Newsclick interviewed Human Rights Lawyer Nandita Haksar on the recent revelation by special public prosecutor Rohini Salian regarding the Malegaon blast case of 2008. Nandita explains the fundamentalist nature of the current regime and how one should not be surprised if the special prosecutor was forced to go soft on the accused. She adds that the Malegaon blast case was part of a larger Hindutva terror network named “Abhinav Bharat” which indulged in organized syndicated crime. It was not an individual Pragya Thakur or Colonel Purohit but a larger group of individuals with an aim to create fear among the minority community. Nandita also points out the bias of the judiciary in cases where people from the minority community are involved. She argues that the judicial process slows down in such cases, as in the Malegaon case where the trial has not even started.
Nakul Singh Sawhney (NSS) – Hello and welcome to Newsclick. We have with us today Mrs Nandita Haksar, an eminent human rights lawyer. Nanditaji, welcome to Newsclick. Nanditaji, there is something very startling that comes to light recently, which is that the public prosecutor who is involved in the Malegaon Blast case, Mrs Rohini Salian has come out in the open saying that she was being pressurized by the NIA and that NIA officials personally contacted her to say that she should go easy or soft on the Malegaon blast accused. What do you think of the implications of what she just said.
Nandita Haksar (NH) – Actually to really understand the implications because they are very very important implications for future of Indian democracy really is that we should remember a very little bit about what was the Malegaon blast. As you know, it was in September 29, 2009 there was a blast, in which 4 Muslims and around 79 I am not sure Muslims got injured. Now immediately the media and everyone around the officials sort of said that it must be Muslims and it is very odd because why would they have a blast in a middle of a Muslim majority town? Nobody seems to ask this question and they infact arrested some people. Then the whole crime went for investigation to the ATS, that is Anti Terrorist Squad of which the ahead was Hemanth Karkare. Hemanth Karkare himself is a very honest upright officer and he was in the RAW, he is an IPS officer and he did his investigation fairly and squarely. Through this investigation, he found that it was an organised crime mafia responsible a) for this Malegaon blast and also for other blast and other crimes so he then picked up 11 or 12 accused of which the two most important which are relevant immediately for the question that you asked is Pragya Thakur and Lt. Col. Purohit and it was the first time which; not it wasn’t the first time, there where other blasts which were also done by this what was termed by some media as ‘saffron terrorists’. Now this was a very important discovery which shocked the nation and these people were arrested in 2009 itself. Now Hemanth Karkare knew the kind of prejudices, the kind of obstacles that may happen for the trial and it was on his recommendation that Rohiniji was appointed as a special public prosecutor and it is from 2009 to today that she has been conducting the case. Now conducting the case I mean because the trial hasn’t yet started. This is the pre-trial stage and through out there were various obstacles from various vested interests which she has not spelt out to this day; who was stopping her from actually having the trial. So when she said that after the government changed from UPA to NDA and she suddenly found that this NIA guy tells her in the corridors that please go soft. She was a bit taken a back and this she said in May-Jun 2014 and she make this public this month, in June 2015.
NSS: Like this you are saying there is a great significance towards what Rohini has done. However there were all sorts of counter accusation at her that why you have come out so late and why it is taken you an entire an year to speak up. How would you describe these accusations ?
NH: First of all let me say I don’t represent her but let me say what herself has said. Once a member of NIA, that is National Investigative Agency told her to go soft, she knows that these things are done some types of interventions, political interventions. She said what I was waiting because I was still a special prosecutor, nobody was still stopping me but they just told me so she is waiting. She cannot, as a responsible person suddenly can’t go public on that. It is also her reputation, reputation of NIA; so she had to wait. But when this pressure was slowly building up in various ways, which she hasn’t spelt out yet. Then she said that she can’t go public without evidence so she was gathering evidence. Now at this time when she has been told to relieved of her post, then she came out. Now she said in an interview; I think yesterday that she has got evidence, which she is not revealing what evidence, she has not revealed the name of the NIA, which she said she will and she said she will take up the issue against the NIA. But the allegations made, this questions asked for no reason that ‘why have you kept quiet, is it because of money, is it because that you wanted a job’ No, I think one should look at the person’s whole track record before making such accusations and even forefronting that in the media debates.
NSS: But Nanditaji, I mean if one steps back a little and looks at it slightly logic context, that yes, that the government changed from UPA to the NDA and this kind of pressure was suddenly built on Rohini Salian but at the same time one of the things that we also seen is that a lot of these arrests also been made in congress ruled states, well not necessarily congress ruled states but non-BJP states as well and when Samjhauta blast happened or when the Malegaon blast happened or even when the Hyderabad blast happened, the point is that the needle of suspicion automatically points at Muslims but do you think that this kind of an anti-Muslim bias, at least at the time of investigating these kind of terror cases is unfortunately it is unanimous bias across political parties including the so called secular parties.
NH: Yes, absolutely. In fact even this Rohiniji has said that. She said that, actually the pressure because after all they were arrested in 2009 and till now there is no trial and just as a contrast if we see the parliament attack case, they arrested four people, they put them in trial, within one year they have produced the key witnesses, they had given three people death penalty and within the next year they had confirmed it and the next year by 2006 Supreme court had confirmed that penalty. When the people say the court process is slow, it is not. When they wanted they are fast so it is in their hands so of course you are right that, it is not only a question of BJP, it is I think the trend was being going on in our country’s post partition and we saw such a report, we saw the biases that has documented. In that context, this whole trend suddenly gets legitimacy by a government which openly practices a Hindutwa ideology, that is the difference but yes, of-course it is from the time of UPA and from the time of Congress government from 1947.
NSS: Where do you finally see this headed ? Do you think that Mrs Salian’s and I think that it required immense courage for her to come out in the open and do you think Mrs Salian’s revelations will lead to something positive ?
NH: First of all I think every individual in a political stations that we are, wherever we are, whether lawyers or police or film makers, it is these stands are very important. They get more political significance in such a situation. The impact of it, it may be now or it may be later that depends largely, one is the state oppose to say that is the responsive civil society, what our political parties what our civil society group, human rights group, women group, this whole liberal middle class which sees all these and does not react, they are become party to this and therefore the bar for instance should have taken up the matter. Supreme court bar should have taken up the matter, the high court should have been taken up the matter. The bars are never taking up any issue. The only issue which they have taken up is recently is ban of the BBC film and two lawyers was seem to be defending rape and even that it cooled down and most lawyers did not get their statement and these lawyers are very powerful lawyers. They are very rich and powerful and influential but none of them gave a statement. So the question is that who will take. Her job is as a public prosecutor at the age of 68 she takes up this issue but the rest is that what is the role of the media, what is the role of all these democratic institutions because if we don’t then the democratic space is shrunk.
Second part which is as a lawyer I would say is that, what she is saying is that how it is systematically undermining the criminal justice system. The way they appointed her then they un-appointed her, Then when in Supreme court the case came up, although she had been the public prosecutor, the new lawyer didn’t even consult her so it is a systematic subversion of a pillar of democratic rule so if the judiciary subvert it then there are very long term consequences of what will happen to Indian democracy.
NSS: My final question to you Nanditaji specially as a lawyer, like you just mentioned some time back which is that there are cases, were there is a suddenly speedy trials when the parliamentary attack examples are concerned but the moment when there is some doubt, I mean, there was a lot of doubts involved even in the parliament attack case but say when there is been a hue and cry around the nature of, let us say an encounter or certain arrests, be it Malegaon, be it Hashimpura which took so many years to the verdict or be it the Batla House encounter where young students from Jamia have been arrested and those cases just seems to be going endlessly. Do you think there is an interesting bias in the way judiciary also functioning and how some cases have been suddenly fast tracked and where actually young innocent, may be innocent but young marginalized, people from marginalized communities both in terms of community and class are struck in jails, those just go endlessly ?
NH: Of course there is a bias but as I said, there is a bias, there is an inefficiency in our investigative methods. There is a corruption which has beyond communalism. It is communal. There is an impact also on the war of terror, the so called war of terror. There are many many factors but then its like if we get an overwhelmed the fact that nothing will come out of it, that is what I am afraid of, that I feel, that the act of courage of an individual which has such a lot of social and political significance, it shouldn’t be allowed to die down. Just as the corruption as Lalit Modi is not dying down but this one is as important in many ways because actually behind this and I just want to say that what was she really protesting about, it is not only that she was told to go soft but what was this case. This case was that, this two people, specially Pragya and Col.Purohit, the Hemant Karkare and the charge sheet says they were part of the syndicate, which was called Abhinav Bharat, which was set up in 2006. Now it is organised crime, a mafia and therefore the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act was put on them. Now this is very serious. It is not two individuals went off and they are not uneducated, extremists who doing this. This is organised crime. She was the member of the Durgavahini, She is in MA History. Lt Col Purohit is part of the Indian army; So the question is that this organisation was also being looked at. Now Supreme court is said that the MCOCA doesn’t apply to them. That is what also worried Rohini. Since she has taken up this case and had fought it and not allowed them to get bail, she had argued. And now she is taken off the case. So it is a question that what is the message that goes to the minorities and to the people who have a stake in Indian democracy that the Hindu extremists can get away.
NSS: So clearly MCOCA, POTA and draconian acts of this kind are meant for certain community or meant for certain people. No matter how grave or serious the nature of the crime on the other side. Well I think like you said one can’t be very negative or pessimistic about the situation but the fact that I think it is also the time to celebrate one’s courage and Rohini Salian’s courage in this case so I think that is a positive note, will end here our discussion. Thank you so much NaNditaji.
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