2006 Malegaon blasts: 10 years on, charges against eight Muslims dropped

NIA told court its evidence was not in consonance with those of ATS and CBI; the court observed that it was highly unlikely that the accused who are from the Muslim community would have decided to kill their own people to create disharmony, that too on a holy day

Nearly 10 years after a series of explosions ripped through a Muslim cemetery and a mosque in Nashik district’s Malegaon town, a special NIA court dropped charges against eight Muslims arrested for orchestrating the blasts due to lack of evidence against them.

Justice, at long last: (From left) Dr Salman Farsi, Dr Farogh Makhdoomi, Noorul Huda Shamsudoha and Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali Mansuri rejoice after the verdict yesterday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Justice, at long last: (From left) Dr Salman Farsi, Dr Farogh Makhdoomi, Noorul Huda Shamsudoha and Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali Mansuri rejoice after the verdict yesterday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

The blasts on September 8, 2006, killed 37 people after Friday prayers and injured 125 others.

The discharge application of the eight — Noorul Huda Shamsudoha, Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali Mansuri, Dr Salman Farsi, Dr Farogh Makhdoomi, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh, Asif Khan Bashir Khan, Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majeed and Abrar Ahmed Ghulam Ahmed — had been pending for the last three years. Special judge VV Patil took them up for arguments in March and April this year.

The eight were granted bail on November 6, 2011, after spending five years in jail. However, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh and Asif Khan Bashir Khan are serving their sentence in the July 11, 2006, blasts case. Another accused, Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah, died while out on bail.

Probe changed hands
The local police transferred the case to the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on October 23, 2006. Soon after, it arrested nine Muslim youths, suspected to have links with the Students Islamic Movement of India, for their role in the blasts and filed a chargesheet against them.

They were charged under sections 120(b)(conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC, and sections 3 (unlawful association) and 7 (power to use funds of an unlawful organisation) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.

On February 13, 2007, the CBI took over the investigation and filed a supplementary chargesheet, naming the same set of youths. The probe once again changed hands on April 6, 2011— this time to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which arrested another set of people belonging to a right-wing outfit.

The NIA’s case hinged on the claims of Swami Aseemanand, who had in his statement before the magistrate court, Delhi, in connection with the Mecca Masjid blast of 2007 said Sunil Joshi (an accused in the Mecca Masjid blast who is now dead) had told him that the Malegaon blasts were handiwork of his boys and reiterated the same during Diwali festivities. The agency’s probe found that members of a right-wing outfit — Manohar Nawaria, Rajendra Chaudhary, Dhan Singh, Shiv Singh, Lokesh Sharma, Ramchandra Kalsangra, Ramesh Venkat Mahalkar, Sandeep Dange and few others — hatched a plan between January and September 2006 to launch terror attacks across India, specifically in Malegaon. Their investigation revealed that Nawaria, Chaudhary, Dhan Singh and Kalsangra had planted the bombs at Malegaon.

Based on its findings, the NIA told the court, in response to the discharge application, that it had no evidence against the Muslim youths, and that evidence collected by it was not in consonance with those of the ATS and the CBI. It also said the confessions of the eight youths were taken by the ATS under duress. The NIA said the ATS and CBI based their probe on the recovery of a fake bomb on September 13, 2006, which they linked with the nine Muslim youths.

Nawaria, Chaudhary, Dhan Singh and Kalsangra will continue to face trial in the case.

Lives ripped apart

Hammidiya Masjid-Bada Kabarastan in Malegaon was targeted on September 8, 2006. The first bomb was hung by a bag on the wrought iron gate at the entrance; the second was on a bicycle near the dargah’s window, about 10 m away; the third was placed about 30-50 m from the main gate near the bathroom of the masjid; and another on a bicycle near an electric pole at Mushawarat Chowk, around 500 m from the premises.

Court observations
>> The ATS, in its chargesheet, said the accused intended to stir up communal passions in Hindu and Muslim communities, and, therefore, hatched a plan and planted bombs on Shab-e-baraat (a holy day for the Muslims)… In my view, the basic foundation or objective shown by the ATS is not acceptable to a man of ordinary prudence. I say so because there was Ganesh immersion just prior to the blast, which is celebrated across Maharashtra. Had riots been the objective, they would have planted bombs on the day of the immersion. It seems highly impossible that the accused who are from the Muslim community would have decided to kill their own people to create disharmony in two communities, and that too on a holy day

...there is no prima facie evidence to the commission of the alleged offence by the accused…

 ATS officers conducted an investigation and merely on suspicion, projected the accused as authors of the blast. It appears to me that as the accused had criminal antecedents, they become the scapegoats... However, it should be mentioned here that the ATS officers harboured no animosity against the accused… they discharged their public duty but in a wrong way. So, they should not be blamed for it.

‘Never worried about the ‘terrorist’ label’

Dr Salman Farsi says justice has been delivered to those wrongly implicated in the case. “We have already suffered a lot. And now they (the police) should not go against the court’s order and appeal in higher court, as this will only increase the pain we suffered for years for no reason.” Salman, a Malegaon resident, who has four kids, used to serve in a Govandi dispensary when he was arrested in the case.  When asked how things were for him with the ‘terrorist’ label on his head, Salman said, “I never worried about the ‘terrorist’ label as everyone including my family and the society knew that I am innocent. They all supported me when I needed it the most.” Salman did not make an application for discharging him from the case, unlike seven other accused. He says he did not do this because NIA admitted that he was falsely implicated in the case and it was their duty to discharge him.
‘Narco tests will haunt me forever’

Raees Ahmed was charged with allegations of planting a bomb at the Bada Kabristan in Malegaon. Raees was on his way to offer prayers in the holy month of Ramzan, when ATS sleuths picked him up. Recalling the days when he and his other associates had to go through narco tests, he said, “I was subjected to narco tests thrice. I used to be unconscious for eight hours. This still affects me mentally and I would never forget it for a lifetime.”
‘Have the strength to fight injustice’

Dr Farogh Makhdoomi said the ATS did all it could do to ensure they suffered. Expressing anger on his arrest he said, “Kisi ki zindagi barbaad na karo bewajah arrest karke (Don’t ruin someone’s life by arresting them for no reason).” Makhdoomi used to reside in Malegaon, with his family that includes two children. Farogh was subjected to narco tests twice. He added, “You always have the strength within you to fight injustice. It was in me, it is in me and it will be in me forever.” Farogh said he would not make any application to the government for the compensation, as it is the government’s duty to provide it to the ones who suffered.
— Vijay Kumar Yadav

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