conducted in his 'accidental death'.

Any peace loving person would vouch that the cause of justice would be better served if fresh investigation is conducted in Malleswaram bomb blast case and the real guilty are apprehended. Mr Siddharamaiah, the new incumbent to the chief minister's post has promised to provide a clean and transparent administration. Perhaps he can make a beginning by asking the law and order people to revisit the case.

**********
Subhash Gatade is a New Socialist Initiative (NSI) activist.  He is also the author of Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India, and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India.

3 comments:

iamtush said...

That terror has no religion is an often touted argument across all spectrum of the society. But using terms like Saffron Terror, Hindutva Terror etc in an explicit manner is very shameful. Two wrongs do not make a right. Not Happening !! Years of Islamic terrorism, minority appeasement and lackadaisical responses to the various threats by various Governments will have a blowback - and it is only natural. This is a sign that the majority community is feeling threatened and sidelined. Your insinuations, even if they are true, will not change this fact.

Free and Footloose said...

I think there is no need to dignify this profoundly biased, Hindu-hating article with rebuttals. The author's leanings are well known and so are his prejudices. He talks about bail granted to Muslim accused as if it is a vindication of their innocence. But he conveniently ignores the fact that three of the Hindu accused in Malegaon case have been granted bail. He cries buckets over Muslims in custody but keeps silent about Sadhvi Pragya who is unlikely to survive her jail term.

Avoid engaging with such petty people. It only makes their non-existant stature look larger.

Jyotiswaroop Pandey said...

Police frame people to 'work out' unknown cases and do not discriminate on the basis of religion or caste or ethnicity.The whole establishment - the politicians,the bureaucracy,their own officers - is complicit with them on this as they all think that for control over crime and terror police must be allowed to use third degree,plant evidence,carry out fake encounters.

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