MALEGAON BLASTS Tell the nation who the real culprits are

SIKANDAR AZAM hails Hindu-Muslim solidarity, appreciates Muslims’ self-esteem in rejecting the compensation money and demands fair investigation and speedy justice.

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SIKANDAR AZAM hails Hindu-Muslim solidarity, appreciates Muslims’ self-esteem in rejecting the compensation money and demands fair investigation and speedy justice.

That four serial blasts rocked Malegaon in Maharashtra is now no news. The news Indian Muslims, the second largest majority in the country, along with the peace and justice-loving people in the country have been awaiting since this terror act sent shockwaves across the country on September 8, is in fact yet to break. What is that great, yet-to-break news? It is about the identity of the perpetrators of the inhuman crime. Yes, it would be great if the nation is told who the perpetrators were. Because two long months have passed since seven serial blasts hit a suburb train in Mumbai and the police and investigative agencies have failed rather miserably to identify the real culprits.

A Rs. 5 Lakh Question
This is a Rs. 5 lakh, if not a billion dollar, question. The value of this great news is really so great that the Vilas Rao Deshmukh administration of Maharashtra has announced Rs. 5 lakh reward for one who will give some vital clues to the identity of the terrorists, and promised not to reveal the identity of the one who will thus help the administration in this venture. Hoping against hope, the Muslims pray the day come when the real culprits are identified and brought to book.

The Maharashtra police earlier announced the incident claimed 37 persons and rendered over 200 injured. But later it clarified that only 31 persons were killed as some people killed in other incidents had been included in the blast case.

The Maharashtra police on September 10 got clues to the shop wherefrom the bicycles used in the blasts are said to have been purchased. It summoned the shop owner, Dinesh Agrawal and his son in Malegaon police station for questioning. On the basis of the information provided by the Agrawals it issued sketches of two suspects, which are likely to help nab them.

Fake Beard Case
Though the I.G. Police P.K. Jain made it clear at the September 10 press conference that the police is taking into account all the aspects of the investigation, the S.P. Malegaon Raj Vardhan stunned the presspersons as well as the aggrieved Muslims in the powerloom town when he categorically denied ever having any dead body with fake beard in the police custody. While only a day earlier he had said that the said dead body was sent to Nasik.

One eye-witness, Aqueel Ahmed Ansari of Islampura Mohalla has been widely cited in Urdu press claiming that he had himself put a dead body with fake beard into an ambulance. The 37-year-old tailor, Aqueel said he was volunteering his services to upload the bodies of dead and injured persons into the vehicle. As he was uploading a dead body into the ambulance its beard fell down. He said he immediately informed the police personnel there, who seized the fake beard and kept it in their custody. The police officials of Azad Nagar police station near the graveyard also told the presspersons on condition of anonymity that they had seen such a dead body. Aqueel said the said dead body was found near a bicycle at the mosque gate and that it was the most mutilated one. Local Muslims apprehend the said body might be of a suicide bomber disguised as a Muslim.

Some Urdu dailies have alleged the police of trying to sweep the fake-beard case under the carpet. They have also reminded the reading public of April 6, 2006 bomb blasts in a flat belonging to a Bajrang Dal activist in Nanded in which two BD activists Naresh and Himanshu were reduced to smithereens when they along with three others were making bombs. The papers added that at that time the police had seized from the same flat fake beards, skull caps, sets of kurta-shalwar and a diary in which bomb-making formula was written. These papers opine that there might be some link between the April 6 blast in Nanded and September 8 blasts in Malegaon. It is up to the investigating agencies to come up with the reality whatsoever.

Hindu-Muslim Unity
The Muslim concentration town with 75 per cent Muslims out of its total population of nine lakh, Malegaon has been a communally sensitive place. In the post-Independence history it first witnessed a communal flare-up as a result of clash between Muharram and Ganesh immersion processions in 1963, claiming eight innocent lives. In 1992 communal riots once again erupted in the town following lathicharge on the members of the Muslim community. And in the recent years, on October 26, 2001, the town was engulfed in communal clashes when the Muslims appealed to boycott American products as a protest against US bombing on Afghanistan. And every time our law and order machinery has proved a big failure in preventing what could have been prevented.

This time there was nothing communal. It was out and out a terrorist act. Both Muslims and Hindus realised this reality and as a result the town witnessed rare scenes of communal amity and brotherhood. People belonging to both the communities gathered in hospital and blood banks to help the injured. While the Hindus of the town were seen standing in queues to donate blood for the needy, the Muslims formed a human chain to help escort hundreds of Hindu girls from Zila Parishad School safe to their homes. These were really rare sights in the communally charged plural Bharat.

Muslims’ Self-esteem
The Muslims of Malegaon displayed a keen sense of honour and self-esteem when a high level delegation led by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and consisting of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh reached Malegaon and started distributing cheques worth Rs. 50,000 each to those who had lost their sons and grandsons. At least four persons – Muhammad Shafeeq, Muhammad Haroon Ishaque Munshi, Muhammad and Shakil Ahmed – outright turned down the cheques, saying that human life is priceless, and that they had lost their assets and no amount of compensation could satisfy them. They complained that in spite of sharing their grief the leaders were distributing money as if the former were beggars.

“Arrest those who have perpetrated the crime and bring them to book; this is what we want,” they told the Central and State leaders in a straightforward manner.

One of them told the leaders that he would give them Rs. 10 lakh if they really arrest and punish those responsible for the blasts. It is really a great challenge for the administration if law and order has any meaning in the country.

The serial blasts, the second within two months in the State of Maharashtra, cry for fair investigation and speedy justice and call upon the government to tell the nation who the real culprits were.