Shoddy work

The death of Khalid Mujahid, a terrorism accused in a serial blasts case in some UP towns, in police custody raises not only the continuing problem of custodial deaths, but also issues connected with the wayward ways of investigation of terrorism cases. Khalid’s is among many cases where the police may have acted in haste and arbitrarily in hauling up people on the basis of suspicion or worse on other considerations.

The Delhi police had picked up on the Nepal border a former militant from Kashmir who was returning to India from PoK on the charge of intention to stage an attack in the national capital before Holi.  A National Investigation Agency court has now released him accepting the Kashmir government’s stand that he was a reformed militant. The latest is the NIA’s decision not to charge sheet four persons, including Pragya Singh Thakur and  Lt Col Srikant Purohit, accused in the Malegaon blasts case, though they have been in jail for many years. In the Malegaon case a number of Muslim youth had also been arrested only to be let off later.

All these are cases where different investigating agencies, including state police forces, the anti-terrorist squad, the CBI and the NIA were involved. There are a number of other cases also where innocent persons were picked up, interrogated and tortured and finally released. Some of them die in custody too, as Khalid Mujahid did. A commission of enquiry had found the police claims about his involvement in blasts dubious. The UP government has now asked for a CBI inquiry into the death. In most cases, the truth comes out after the victim has suffered mental and physical torture, loss of freedom or death. Sometimes it does not come out at all.

Terrorism investigations are often done very unprofessionally. Personal and social prejudices, religious identities and politics are factors that vitiate investigations. It is not only the members of the community who become victims of ill-treatment, as the Malegaon case shows. Investigation of terrorism is much more difficult than that of common crimes. But the agencies should be well equipped and should have the best standards when cases are pursued. It adversely affects the credibility of investigations when different agencies go in different ways and finally the indictments are not supported by evidence. The failures, inadequacies and the biases in investigations ultimately taint the state which has the duty to protect citizens and deliver justice to all.

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