The Samjhauta Express verdict is a matter of shame
Old India was known as a land of mystics. New India, however, abounds in mysteries. Consider the verdict handed out by a special court on the bomb blasts in the Samjhauta Express that killed 68 passengers, many of them hailing from Pakistan. The court has acquitted all the four accused, citing the fact that the National Investigation Agency “failed to prove the charge of conspiracy”. The court’s observation on the competency of India’s premier agency to combat terrorism is borne out by some telling numbers. Of the 224 witnesses summoned, as many as 51 turned hostile, severely impairing the cause of justice. Not just competency but the NIA’s commitment to the case has also been brought to question. A former director-general of law and order of Haryana Police, the officer whose team had discovered important leads, has alleged that the acquittals were expected since the prosecution was eager to bury the truth. One of those acquitted, Swami Aseemanand — alleged to be a high priest of the kind of vengeance plotted by radical Hindutva outfits — has been a special beneficiary of the NIA’s incompetence. He has now been acquitted in the Mecca Masjid blast case as well as the attack on the Ajmer dargah: both these cases, incidentally, were probed by the NIA. Is this mere coincidence? Or is there an obvious pattern which, however, continues to elude the sleuths? The Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre does not seem inclined to clear the air on the matter. The Union home minister has expressly ruled out the possibility of a further appeal or — is this not significant? — a fresh enquiry into the blasts that targeted the Samjhauta Express. Some mysteries must be allowed to persist. Should the murders of rationalists and intellectuals in which the name of the Sanatan Sanstha, yet another shadowy Hindutva group, had cropped up be added to this ever-expanding list of riddles? At times, the truth, investigating agencies and their masters seem to agree, can be a bit too hot to touch.
Truth and justice are not the only casualties of such institutional apathy. The credibility of institutions get eroded in the process as well. The NIA’s failure to apprehend the culprits who left blood on the tracks, straining India’s relationship with its neighbour, 12 years after the incident is a matter of shame. Ironically, these oversights are being committed under the watch of the prime minister who claims to be the nation’s foremost chowkidar.