The breakthrough made by the anti-terrorism squad of Rajasthan Police in the Ajmer dargah blast case with the arrest of Abhinav Bharat members has scotched the theories assiduously fed into the public domain about “Islamist neo-conservatives” waging a war against popular Sufi shrines across the country.
Ever since the bomb blast at the dargah killed three persons on October 11, 2007, security analysts had been busy proclaiming a new hypothesis about a “less-understood project” of Muslim terrorists targeting these shrines under the influence of their puritanical understanding of scriptures. A hamstrung police machinery, under tremendous pressure to show quick results, bought this theory lock, stock and barrel and resorted to short-cuts such as illegal detentions and torture of Imams of mosques, maulvis and madrassa teachers for more than a year. Each detainee had to be released later for want of evidence.
What has finally surfaced is a startling terror plot of Right-wing Hindu outfits that has targeted Muslims with regularity since the 2003 Parbhani blast in Maharashtra. The Nanded blast in April 2006, in which two persons died while making bombs in the house of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member, and blasts at Hyderabad's Makkah Masjid in May 2007 and at Malegaon and Modasa in September 2008 yielded sufficient clues about the real perpetrators.
Investigators refused to look in the obvious direction and blindly believed the hyperboles of certain think tanks proclaiming that the assailants at the Muslim places of worship could be none other than Muslims themselves. The arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit in connection with the Malegaon blast came as a rude shock for the police force in Rajasthan.
Even the then Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil – at present the acting Governor of Rajasthan – believed the all-pervading conjectures and specifically named Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI) of Bangladesh as the prime suspect during his visit to the pilgrim town of Ajmer shortly after the terror attack.
As the Rajasthan Muslim Forum now points out, police officers who ignored the role of RSS affiliates despite hard and clinching evidence actually used the dargah blast probe as a ploy to target innocent Muslims. “The police force infiltrated by persons with dubious credentials was acting in line with the political message delivered from the top,” alleged Muslim Forum convenor Qari Moinuddin.
Ulema and clerics have repeatedly affirmed that Tasawwuf or Sufism forms part of mainstream Islam, and puritanical Sunni Muslims – often described as Ahl-e-Sunnah-wal-Jamat – hold high reverence for Sufi mysticism propounded by schools such as Chishti, Naqshbandi and Qadri and draw inspiration from them. Investigators looking through the prism of theological persuasion of suspects could not reach anywhere near the real culprits for a long time. The credence given to the postulation that a Deobandi Muslim would carry out bomb blast at the shrine of his own religion left an impression of a police force trying to drive a wedge between Muslim sects.
Young Muslims paid the price for the investigators believing that teachers and students at madrassas subscribing to the Deobandi school would have connections with the Islamist outfits. Two of the main suspects tortured brutally in police custody were the Imam of Khandela mosque in Sikar district, Abdul Hafiz Shameem, and Sadarshahar's Madrasa Jamia Latifia teacher Khushibur Rehman.
Muslim groups here have now demanded stringent punishment for the officers heading investigating agencies who “deliberately obfuscated” the probe to hush up the involvement of RSS and its affiliates and tortured innocent Muslims to extract fake confession from them.
Strangely, the investigators could not comprehend the simple fact that if Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawah or HuJI could be blamed for the blast on the ground of their opposition to Muslims paying obeisance at dargahs, there were ample reasons for suspecting RSS and its affiliates that were equally intolerant of the syncretic tradition of Hindus and Muslims visiting the Sufi shrines.
Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) convenor, Rajasthan High Court lawyer Paikar Farooq, says there is sufficient evidence to bring the RSS under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, after its pracharaks were arrested for alleged involvement in dargah bombing and its patronage to outfits like Abhinav Bharat coming to light.