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October 13, 2006

Malegaon Bomb Blasts: Who Is to Blame?


‘My son, who was scheduled to complete his MBBS was one of the victims who’s life ended on September 8, 2006. It is not only my loss, but a loss to the nation.’ Said Shafiq Ahmed of his son, Sajid who was meant to leave for China in a few weeks where he was to pursue his MBBS.  Mr. Shafiq Ahmed, was the first speaker, “ Malegaon  Blasts: Who Is to be Blame ?” a public meeting organised at the KC College Mumbai on October 10. Mr. Ahmed had recently rejected the cheque offered by Congress President Sonia Gandhi. In his opening remarks, he vociferously accused successive governments of neglecting Malegaon, which has become a laawaris city, lacking not only in industrial and educational development but basic civic infrastructure such as adequate public hospitals. He demanded justice for the citizens of Malegaon. 

Most speakers including Javed Akhtar, lyricist, Justice Kolse Patil, Vilas Sonawane, responsible for setting up the Muslim OBC front in the state, SM Mushrif, former Commissioner of Police, Pune and Teesta Setalvad, co-editor, Communalism Combat, repeatedly accused the investigating agency of communal bias and also criticized the media for perpetuating the Muslim equals terrorist myth and not acting responsibly in reporting events. 

 Malauana Azhari directed sharp criticism towards police in Malegaon who maintained high vigilance in patrolling the town during the Ganpati festival, but failed to provide similar security after Ganesh Visarjan on 6th September. On Shab-e-baraat, Friday, 8th September there were no police patrolling or security measures in place. Maulana Azari said he was in favour of keeping a close watch on SIMI, however, he demanded that the police also keep an equally close watch on the activities of VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS. Mr. Naseem Siddiqui, State Minorities Commission Chairman, suggested that there be mechanisms involving NGOs and/or Human Rights bodies  for monitoring of  police investigations while they were taking place.                       

Mr. S. M. Mushrif, a retired IPS officer, spoke at length about the need to revamp the Intelligence Bureau wing of the police, nationally.  The IB he said was one of the most powerful agencies that fed disinformation to the executive and according to him was also victim of deep-seated bias in recent years.  The role of the IB, he said, must be to provide specific intelligence on events and not be a vehicle of general rumour-mongering against sections of the people. Instead he stated, the IB was often the source of spreading unsubstantiated rumours that led to these reports then being quoted in the media. The media too must not be an instrument of the police or the government disinformation but work to investigate and provide different perspectives and substantiated theories.

Ms. Teesta Setalvad’s said that durable peace was not possible without justice. She drew attention to her stody of towns like Godhra, Mumbra and Malegaon wherein she had observed that such locales –and wards A,D and E within the city of Mumbai with distinct Muslim majorities—were victims of socio-economic exclusion that faced discrimination by administrative authorities. She said that she had observed that whenever a town or area became a Muslim majority an ‘institutionalised prejudice’ began working against it.

Ms Setalvad also spoke at length on the issue of discriminatory justice and pointed out that despite the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna Commission report into the 1992-1993 post-Babri Masjid demolition, no serious prosecutions had been pursued by the state of Maharashtra despite electoral promises to the contrary. The media too remained silent on the issues of discriminatory justice, she said.

Mr. Javed Akhtar expressed bitter disappointment at the state of affairs in India. The police investigating the Malegaon Blasts were quick to rule out the possibility that the bombs might have been the handiwork of Bajrang Dal, which has been active in the Marathwada region. ‘Does RDX have a special stamp establishing its link to Muslims?’ Mr. Akhtar asked. Responding to the recent SMS that has been circulating since 7/11, which states, “Every Muslim is not a terrorist, But every terrorist is a Muslim,” he asked whether Naxalites, Maoists, ULFA and LTTE were all Muslims.  ‘And those who are responsible for Gujarat riots, were those just firemen then?’

Justice Kolse Patil referred to the 195 kilogram haul of RDX in Ahmednagar town on September 2 and the strange facts around this affair. The man who’s godown had stocked this was found dead on September 10 and an employee of his was absconding. He said that the one-sided attitude of the police and administration itself was proof that the truth would not be arrived at.

The meeting had been jointly organised by the Maulana Azad Research Centre, Malegaon, National Awakening for Development of Youth, Malegaon, Communalism Combat, Citizens for Justice and Peace and Muslims for Secular Democracy.