The investigation agency under the BJP-led regime seems reluctant to proceed with the cases where the role of Hindu terror networks has come to the fore.
Something is just not right about the way an orchestrated campaign is being run to discredit the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) painstaking effort since 2011 to unravel the role of Hindu extremists in a series of bomb blasts in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express between 2006 and 2008. Some news TV channels suddenly discovered “new evidence” last week to claim there were holes in the Hindu terror angle to these cases. Not surprisingly, this concerted media campaign coincided with the NIA telling a Sessions Court a fortnight ago that the discharge of nine Muslim men accused in the Malegaon blast in 2006 “cannot be allowed”. And that a new LeT link is to be investigated in the US which may have financed the Malegaon bomb attack. This was bizarre because the same NIA had painstakingly collected evidence in the past to establish the role of the Hindu terror networks in these blasts, which had then resulted in the move to discharge the Muslim men accused in the case. So why is the NIA suddenly going against its own past findings?
The reason is not far to seek. The NIA under the BJP-led regime seems reluctant to proceed with the cases where the role of Hindu terror networks has come to the fore. This was brought out for the first time when the senior public prosecutor in the Malegaon blasts, Rohini Salian, told The Indian Express that she was being told by New Delhi to go soft on the Hindu terror cases. To make matters official and legal, Salian has filed a personal affidavit in the Mumbai high court ( The Wire has a copy of the affidavit) which says , “An officer of the National Investigation Agency had come to me and he had told me that there was a message that I should go soft in the Malegaon blast case pending before the Special NIA and MCOC Session Court for Greater Bombay. I hereby state that it was sometime in the second or third week in the month of June 2014.” Predictably, Salian was removed as a special public prosecutor in the case.
What is to be noted is that the BJP government was so totally focused that it took up the matter with Salian in the month of June itself, immediately after coming to power in 2014. The sense of urgency was palpable. Evidently, somehow diluting the cases of Hindu terror cases seemed on top of the Sangh Parivar agenda. As a result, the case stands totally politicised now. It is possible that the ruling dispensation wanted to just buy time initially when it asked Salian to go slow on the Malegaon case in 2014. But in recent weeks the government has shown a lot of impatience, and even aggression, in diluting the Hindu terror cases. Selective leaks to the TV channels are aimed at creating more confusion around the investigation and ongoing court proceedings in the Malegaon and Samjhauta cases. Suddenly TV channels are producing discredited former Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad officers who are attacking the NIA findings. Remember, the NIA had clearly exposed the flawed , even biased, investigations by the Maharashtra ATS. It was the NIA which comprehensively uncovered the Hindu terror angle in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express bomb blasts.
The Narendra Modi government is playing a dangerous game by politicising the NIA, a premier national agency which investigates terror. The BJP is trying to suggest that the NIA under the Congress was biased so it has to be corrected now. This is absurd because the NIA had upturned the findings of the Maharashtra ATS, which was also under the Congress-NCP regime. Indeed, if investigations were being rigged how did NIA and Maharashtra ATS, under the same regime, came to opposite conclusions?
The Centre is also damaging the institution of NIA in other ways. Recently the DG of NIA, Sharad Kumar, retired and he was employed on a contract for one more year. The reason given was that he had to finish ongoing cases, including the ones relating to the Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts. The home ministry bureaucracy went by the rule book and noted that legally a person on contract cannot supervise investigations as he ceases to be a police officer, once retired. The position taken by the home ministry bureaucracy was apparently not accepted and the matter was referred to the Attorney General who gave a contrary opinion that policing powers can be vested in a contract employee!
Reputed senior advocate, Gopal Subramaniam , who has provided legal advice to India’s leading security agencies such as IB and CBI during both the NDA and UPA regimes in the past says, “It is totally illegal and unconstitutional for a person on contract to be defined as a police officer under the civil services rules provided within Article 309 and 310 of the Constitution”. Gopal says he had never heard of a police chief being on a contract anytime in the past.
Gopal’s views concur with that of the home ministry position that a person on contract cannot be legally defined as a police officer under the civil services rules for the purpose of supervising investigations.
All these legal-definitional wrangles actually reflect a highly polarised polity in which important terror cases are being viewed through a communal prism. The government continues to claim it is not influencing these cases. But facts on the ground, such as Rohini Salian’s affidavit, tell a different story.