Pune Blasts: The Story Behind the Story
By Amaresh Misra
Any journalist/writer/columnist of basic integrity has to question and express skepticism, about official version of events. Without being judgmental, he or she also bears the moral responsibility of pointing out contradictions in media reporting about procedures.
An odd thing happened on 2nd August 2012. For a full day, Delhi's electronic media did not carry `breaking news' of the involvement of Indian Mujahideen (IM) in the 1st August 2012, low intensity, Pune blasts.
Just the day before, on the evening of the blasts, all channels, talked about the existence of terror (read Muslim) modules in Pune and the like.
A 4th August 2012 Times of India news story clearly states that apart from known terror outfits like the IM, the Central Investigative agencies as well as the Maharashtra Police do not rule out the possibility of Maoists or right wing (read Hindutva) groups executing the Pune blasts (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/New-Indian-Mujahideen-module-may-have-struck-in-Pune/articleshow/15344835.cms) .
Speaking just an hour and a half after the blasts, the Pune Police Commissioner clearly stated on TV that no terror module was under suspicion. He also went on to say that the bombs looked like the work of some mischief makers.
Media's flip flop over the Pune blasts is understandable. The blasts have come at a time when a turf war between different security forces of both Center and States, is going on. Several articles in nearly all Indian newspapers have carried reports about the inter-force rivalry aspect. This author has written about the turf war phenomenon in two blog articles (http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-mainstream-maverick/entry/abu-jundal-prize-catch-or-a-victim-of-a-turf-war and http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-mainstream-maverick/entry/indian-security-agencies-unleash-home-grown-terror1)
The worrying part is that national security is getting affected by disputes between security agencies. The Pune blasts can be seen as an example. They occurred at a time when the tussle for Mumbai's Police Commissioner Post is getting hot. One of the contenders for Mumbai's top job is Rakesh Maria, the current Maharashtra ATS Chief.
Rakesh Maria has his admirers as well as detractors. Admirers laud him for solving the 1993 and 2003 Mumbai Blasts. Detractors—in Maharashtra Police and the IB—point out a more, seamier side. Written by Rana Ayyub, a news story in Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 49, Dated December 12,2009(http://www.tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?filename=Ne121209in_the.asp) mentions that "a 2005 IB report cast doubts on the veracity of the intelligence Maria had provided about the terrorists (in the 2003 blasts)..."
The Tehelka news story goes on to say that "the report (IB) suggested that Maria and his team had concocted the names of terrorists who didn't even exist…"
Following the IB report in "2005 itself, Maria's team was disbanded by then Police Commissioner RS Sharma"; then "while a senior official suggested that the IB report was true, another senior official who refused to be named said it was a major frame up to cut Maria down to size."
The point here is that whether the IB report was meant as a frame-up or was true—there indeed was a report. Even Maria supporters accept that there is a report! And the report mentions that Maria concocted the names of 2003 Mumbai blast accused! Even if Maria is given the benefit of doubt, in the interest of national security, it is imperative that the IB report is analyzed thoroughly.
It is common knowledge that the current Maharashtra ATS chief was in the Police control room when Karkare, Kaamte and Salaskar died fighting terrorists on the night of 26/11. Vinita Kaamte, wife of one of the slain officers, had a public spat with the current ATS chief (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2009-11-26/news/28381033_1_cama-hospital-vinita-kamte-ips-officer-ashok-kamte). Vinita suspected that he was the one who sent Kaamte to his death and did not respond to the calls of Karkare, Kaamte and Salaskar for back up. Then the current Maharashtra ATS chief refused to acknowledge that before dying, Kaamte indeed came out of his vehicle and fired bullets which hit Ajmal Kasab.
The role of the current Maharashtra ATS chief during 26/11 and the 1993 Mumbai blasts, remains controversial. Close colleagues of Rakesh Maria point out that Maria was one of the officers involved in the indiscriminate picking up of Muslim men, women and children after the 1993 blasts. Stories of horrible torture unleashed by the Mumbai Police abound. The editorial of 12th May, 1993 of the newspaper Pioneer mentions that "The metropolis' policemen and their counterparts in Raigad district (where the smuggled consignments of explosive were landed) appear to have cast aside all norms of civilized behavior, democracy and the rule of law. Worse, they seem to have given free rein to their personal communal prejudices. A series of habeas corpus petitions before the Bombay High Court reveal that the police have been indiscriminately picking up ordinary citizen, invariably Muslims, booking them under TADA (a law meant exclusively for terrorists) and then detaining them for inordinately long periods."
Remember, the Pioneer was and still is a newspaper considered right wing and pro-BJP. Chandan Mitra, Pioneer's editor then and now, is a Rajya Sabha member from the BJP.
Justice Rajinder Sachar, then a functionary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said (http://www.nidokidos.org/threads/33017-Unleashed-terror-on-Muslims)"TADA was being misused…After Bombay (bomb blasts) many Muslims have been arrested under TADA."
An Amnesty International delegation (http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/15112001/17.htm) visited Mumbai to verify stories of unbelievable torture concerning 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts suspects. Here is what the Amnesty International report had to say about Police excesses: "particularly disturbing were the allegations that the police use 'hostages' to force the surrender of suspects in the wake of bombing which took place on March 12 1993...the police resorted to taking away...family members of suspects they could not find (http://www.amnesty.org/fr/library/asset/ASA20/026/2000/fr/da0239e8-f86f-11dd-a0a9-2bd73ca4d38a/asa200262000en.pdf)".
The Pioneer also mentioned that "most reprehensible has been its (Mumbai police) treatment of women. One petition filed by a 21-year-old student speaks of how she was assaulted, insulted, and threatened with unspeakable atrocities in front of her father in a bid to get him to reveal the where about of her brother. The policemen willfully ignored basic norms that prohibit women being kept overnight in a lock-up or being interrogated except in the presence of policewomen. The Bombay and Raigad police have unleashed a virtual reign of terror in their respective areas. Their vindictiveness against Muslims has unnecessarily given a communal tinge to what was being seen as an impartial investigation in to a heinous crime."
In June 2012, Qateel Siddiqui, an alleged IM operative, was murdered by two underworld `Hindu' figures inside the high security `anda' cell of Pune Yerwada jail.
IB sources say that Qateel was killed because he was originally arrested by the Delhi Police. The Maharashtra ATS got his custody on the ground that he was involved in 2011 Zhaveri Bazaar blasts in Mumbai, and that he had also planned the bombing of a temple. The Delhi Police Special Cell and the Maharashtra ATS are in loggerheads over several issues. In Janury 2012, the Maharashtra ATS arrested Naqi Ahmed, a Delhi Police informer, who was in fact helping the latter in catching terror suspects!
IB sources reveal that the Maharashtra ATS was unable to find a single piece of evidence against Qateel. According to IB sources "had Qateel lived to tell the tale, the Maharashtra ATS chief would have lost face before his arch rivals in the Delhi Police. In future, Delhi Police would have got the Home Ministry's backing in refusing to hand over custody of terror suspects to the Maharashtra ATS".
In 2006, Shahid Azmi, a Mumbai lawyer who was representing the 2006 Mumbai blasts Muslim under-trials was murdered in broad daylight inside his office. Maharashtra Police sources allege that all 2006 Mumbai train blast accused are innocent. And that Azmi was killed because he knew the truth.
It is common knowledge in Maharashtra Police circles that the 2006 blasts were designed as a false flag attack, to cover up the sentencing of the accused in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. As the current Maharashtra ATS chief earned his spurs investigating the 1993 blasts, acquittal of the accused by the special TADA court would have meant a body blow to him. To be sure, several key accused like Salim Khan Durrani were acquitted by the TADA court of the charges of conspiracy and harboring.
Allegedly, the 2006 Mumbai train blasts were set into motion to create an atmosphere for the pronouncements of death sentences to several 1993 blast accused. Both events happened one after the other, with the former preceding the latter.
Intelligence sources allege that terror incidents happen, to create an anti-Muslim mood, just before the pronouncement of controversial judgments involving Muslims. The judgment in the 2000 Red Fort case was preceded by Delhi blasts.
As late as July 2012, Faiz Usmani, a Muslim suspect, was picked up by the Maharashtra ATS headed by Rakesh Maria, for questioning in July 2011 Mumbal blasts. Faiz died in Police custody (http://twocircles.net/2011jul19/contact_me_if_innocents_detained_maha_ats_chief_muslim_leaders.html).
Back in 2008, it was the arrest of Afzal Usmani, a car thief that led to the naming of Atif Amin—the Azamgarh boy killed during the Batala House encounter—in 26th July 2008 Ahmedabad bombings. Faiz was Afzal's brother.
Voices, a book written by Salim Khan Durrani, an accused in the 1993 blasts who was later exonerated by the TADA Court, alleges truly horrifying incidences. Here are some samples:
· Young naked Manzoor Ahmad was told to insert his penis into the mouth of Zaibunnisa Kazi, a woman of his mother's age.
· Najma (the sister of Shahnawaz Querishi, an accused) was forced to fondle her father's penis and eat his shit too.
· Then Mumbai Police Commissioner MN Singh told Salim Durrani, who belongs to a royal family of Tonk, Rajasthan, that he was being booked under TADA in the blast case especially because he was an ex-Muslim Nawab. Salim Durrani's head was forced down into the toilet bowl to eat faeces. When his head could not reach deep down enough the detainee was force to use his hand.
· Nafeesa (accused Majid Khan's wife) spent two months in jail in a single night suit, badly sinking and soaked in menstrual blood.
· Saaeda (accused Zakir Hussein's sister) was viciously beaten up in front of her 41 days old infant child who too was slapped. She was not allowed to breast feed the baby for hours together.
· Accused Iqbal Haspatel was repeatedly taunted about the paternity of his children.
· Zahida (Haspatel's daughter) was separated from her child and detained for 15 days at Srivardhan police station; she was callously refrained from breast feeding her baby.
· Mrs Anwar Theba a newly married convent educated girl was stripped and her naked body placed on ice slab while drunken policemen violated her naked body. Cigarette burns were inflicted on her body.
· Water was scarce even for drinking. Many women inmates were forced to drink their urine.
· Medical treatment was a taboo. Those who could manage to stand up were taken to the dispensary on foot. Hand cuffed they were forced to walk bare foot under the sun, being dragged by sneering and swearing cops who wilfully avoided shady pathways.
· Putting dirty chappals in the mouth was a regular practice.
· Pregnant Shabana was stripped naked and forced to beat her father with chappals.
· Inserting chilli powder into the private parts of was a regular part of the torture.
· Genitals of men and women were targeted in a most morbid manner.
· Urine and faeces were part of the food, spitting into mouth of prisoners and spitting by hired lepers was a regular affair. The police enjoyed all such incidents.
· Wives were `advised', by lecherous policemen to become prostitutes.
· Small children and infants were incarcerated; they too were subjected to physical and sexual torture.
· Several individuals, including Raj Kumar Khurana, owner of the Stomach restaurant in Bandra committed suicide. The police wanted some information out of Khurana and he was shown what is being done to women and children. Fearing the worst Khurana went home shot his wife, children and then himself.
Only a proper investigation in these allegations can bring out the true picture. However bitter, Indians deserve to know the truth. Nothing less than national security is at stake. Since Mumbai-Pune zone has been under terror attacks for several years now, controversial officers ought to be investigated thoroughly before assigning top jobs.