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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 36, New Delhi, August 27, 2016

The Phenomenology of Terrorism

Malegaon 2006-2016

Sunday 28 August 2016

by Mustafa Khan

September 2016 will complete a full decade of the bomb blasts of 2006 in Malegaon. It was this that made Hindutva terrorism a new coinage of ignominy with which the Hindutva Right never felt comfortable. Their smarting under this brand burnt into the flesh more and more as evidence mounted in other related cases of early and middle circa 2000s.

With due respect to our investigation agencies, like the IB, CBI and others, there are other sources of ascertaining facts that they refuse to take cognisance of; phenomenalism, for instance. It is self-evident that “human knowledge is confined to or founded on the certainties or appearances presented to the senses”. All that appears to the senses cannot be hallucination or chimera.

Malegaon 2006 Blasts

I had once reasoned with NIA officers that one of the accused (Azhar Parves) who, according to the police and later ATS, had committed suicide, could not have done so. The reason was that he reportedly bought blade and cut his artery on both the wrists, at the back of the ankles, just above his knees, on the back of his head, etc. He just could not have done the whole gamut of hara-kiri. An artery incision lets the blood gush out of the vessel until it is emptied. The Chief Investigation Officer smiled at me but said that that is what the family stated that he had killed himself. I persisted with IO Pramode Mane and said how could he do all that and then close the door and latch it from outside and get into the room. There was only one door. He was accused of planting the bomb for perhaps his faith and the other, Abrar Ahmad, for money. At least this was what ATS and local police maintained until the son of the deceased much later told The Indian Express that his father was murdered.

Another Gordon’s knot to cut was the alleged role of a yarn tycoon, Mahesh Patodiya, distributing huge sums of money to the actual planters and their associates. There was a quarrel at the Mamco Bank in Perry Chowk after the blasts. The people involved demanded more money than was paid. The police swung into action and removed a man, reportedly the tycoon, from the scene by hiding him in a veil. Both the scenes of commotion at the bank and at the police chowki where he was interrogated attracted huge crowds of people, both Hindus and Muslims alike. Luckily the catastrophe of the day had a sobering effect and there was no communal feeling. On the other hand, the Hindus and Muslims had donated blood freely as one people standing in solidarity as the need of the hour demanded.

Among the nine accused some were very learned and could be counted among the proud citizenry of the country. One such was Dr Farog Magdumi who became a “radical” Ahle Hadish follower. Malegaon has a long history of moderate Muslims who have gone through generations of reformation; staunch Muslims, yes, but not radical. There was another group called Noorulhoda Shamshuduha. They took up their pens and wrote down in more than five years of imprisonment about why they were arrested, what was the philosophy of the blasts for which they had to suffer long years of imprisonment and torture. They also correctly raised their finger at one of them who had not only turned approver and then tried to distance himself from the police. It was Abrar Ahmad, a police informer who, according to former MLA Mufti Ismail, brought money to the joint family which did not question the source then. The Mufti took the opportunity to raise such matters in the Id prayer at the camp Idgah ground. In the hubbub then or after their bail and finally after acquittal there was no acrimony or ruckus among them even when the highest punishment for perjury is death penalty.

Farog reflected into the causes and came out with the facts of how “For the last 50 to 60 years Gujarati and Marwari yarn traders (overwhel-mingly Hindu) had been supplying yarn and raw materials to the weavers. A new generation of educated and pious Muslims among them tried to improve the lot of the weavers and formed groups and directly began buying yarn and raw material from the mills. They also started selling their finished product, cloth, directly to the firms in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Surat. This deprived the middle men in Malegaon of their income.” Then came the bomb blasts of 2006. As an aftermath the trading pattern returned to the previous practice. The Gujarati and Marwari merchants got back their business. By October 17, 2006 the police had acquired information on these. They called Mahesh Patodiya to question him about his role. He was an active member of the RSS. But the members of the saffron group forced the police to release him.1

Id Banner 

The police could have tipped Abrar for his chores but causing bomb blasts is a different class of undertaking. It is paid according to a new scale of payment. The government sensed it. Therefore they sent a police officer, Davidas Sonowne, to inquire if some Hindus, namely, Parsuram Shiva Mohite, Balyogi Surajnath and Mahesh Patodiya, were involved in the blasts of 2006. This inquiry had come before the case was handed over to the ATS. Such a move on the part of the government had an air of being haphazard for it was too short-lived and premature. If they really had anything on the three including the tycoon they would have surely arrested them. Sonowne had also remarked that the Maharashtra Police had told the NIA investigators that one Assistant Inspector Awhad was directed by the DSP, M.R. Malegaonkar, to visit Aurangabad, Nanded and Parbhani where similar kinds of blasts had taken place.2 This was the second assumption not carried to any serious test. For had then the probe been really directed to the involvement of locals and similar patterns of Marathwada attacks [Parbhani (2003), Purna (2004) and Jalna (2004) Nanded (April 6, 2006) where Himanshu Panse and Naresh Rajkondowar were killed by the bomb they were assembling; Panse was also a close associate of Sunil Joshi who was behind 2006 Malegaon blasts] the truth would have emerged sooner. The confession of Swami Asimanand could have been obviated by honest perseverance in investigation. But the police were playing the insider’s game in allegedly conducting and then inquiring into what turned out to be terrorism.

Contextualised and capsule(d) in shock and awe of the throbbing time it would not be any wild allegation for the several affidavits submitted then like those of Shakeel Ahmad Mohammad Yacub, executed on October 6, 2006, or of Irfan and Atif clearly show police pro-activism in framing and investigation and planting of arms on May 9, 2006 and subsequently the bombings. A more considerate affidavit was of Abrar Ahmed of a much later date. But first of Shakeel.

“I, Shakeel Ahmad Mohammad Yusuf, business joining beam thread, age 38, address Samad Habid Compound, Malegaon, am giving this affidavit in writing.

“I had gone to buy a new cycle from the shop Santosh Cycle Mart, at 3.30 pm on May 14, 2006. As per the receipt 2635 I bought a cycle in the name of my brother. At that time the son of the owner of the shop, Pius Agarwal, was at the counter. After haggling the price was decided and the cycle was being fitted. I sat inside the shop. There was a phone call on the mobile of Pius. He uttered some code words and then spoke in Hindi. ‘Whatever material we had put in the well near Ankai has been removed in the presence of Raj Verdhan [Sinha] sahib. I have talked face to face with him regarding the list of names we had supplied to him. All the names have been properly set in the scheme [framing the Muslims]. Everything is perfect. We will sit there and prepare the strategy for the future.’”

Raj Vardhan Sinha:

“I had already read in papers about the seizure of RDX and arms from there; so I asked him intimately what the connection with the seizure of arms there is with you. You were talking about the seizure of arms just now. He was stunned. He asked me if I was listening. He was perturbed and told me that it was a different personal matter.

“Then he asked me if I would sit there. His daddy would come and prepare the bill for me. He then left the shop soon.

“Fifteen minutes later his father came and prepared the bill. I took it and the cycle and left the shop.

“When the bombs blasts took place in Malegaon [on September 8, 2006] I read in the paper that the cycle on which the bomb was fitted was purchased from the same cycle shop. Then my suspicion grew that the son of the cycle shop owner was involved in it.

“I had informed about this to the Additional Superintendent of Police Anil Kumbhare. I had gone to him along with the MLA Shaikh Rashid Sahib. But I think there was no action taken on the information I had furnished. Therefore I am giving in writing voluntarily this without any greed or under any pressure so that it would help the police to arrest the real criminals.”

Another affidavit executed on September 16, 2006 of Irfan Ahmad Akeel Ahmad in which he states that he worked in Ansar Seth’s power loom shed that was located in a lane around the graveyard. It was 6.50 on September 12, 2006 when PC Sachin and two others called him and took him from the shed where he worked with his parents and three brothers and he also had four sisters. They took him to Azad Nagar Police Station from where he was taken to Chawni Police Station. He was handed over to PSI
Ghanoore sahib, House Station Master. In the Sumo Tata, Ghannore took him on the road of MSG College and brought him to about 3 to 4 kilometers away in the dark night. Ghanoore told him to confess that “I am involved in bomb blast”. Then they brought a handicapped and a dumb person. The handicapped said that he (Irfan) had given his footwear to him to care for until the end of the Friday (September 8) prayer. He also said that he saw a bag [thaili] in his hand which he hung by the handle of a cycle.

Irfan realised that he was forced to confess a crime that he had not committed. He refused; thereupon the police beat him mercilessly. They changed their tactic and offered him five lakh rupees to tempt him to do what they asked him to do. They took him back to Chawni Police Station and later to Azad Nagar Police Station the next day. They told him to report to the police station as and when called.

The third affidavit was even more crucial. It was executed at Allahabad High Court. The accused Atif was a servant of Shabbir Masiullah, another accused, who was already in police custody since August 2, 2006. The police said that the bomb was assembled in Masiullah’s factory. The police beat Atif and tortured him and made him confess that the bomb was assembled in factory/godown. The police later released him from detention. He escaped away from Malegaon to his village in UP. In his affidavit he disclosed how the police in Malegaon tried to frame him. And forced him to frame others.

Abrar’s affidavit clearly shows that the blasts were the insider’s job in which he also played some role and then became a turncoat. But in his last pronouncement made after his acquittal along with the others he spoke tongue-in-cheek and manifested he knew more and would reveal according to the circumambient opportunism. But piecemeal with cunning calculation of safeguarding his side.

Id celebration in 2016 saw a chemistry of change. Mufti Ismail prayed for the well-being of the investigation agencies and also for them to take an objective method investigation. Banners in the city went up with his photo and photos of important yarn merchants including Patodiya and noted Muslims in their diverse fields of life in arranging health camps and medical checkup for the poor and the needy to mark the happy occasion. There was no trace of any communalism during Ramzan and the festivities of Id. So Malegaon witnessed a return to the good old days of Muslims sailing on even keel. This return of the halcyon time belies the concern expressed over the ascent of IS elsewhere in the world or recruitments in some pocket of India. During his visit to Malegaon our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, upheld Malegaon as the ideal example of communal harmony in the country and called the town the Manchester of cotton cloth mills.

Among the lawyers some had foresight and wanted to take up cases of individual accused and plead on their behalf. That way the trial could have started much earlier and could have avoided the impasse in which it is stuck now and again. It could have also avoided what Vrinda Grover observed about cases: “Criminal law knows no clean chit other than an acquittal following a trial.” Those nine acquitted would have been spared high expectation and remained firmly on ground. However human heart is not amenable to cold reasoning. Dr Frog now wants to serve in the development of his city, his State and country. He says that the Superintendent of the Prison, Mr Rane, was overwhelmed by his honesty and proffered him any service he could do in regard to his good character despite suffering. He says that the country is rife with corruption. He would fight against corruption and help his fellow countrymen.

Footnotes

1. Dr Magdumi Farog’s lietter in Urdu Times, August 25, 2008.

2. http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/malegaon-explosions-probe-caught-in-a-maze/story-6MdUHDuv1Bm8tP7SsJ 8c3I.html June 07, 2013