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13/7 blasts: Has the ATS REALLY cracked the case?

Last updated on: January 25, 2012 15:48 IST

13/7 blasts: Has the ATS REALLY cracked the case?

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru

Vicky Nanjappa analyses the Maharashtra ATS's claim to have solved the 13/7 Mumbai blasts with the arrest of police informers.

There is a lot of confusion over the arrest of Naqqi Ahmed Washi Ahmed Shaikh in connection with the 13/7 Mumbai blasts, and it would be a while before this issue gains some clarity. However, the biggest setback in all this is for the Intelligence Bureau, because Naqqi was an informer for them.

Sources told rediff.com that Naqqi's arrest is quite an embarrassment, since those who groomed him to be their informer have lost face in the informer community. The rebirth of the Indian Mujhaideen was something the IB was well aware of.

The IB did realise that although there was quite a lull over the past couple of years, the IM was making every attempt to restructure itself. It was very important for the agencies to pick and choose informers who could move around with ease and gather information.

In Naqqi's case, the agencies had managed to pick up a lot of information. In fact, it was he who gave them information regarding Yaseen Bhatkal who was said to be visiting an apartment in Byculla in central Mumbai.

The Delhi police was on his trail, and decided that it would be best to inform the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad. However, this was a hurried situation and the apartment owner was arrested, which tipped off Bhatkal. As a result, he managed to slip away.

This case once again proves that the coordination between the IB and the police has been very poor. It had happened earlier in the 2010 Bangalore blasts case in which an informer was picked up and shown as an accused. The 13/7 investigations are no different, and this has angered the IB, which feels that the trust factor has been broken.

According to the IB, such blunders would only ensure that informers shy away from them. The other issue is that those officials dealing with informers cannot make public the name of these persons.

Moreover, there is no proper protection under law to safeguard the interests of the informers and there is a dire need for bringing them under the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, once it is in place, they feel.

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Image: ATS chief Rakesh Maria at a press conference


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According to sources, Naqqi was a crucial link, and could have helped bust the IM's network to a large extent, thus picking him up was one of the biggest goof-ups the ATS has made.

Sources inform that Naqqi was being groomed as an informer for quite some time, and it was with great difficulty that they had managed to coax him to help them in this operation.

"We can't give them much protection if we go by the law, since they fall under covert operations. The major factor is trust and protection of the family members. However, if the police go about arresting such persons then the situation becomes chaotic and no one is ever going to come forward and be an informant to any police agency." A senior police officer, however, points out that this has happened only due to lack of coordination.

"Those persons in intelligence must make it a point to inform at least a high-ranking officer in the police so that the informer is protected. Even if the police were to arrest him then the higher-ups will intervene and ensure that the man is let off, as he would have prior information regarding his operation. Most of the time, the IB does not follow this procedure, and this could lead to a lot of confusion," said a source.

The police too are under immense pressure to show a head count of the number of persons they have picked up. Often there is a lot of pressure from the media which questions the lack of speed in any investigation, which in turn leads an investigator to hurry things up.

The Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association, a New Delhi-based organisation of university teachers and students which has studied relevant aspects of the case, points out that the Maharashtra ATS claims to have cracked the 13/7 blasts case.

Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria revealed in a press conference on Monday that the IM was behind the blasts. And yet, the ministry of home affairs remains far from impressed.

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Image: The accused being take to a court in Mumbai

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The case was cracked within a day of Naqqi being handed over to the ATS. Did the ATS ever visit Delhi to pick up/question Naqqi? It simply pounced on him within moments of Delhi police's Special Cell 'abandoning' him, states the Jamia Teachers Solidary Association. Here's more questions from them for Rakesh Maria:

'The ATS chief in his press conference clearly said the arrest was made on January 12. His family alleges that he was picked up on the night of January 9. Not only this, his brothers Rafi and Razi were also detained by the ATS. Nadeem was also arrested the same night.

'Did Naqqi just walk into the ATS office and offer himself up, or was the ATS tailing him? If they had him on surveillance, surely they knew how closely he was working with the Special Cell, his numerous trips to the Special Cell and their regular phone calls to him?

'The ATS chief says that Naqqi had been visiting Madanpura area since September-October 2010. Would he explain why the last two of those trips were made in the company of the Special Cell? And may it be said that Naquee was not brought in under detention or arrest?

'Naqqi and Nadeem's clothes have been recovered from the house where the main suspects lived, claimed Maria. Is he familiar with their wardrobe and sartorial preferences in the absence of any forensics tests to claim that clothes belonged to them?

'The ATS says that the bikes they recovered from the suspects would have been used in future terror acts. Implicating people in future conspiracies, where evidence need not be produced because the act hasn't taken place at all is an old police trick. If indeed those bikes were stolen (the family disputes it), then book Naqqi and Nadeem for theft,  not under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.'

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Image: A policeman stands guard at the site of an explosion in the Zaveri Bazar
Photographs: Reuters

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The JTSA also says Maria was emphatic that Rs 1.5 lakh had passed through Naqqi's hands but could not explain when asked where that had come from. "Hawala", he said, and insisted that the investigations were still on. So, if the investigations were still on and nothing conclusive had been arrived at, why make grandiose claims in a press conference?

'While Maria grandly declared that over 12,000 witnesses were questioned, we have no way of knowing how many of them were questioned in illegal detention. Will the ATS chief kindly explain why Naqqi's elder brothers were detained? Why has his brother's workshop of trolley bags been turned into a fortress, and reporters and outsiders denied access to them?

'Yes, there is competition, but no rivalry. Maria made a brave attempt at presenting a picture of blissful bonhomie between the ATS and Special Cell ("The head of Special Cell is my batch mate," he claimed).

'If the two agencies are so friendly, should not they be sharing information rather than harassing and hounding family members? Why has the ATS been after Naqqi's brother?

'Too often we have seen these agencies turning into predators, consuming those very men it seeks out for help and cooperation. The Special Cell may be crying buckets now, but they have implicated IB informers as dreaded terrorists (remember Qamar and Irshad) earlier. The cut-throat grey world of unaccounted powers and funds 'to tackle terror' has veered out of control.


Image: A policeman stands at the site of an explosion near the Opera House in Mumbai during the 13/7 blasts
Photographs: Reuters

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