ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Deprived of Liberty and Justice

Scores of young Muslim men are in jail for years accused of "terrorist acts" that they did not commit.

From 1 February onwards the town of Malegaon in Maharashtra has been witnessing protest rallies demanding the release of nine Muslim men who have been in jail since September 2006. They were arrested for planting bombs in the Muslimdominated textile town on the night of a significant Muslim festival. The blasts killed 31 people – all Muslims – and injured nearly 200. We now know, with the confession of Aseemanand, that it was a group of Hindu fundamentalists that was responsible for five terror attacks in the country during 2006-08, including the one in Malegaon in 2006. The arrests of the nine and what has passed for “investigation” in the years that have followed, first by the state’s Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) and later by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), is a textbook example of how the Muslim community has been demonised and hounded by law enforcement agencies.

In fact, in all other than one of the cases in which Aseemanand has confessed to the involvement of the Hindutva hand – Malegaon (2006 and 2008), Samjhauta Express (2007), Ajmer Sharif (2007) and Mecca Masjid (2007) – the police had arrested young Muslim men. Many of them continue to be behind bars. Their custodial “confessions” (unlike Aseemanand’s, which was before a magistrate, these confessions are not legally valid) were triumphantly announced to the media. Since both the Maharashtra and the Andhra Pradesh police failed to connect the Hindutva dots in the cases – until the Maharashtra ATS under Hemant Karkare brought out the Abhinav Bharat link in the 2008 Malegaon blast – what does it say about their credibility? More significantly, what is one to make of their capacity to conduct investigations free of communal and political pressures?

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