15 years on, justice eludes Makkah masjid blast victims

File photo of the site of the Makkah masjid after the blast that took place on 18 May 2007. | Photo Courtesy: The News Minute

Ten persons allegedly belonging to Hindu right-wing organizations were named as accused in the case. However, in April 2018, five of the accused were acquitted by the NIA court in Hyderabad citing lack of evidence against the accused. 

Nikhat Fatima | TwoCircles.net 

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HYDERABAD — Justice still eludes the victims of the Makkah Masjid blast that took place in the old city area of Hyderabad, Telangana, on May 18, fifteen years ago. 

The blast was caused by a cellphone-triggered pipe bomb placed near the wuzukhana (a spot where ablutions are performed) of the mosque during Friday prayers. Eight people were reported dead in the immediate aftermath, including five men who died when police opened fire to control a mob following the blast. Ten persons allegedly belonging to Hindu right-wing organizations were named as accused in the case. However, in April 2018, five of the accused were acquitted by the NIA court in Hyderabad citing lack of evidence. 

“Ten persons, all members of Abhinav Bharat, including Nabakumar Sirkar alias Swami Aseemanand; Devender Gupta; Lokesh Sharma alias Ajay Tiwari, Lakshman Das Maharaj, Mohanlal Rateshwar and Rajender Chowdhary were named as accused in the case. Two accused, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, are still absconding. A key accused and RSS functionary, Sunil Joshi, was shot when the case was being investigated,” Indian Express reported

On the fifteenth anniversary of the incident, concerned citizens of the state believe that although widely covered in the media and the culprits had confessed to the crime, justice has evaded the victims. 

“The tragedy of this case is that though the Hindutva terrorists carried out the bomb blast, the people killed in the blast were Muslims,” Kaneez Fatima, a civil rights activist, told TwoCircles.net.  “Among these severely injured, some are still facing health issues and have not been compensated properly by the state government. The Muslim youth who were falsely accused and tortured have also not been compensated.” 

Activists noted that although the special court of NIA acquitted all the accused of the Makkah Masjid bomb blast on 16 April 2018, “they (NIA) has not filed even an appeal against the acquittal of the accused which shows their non-seriousness in dealing with the case.” 

Then Andhra Pradesh government appointed Justice V Bhaskara Rao, a retired judge as head of the Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the incident that led to the killing of civilians in police firing. The report of the Commission was submitted to Chief Minister K Rosaiah in 2010. However, the report has not been tabled before the state legislature to date while the kin of the people who died in police firing are awaiting justice. 

Talking about the Justive V Bhaskara Rao commission, Professor Rama Melkote, said, ” When Enquiry Commission Reports are not placed in the public domain, people, every citizen, doubts the veracity of what is revealed to the public as ‘facts’. BHASKAR Rao commission report on the case of Makkah Masjid case has yet to be placed in the public domain. The question of debate and discussion simply does not arise as the victims of the blasts desperately await some verdict and hope for Justice. The tragedy of our judicial system is that there is no time frame for trial, verdict and justice. People may die waiting for Justice. There must be ways to expedite and governments must take initiative in this direction. It is time that Telangana government takes a step forward in this direction and ensure that Justice is rendered and Fundamental Rights of citizens are protected”.

“I have filed an RTI application to obtain a copy of the report, but the government denied saying the report is still not tabled before the house and sharing the same can be illegal,” S. Q. Masood, a social activist based in Hyderabad, told TwoCircles.net. 

Lateef Mohammed Khan, General Secretary of the Civil Rights Monitoring Committee, who was active in the fact-finding process of the bomb blast and in getting the falsely implicated youth released from police detention and later in rehabilitating these youth said, “The Makkah Masjid terror attack was a classic case of state-sponsored terrorism. The NIA appointed a special public prosecutor, who was an active member and office-bearer of the BJP in place of its regular public prosecutor and what followed was the killing of justice with the entire trial getting sabotaged, witnesses including official witnesses getting hostile. This resulted in the crucial pieces of evidence getting sidelined on the want of supportive evidence which led to an utterly erroneous and shocking judgment wherein on 16 May 2018 the trial court acquitted all the accused for want of evidence.”

Khan said the verdict of the NIA court eroded the trust of the Muslim community in the judicial and justice delivery system. “It is a popular feeling (among Muslims) that state and its agencies, prosecution and court are not serious to provide justice nor to punish the criminals as per the law of the land,” he said, and added, “It has become a policy of the government to go soft on the right-wing Hindutva terrorists.” 

The concerned citizens in a statement demanded that the Telangana government, in the interest of justice, should take action on the findings of the report immediately. They demanded the intervention of the government in the criminal appeal filed by the victims of the blast in Telangana High Court to provide justice to the victims of the Makkah Masjid blast and the immediate tabulation of Justice Bhaskar Rao’s Commission report into police firing and action against the erring officers and to safeguard the interests of the Minority communities in the state. 

Nikhat Fatima is a correspondent with TwoCircles.net. She tweets at @snikhatf