The Indian Mujahideen are for real, and investigators have more evidence about them than they would have us believe
There is an overwhelming body of evidence available with Indian investigative agencies to show that between 2003 and 2008, a group of Muslim extremists who called themselves Indian Mujahideen (IM) went about bombing temples, trains and marketplaces, even as the police across India kept implicating dozens of innocent Muslims in these incidents.
Thirteen Muslim youth, mostly from the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), were falsely implicated in the 2006 Mumbai train blasts. About half-a-dozen SIMI activists were implicated in the Jaipur blasts of 2008. More than a dozen were framed in a series of blasts that rocked cities and towns in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) between 2005 and 2008. The material evidence available with investigative agencies now, to which I have access, indicates that all these blasts were carried out by the IM. But instead of accepting the mistakes made in the past and seeking out the real culprits, they have brushed this new evidence under the carpet and kept persisting with cases they know are bogus.
Much to answer
IM suspects arrested post-September 2008 were booked only in those cases that were still not “solved,” such as the 2008 Delhi and Ahmedabad blasts and 2007 ‘Gokul Chat’ Blast in Hyderabad. The evidence of their involvement in old bomb blasts was never brought to the notice of any court. Why? Doing so would have meant, one, that different State agencies between 2003 and 2008 were framing innocent Muslims while the IM was busy bombing one city after another. Two, it would have meant taking action against officers who made wrong arrests and thus virtually gave the IM a free reign to unleash mayhem. Three, correcting their errors would entail releasing innocent Muslims languishing in jails from Mumbai to U.P. to Rajasthan to Delhi. That would have opened a Pandora’s box. So-called secular governments from Maharashtra to U.P. would have had a lot to answer to the Muslim community, besides the people in general.
Neither our agencies nor our politicians have had the courage or will to make amends. By mixing fact with fiction, the Indian state has created a situation where we do not know who is guilty and who is innocent. It has created a situation where for some, the Sadhvi Pragyas and Assemanands are innocent while for others, the Atif Ameens and Chhota Sajids are innocent. It has created a situation where the real accused would never have to answer for killing dozens of innocent civilians. On the other hand, those who are completely innocent may be sent to the gallows.
This is not merely vote bank politics. It is one of the fiercest assaults on the idea of justice. It is a mockery of our criminal justice system and the rule of law that while innocent Muslims wrongly framed are denied justice, those who lost their near and dear ones in bomb blasts will never get to know the real culprits. It is important that the information available with the investigating agencies about the Indian Mujahideen comes out into the public realm. Besides being a threat to internal security, the IM pose a grave danger to the Indian Muslim community. This information will assist the Muslim leadership to confront the challenge within the community. Indeed, they must take the lead in demanding the full truth about the IM, for this can help them change the discourse within the community. Instead of merely proclaiming the innocence of every Muslim who is arrested, or speaking up for the rights of innocent Muslims, they can demand justice for all.
The interrogation reports reveal that elements in Pakistan have been bankrolling the IM, that they have been providing training, explosives and other logistics without which an entity like the IM would have found it difficult to function. But it is also true that they have had willing allies in a handful of Indian Muslim youth fired by the misplaced idea of jihad and retributive justice.
About a dozen IM suspects arrested since September 2008 have given the anti-terror agencies a chilling account of a single, integral terror plot that was set into motion sometime in 2001 and which gained momentum after the 2002 riots.
It started with five young men: Sadiq Shaikh from Azamgarh; his distant relative from Hyderabad, Mujahid Salim (his father Moulana Abdul Aleem Islahi is known for his provocative writings on the Babri Masjid and Islamic Jihad); the brothers Amir Raza Khan and Asif Raza Khan from Kolkata, and Mohd Riaz Shahabandari, also known as Riaz Bhatkal of Bhatkal in Karnataka.
The first successful bomb blast was carried out when Atif Ameen and Sadiq Shaikh planted a bomb on Shramjeevi Express that exploded near Jaunpur railway station. By now, the group had acquired expertise in assembling bombs, timers and explosives. Each member was trained in a specific job. The first big strike the group carried out was in Sarojini Nagar Market in Delhi on the eve of Diwali in 2005. They followed this up with the Sankatmochan blasts and the Mumbai train blasts in 2006. It was sometime in 2007 that the group decided to call themselves Indian Mujahideen and started sending mails either before or immediately after each terror strike.
All this while, the Indian police kept shooting in the dark. To show some results they went after members of organisations like SIMI.
There is a clear and urgent need to reinvestigate and retry all terror attacks that occurred between years 2003 to 2008.
During my year long research, I collected dozens of classified interrogation reports from different terror agencies. These reports have been prepared by different officers at different times and places but are remarkably consistent in their material particulars. Unlike confessions, which are of doubtful utility because they often involve coercion, interrogation reports are never intended to be made public or produced before any court. Kept confidential till date, the reports link the IM to the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts, the 2006 Varanasi Sankatmochan Mandir blast, the 2007 court blasts in U.P., the Gorakhpur triple blasts and the Jaipur blasts. But in all these cases it is either the members of SIMI or Ahle Hadith with absolutely no connection with IM who are facing trial. These cases have been built on the strength of tutored witnesses, coerced confessions and fake recoveries. Some of the material being peddled before the courts is so farcical that an effective and competent judiciary should have thrown them out at the threshold itself, and public prosecutors should have refused to press charges in court. But if the judiciary is supposed to be the biggest check on police excesses, custodial torture and bogus prosecutions, then at least in terror cases involving Muslims, this system of checks and balances has completely collapsed.
The material shows that U.P. resident Khalid Mujahid, who recently died in judicial custody, was not involved in the court bomb blasts for which he spent more than six years in jail. It shows Waliullah, who is serving a 10-year sentence in a U.P. jail, has nothing to do with the Sankatmochan Mandir blast. It shows that 13 Muslims, some of whom are doctors and engineers, facing trial for the 7/11 Mumbai blasts for the past eight years, are actually innocent.
All this material needs to be adjudicated through a fair and credible judicial process that can inspire the confidence of both the majority and minority communities. I have produced these documents before the Bombay and Allahabad High Courts through public interest litigations. The real culprits need to be given exemplary punishment. And the demand for reinvestigation should come, besides others, from the Muslim community itself. This will help Muslim discourse move from minority rights to justice for all.
(Ashish Khetan is the founder of the investigative news website gulail.com)