'Why CM's fund not used for compensating wrongly held Muslims'
Andhra Pradesh has released Rs 70 lakh for innocent Muslim youths arrested and tortured in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case. But the minority community continues to be miffed for the compensation comes from the Mecca Masjid kitty and not the chief minister's funds. Vicky Nanjappa reports
The 2007 Mecca Masjid blast and the subsequent police firing are considered to be one of the darkest phases of Hyderabad's history. And after almost five years, the Andhra Pradesh government has ordered the release of Rs 70 lakh for 70 young Muslims who were wrongly implemented in the case and were allegedly tortured in police custody before being found innocent by courts.
According to officials, out of 70 victims identified, 20 would be paid Rs 3 lakh each while others would get Rs 20,000.
The Muslim community from Hyderabad has been striving for justice since 2007 and despite the government's announcement, which is perhaps the first instance of victims of police torture in a terror case being paid compensation in the country, they say confusion prevails. Apart from the compensation, there are many more recommendations that need to be implemented.
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Image: Andhra Pradesh government has ordered the release of Rs 70 lakh for 70 Muslim youths wrongly implicated in the Mecca Masjid case
'Why no action taken against guilty police officers'
Lateef Mohammad Khan, who has led this campaign for Muslim youths who were wrongly detained after the Mecca Masjid blast, says that the government after a very long time submitted a half-hearted apology to those who were falsely implicated.
The state government has stated in its order that an expenditure of Rs 70 lakh to be incurred in connection with confidence building measures and compensation in the Mecca Masjid blast case. It also says that the above expenditure is to be incurred from the "administration of Mecca Masjid and Shahi Masjid public garden".
"Here we want to make it clear that the GO is itself confusing, unclear, unfair because in Mecca Masjid bomb blast the people who died were Muslims, those who died in the subsequent police firing were Muslims and the youths who were illegally detained and tortured were Muslims. And now the money that will be paid for compensation to the victims of police torture is from the Mecca Masjid funds. All we want to ask is why are the funds not sanctioned from the chief minister's fund," Khan said.
"Moreover, why is there no mention of any action that needs to be taken against those guilty police officers, who are responsible for the torture of the innocent Muslims," he added.
The Muslims argue that the recommendations made by the National Commission for Minorities in this case have not been implemented by the Andhra Pradesh government.
Image: Policemen stand guard at the site of a bomb blast at Mecca Masjid
Police forced Muslim suspects to hail Hindu deities: NCM
The NCM report points out the failure of the police to observe the due process of law while investigating the three bomb blasts in Hyderabad in 2007.
Examples of this alleged dereliction of duty include the following:
Disregarding established procedures, the police fired indiscriminately into the crowd fleeing the Mecca Masjid after the blast, which resulted in the death of at least six persons
The suspects were not allowed to inform relatives of their arrest
The suspects were bundled into cars without number plates, blindfolded and illegally detained in farmhouses and private lodges for several days where they were subjected to physical and mental torture. They were stripped naked, severely beaten, administered electric shocks on various parts of their body, including the genitals, and deprived of food and water. The police used abusive language while referring to their women folk and their faith and forced them to hail Hindu deities.
Image: Onlookers gather at the blast site in front of Mecca Masjid
'Suspects had to undergo narco tests banned by Andhra govt'
No lawyer was present during interrogation of the suspects.
Detainees were not produced before a magistrate for remand within 24 hours of their detention. Instead, the time of arrest was shown later than the time merely to comply with the requirement of remand within 24 hours of arrest.
The suspects were produced before a magistrate after court hours at his residence. The magistrates never asked them if they had been tortured despite marks of recent injuries.
Some of the suspects had to undergo narco tests whose results have little evidentiary value but which resulted in physical and psychological damage to them. Incidentally, the Andhra Pradesh high court has banned narco tests.
The recommendations of the NCM
In view of the seriousness of the allegations against the police, and the less-than satisfactory responses given by them, the NCM team urged the Union government to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into all the three incidents of bomb blasts in the city in 2007. As of now, only the Mecca Masjid blast case is being investigated by the CBI.
The NCM report said urgent measures are also needed to address other major grievances of the Muslim community: better education facilities in Urdu schools, creation of job opportunities for Muslim youth, adequate representation for Muslims in government employment, and notably in the police force, compensation to families who lost their members in the blasts and an early settlement of the debate now raging in the community about the allegedly indiscriminate sale of Wafk properties. This last point is a cause of much alarm considering the allegations of grave irregularities, which are tantamount to a multi-crore scandal.
The NCM team is of the view that the seriousness of the charges levelled against the authorities must not deflect attention from the gravity of the security situation in Andhra Pradesh. In a power-point presentation, the high-ranking police officials provided a detailed and comprehensive account of jihadi activities in the state and their links abroad, notably in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The report further stated: 'While it is certainly not the intention of the team to dismiss the serious issues raised in this presentation out of hand, we are firmly of the view that, in their pursuit of the extremely important goal of bringing those involved in extremist and terrorist activities to book, the police must not jettison the due process of law. This would only result in driving Muslim youths into the arms of extremists and give a fillip to those engaged in actions detrimental to communal peace and harmony.'
Image: Relatives of victims of the blast