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Is India Really " Stable, Peaceful, and Prosperous?

In the past five years bomb attacks claimed by Islamist groups have killed hundreds across the Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. An Indian Muslim was even involved in the failed assault on Glasgow airport in July last year. Yet George Bush reportedly introduced Manmohan Singh to his wife, Laura, as "the prime minister of India, a democracy which does not have a single al-Qaida member in a population of 150 million Muslims".

To be fair to Bush, he was only repeating a cliche deployed by Indian politicians and American pundits such as Thomas Friedman to promote India as a squeaky-clean ally of the United States. However, Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, ought to know better. In his new book, The Post-American World, he describes India as a "powerful package" and claims it has been "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" since 1997 - a decade in which India and Pakistan came close to nuclear war, tens of thousands of Indian farmers took their own lives, Maoist insurgencies erupted across large parts of the country, and Hindu nationalists in Gujarat murdered more than 2,000 Muslims.

Apparently, no inconvenient truths are allowed to mar what Foreign Affairs, the foreign policy journal of America's elite, has declared a "roaring capitalist success story". Add Bollywood's singing and dancing stars, beauty queens and Booker prize-winning writers to the Tatas, the Mittals and the IT tycoons, and the picture of Indian confidence, vigour and felicity is complete.

The passive consumer of this image, already puzzled by recurring reports of explosions in Indian cities, may be startled to learn from the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) in Washington that the death toll from terrorist attacks in India between January 2004 and March 2007 was 3,674, second only to that in Iraq. (In the same period, 1,000 died as a result of such attacks in Pakistan, the "most dangerous place on earth" according to the Economist, Newsweek and other vendors of geopolitical insight.)

To put it in plain language - which the NCTC is unlikely to use - India is host to some of the fiercest conflicts in the world. Since 1989 more than 80,000 have died in insurgencies in Kashmir and the northeastern states.

Manmohan Singh himself has called the Maoist insurgency centred on the state of Chhattisgarh the biggest internal security threat to India since independence. The Maoists, however, are confined to rural areas; their bold tactics haven't rattled Indian middle-class confidence in recent years as much as the bomb attacks in major cities have.

Politicians and the media routinely blame Pakistan for terrorist violence in India. It is likely that the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, was involved in the bombings two weeks ago in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, which killed 46 people. But their scale and audacity also hints that the perpetrators have support networks within India.

The Indian elite's obsession with the "foreign hand" obscures the fact that the roots of some of the violence lie in the previous two decades of traumatic political and economic change, particularly the rise of Hindu nationalism, and the related growth of ruthlessness towards those left behind by India's expanding economy.

In 2006 a commission appointed by the government revealed that Muslims in India are worse educated and less likely to find employment than low-caste Hindus. Muslim isolation and despair is compounded by what B Raman, a hawkish security analyst, was moved after the most recent attacks to describe as the "inherent unfairness of the Indian criminal justice system".

To take one example, the names of the politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen who colluded in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 are widely known. Some of them were caught on video, in a sting carried out last year by the weekly magazine Tehelka, proudly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims. But, as Amnesty International pointed out in a recent report, justice continues to evade most victims and survivors of the violence. Tens of thousands still languish in refugee camps, too afraid to return to their homes.

In an article I wrote for the New York Times in 2003 I underlined the likely perils if the depressed and alienated minority of Muslims were to abandon their much-tested faith in the Indian political and legal system. Predictably Hindu nationalists, most of them resident in the UK and US, inundated my email inbox, accusing me of showing India in a bad light.

It is now clear that a tiny but militantly disaffected minority of Indian Muslims has begun to heed the international pied pipers of jihad. Furthermore, there is no effective defence against their malevolence. Conventional counter-terrorism strategies - increased police presence or greater surveillance - don't work in India's large, densely populated cities. Nor do draconian laws such as the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, which allowed police to hold suspects without charge for six months and was repealed in 2004.

Gung-ho members of the middle class clamour for Israeli-style retaliation against jihadi training camps in Pakistan. But India can "do a Lebanon" only by risking nuclear war with its neighbour; and Indian intelligence agencies are too inept to imitate Mossad's policy of targeted killings, which have reaped for Israel an endless supply of dedicated and resourceful enemies.

As we now know, the promoters of pre-emptive strikes and rendition have proved to be the most effective recruiting agents for jihad. In that sense the Indian government's inability to raise the ante, to pursue an endless war on terror or to order 150 million of its poorest citizens to reform their religion is a good thing. For it helps to maintain a necessary focus on terrorism as another symptom of a wider crisis that will be alleviated not so much by better policing, intelligence gathering or consultation with mullahs as by confronting socioeconomic frustrations and political grievances.

The absence of "tough" retaliation also leaves the jihadi terrorists incapable of dealing more than a few glancing blows to the Indian state. Certainly, a hysterical response of the kind that followed the 7/7 attacks in London - a crackdown on civil liberties and demonisation of Islam - would in India only have accelerated the radicalisation of the Muslim minority.

It is true that nihilist terrorism has no greater adversary than people who refuse to be terrorised or provoked. There have been remarkably few instances of retaliation against Muslims in the wake of terror attacks. In Mumbai, where nearly 200 people were killed by bomb explosions on commuter trains in 2006, normal life resumed even more quickly than in London in July 2005.

But the resilience of India's poor, who have no option but to get on with their lives, should not be taken for granted, or used to peddle India as a stable, business-friendly country. For their stoicism in the face of terror also expresses the bitter wisdom of the weak: that violence is far from being an aberration in the inequitable world our political and business elites have made.

· Pankaj Mishra is the author of Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond
kannauj@gmail.com

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Comment by Riaz Haq on October 23, 2011 at 9:09am
Here are some excerpts from a piece by Soutik Biswas of the BBC on "offensive" books censorship in India:

Three Hundred Ramayanas:Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translation, finds itself at the centre of a fresh controversy. It has been dropped from the history syllabus of Delhi University after protests from hardline Hindu groups and a number of teachers. They believe the many versions recounted in the essay offend Hindu beliefs.
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Hindu groups first protested against the inclusion of Dr Ramanujan's essay in the syllabus in 2008. At that time, the head of Delhi University's history department was also assaulted by some hot heads. But the teachers had stuck to their guns and refused to drop the essay.

Three years later, bowing to renewed pressure, the university's top academic body decided to take the essay out of the history syllabus, though, reportedly, a minority of teachers protested against the decision. One of them, Abha Dev Habib, described the decision as "very regressive and unfortunate".

So why have the right-wing groups railed against Dr Ramanujan's essay?

Journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju suggests that the groups love the "soap telling" of the epic poem which iconises Ram and "want the narrative to retain the structure and simplicity of a bedtime story so that you fall asleep in consent and total belief as you listen to it". Literary critic Nilanjana S Ray writes in her blog that this may "have been part of the general climate of intolerance and the battle over who had the right to tell the country's history and its myths that was part of the Indian landscape between the 1980s and the 2000s". She talks about how self-appointed censors wilfully scan texts for "offensive" phrases.

Ms Ray is correct. Last year Mumbai University withdrew Rohinton Mistry's novel Such a Long Journey - shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1991 - from its curriculum after the nationalist Shiv Sena staged protests against its "derogatory" references to party members. Mr Mistry said the move was "a sorry spectacle of book-burning".

Last year the state of Gujarat banned Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joseph Lelyveld's incisive Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India long before it had been released in India. Gujarat's ruling Hindu nationalist politicians had been told that the book sensationalised Gandhi's friendship with a German man, who may have been homosexual. All this was far from true, but the ban stayed....the ease with which attacks on free expression can be mounted in a country which never tires of calling itself the world's largest democracy betrays a weak and inffectual state, which often fails to respect and protect dissenters. That, many believe, means mischievous, trouble-making minorities can easily subdue and attack dissent.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-15363181
Comment by Riaz Haq on January 20, 2013 at 5:30pm

Here's a TOI story on Indian home minister talking about "Hindu Terrorism" in India:

Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Sunday kicked up a storm by accusing RSS and BJP training camps promoting Hindu ``terrorism'' in the country with the main Opposition party angrily hitting back, describing the remark as an attempt to divide the nation and seeking an apology from Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"They are talking about infiltration but we have this report that whether it is BJP or RSS, their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism," Shinde said at the Congress meeting in Jaipur.

"We are keeping a strict eye on it. The Samjhauta Express blast, Mecca Masjid (blast), Malegaon blast — they are planting bombs and blaming minorities for it. We need to be careful for safety of our country," the minister added.

This is probably for the first time that a senior member of the government has publicly sought to link terrorism to a religious basis, with the government being chary of using terms like Islamic terrorism. Shinde directly linked BJP and RSS with groups like Abhinav Bharat, which is charged with the Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts.

There were angry exchanges between then home minister P Chidambaram and BJP MPs in the Rajya Sabha after the Congress leader said the government was going to pursue a zero tolerance policy against both jihadi terrorism and Hindu militancy. BJP sought to know why he refrained from using the term "Islamic terrorism" even though he used the words Hindu terrorism during his reply to the debate on the internal security. ...

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Shindes-linkage-of-RSS-BJP...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 17, 2015 at 9:47am
Pakistan ranks 154 and India ranks 143 among 162 nations on IEP Global Peace Index
Afghanistan (160), Iraq (161) and Syria (162) are at the bottom 
Terrorism has grown steadily over the last decade, a trend that shows no sign of abating. Deaths caused by terrorism increased by 61 per cent in 2013, which resulted in almost 18,000 people being killed in terrorist attacks. Of those deaths, 82 per cent occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. The threat of terrorism has also affected many of the world’s most peaceful countries, with terrorist attacks occurring in France, Denmark and Australia in the last year
In 2008, there were only three countries that had a score worse than 3 out of 5: Somalia, Iraq and Sudan. However, by 2015 this increased to nine countries: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan, highlighting the further deterioration amongst the least peaceful countries in the world.
Crucially, the uncertainty stemming from the shift in responsibility for security from foreign troops to Afghan forces means that the chances of sustained internal conflict remain high. Pakistan’s score has similarly deteriorated, on the back of a worsening of its perceptions of criminality; as a result, the country remains second from the bottom in South Asia. The country’s dire domestic security situation continues to be hampered by the presence of Islamist militant groups. Even though the number of deaths from internal conflict did not worsen significantly over the past twelve months, Pakistan suffered a handful of high-profile incidents—most notably the separate attacks on Jinnah International Airport and an army-run school in Peshawar. Albeit not to the same extent, the number of casualties from internal conflict also rose in India where a Maoist insurgency stills runs rife. The downgrade in India’s score is tempered, however, by an improvement in political stability. The world’s second mostpopulous country witnessed an historic election in 2014 as the Bharatiya Janata Party secured India’s first one-party majority since the mid-1980s.
TABLE 14 COUNTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST MILITARISATION IN 2015, INCLUDING PERCENTAGE CHANGE, 2008-2015 Israel has the highest level of militarisation in the world according to the GPI and is also the most militarised country in the world according to the GMI.
Israel 3.853 3.708 -0.145 -4% North Korea 3.106 3.247 0.141 5% Russia 3.065 3.067 0.002 0% United States 2.476 2.546 0.070 3% Pakistan 2.353 2.436 0.083 4% France 2.482 2.428 -0.054 -2% India 2.329 2.351 0.022 1% Syria 1.946 2.249 0.303 16% Yemen 2.441 2.241 -0.199 -8%
The level of terrorism has grown steadily over the last decade, and shows no sign of abating. Deaths from terrorism increased by 61 per cent from 2012 to 2013, with almost 18,000 people being killed in terrorist attacks in 2013. Eighty-two per cent of these deaths occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. 
The majority of deaths from terrorism have occurred in countries suffering from protracted civil conflict or war, with 82 per cent of deaths from terrorism in 2013 occurring in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. However, the impact of terrorism has been felt in an increasing number of countries across the globe, with the number of countries experiencing more than 50 deaths from terrorism in a year rising from 15 in 2012 to 24 in 2013. A total of 60 countries recorded at least one death from terrorism in 2013.
Comment by Riaz Haq on March 23, 2016 at 8:12pm

Journalist Jailed in Eastern #India Over Social Media Post. #CPJ demands release #Naxal #Maoist #Modi #BJP http://nyti.ms/1RA0MkI 

NEW DELHI — A journalist in eastern India was arrested after he posted a message on social media criticizing the police and calling for legal protections for reporters in the violence-scarred region, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The journalist, Prabhat Singh, who had worked for an Indian television network and had been posting news on social media sites after he was fired from the station, was detained on Monday in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh State, said Kishore Narayan, one of his lawyers. The post for which he was arrested was circulated on WhatsApp.

Mr. Singh was accused of circulating obscene material, Mr. Narayan said. In court on Tuesday, Mr. Singh said that he was beaten in police custody, Mr. Narayan said. The court denied his bail request.

Maoist insurgency has been active for years in India’s tribal belt, which includes parts of Chhattisgarh. The rebels disrupt elections and frequently attack security officials. Human rights activists say that security officials trying to suppress the insurgency have committed human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings.

Two journalists were arrested in Chhattisgarh last year and accused of supporting the militants. Those arrests came at a time when the authorities were cracking down on people they called Maoist sympathizers, supporters of the journalists have said. Shalini Gera, a lawyer with the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, which is representing the journalists arrested last year, said both men were innocent.

Ms. Gera said that last month she and her colleagues were driven out of Jagdalpur, which serves as the administrative headquarters of the Bastar district, by police officials who objected to their work.

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group based in New York, called on the state’s chief minister to release Mr. Singh.

“The arrests and hounding of journalists and their defenders has given way to a climate of fear that risks turning parts of Chhattisgarh into a media black hole,” said Sumit Galhotra, the senior research associate of the group’s Asia program.

A senior police official in Bastar was not available for comment on Wednesday.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 29, 2016 at 9:15pm

Anti-#Muslim Malegaon Accused #Hindu Nationalist Terrorist Sadhvi Pragya Denied Bail. #Modi #BJP #India http://www.ndtv.com/cheat-sheet/sadhvi-pragyas-bail-rejected-by-mum... … via @ndtv

Berating the NIA, the court said charges against Sadhvi Pragya under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act would stay.
"There are reasonable grounds to believe that accusations against Pragya are prima facie true. It is difficult to accept the (bail plea) merely on the ground that the NIA has given a clean chit to Sadhvi Pragya," the court said.
The NIA had, in a new chargesheet last month, dropped charges against Sadhvi Pragya and five others citing lack of evidence against them.
The court said today that the NIA, which took over the case in 2011, launched a "fresh investigation" instead of taking forward the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad's work on the case.
Seven people were killed and 101 injured when two bombs fitted on a motorcycle exploded in Malegaon, around 270 km from Mumbai, on September 29, 2008.
Sadhvi Pragya, Army Colonel Srikant Purohit and others were arrested and were charged with plotting the blasts as part of a pro-Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat.
The Anti-Terror Squad said Sadhvi Pragya's motorcycle was used in the attack. It also alleged that Lt Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya had met Swami Aseemanand , the main accused in the Samjhauta Express blast of 2007, and plotted the Malegaon blasts. Many witnesses have since turned hostile.
The NIA said in its charge-sheet that "during investigation, sufficient evidences have not been found" against Sadhvi Pragya. It also said the motorcycle registered in her name was used by an accused who is missing.
Both the Sadhvi and Col Purohit, called the face of "saffron terror" by the Congress, have been in jail for about seven years now.
The case was first investigated by Hemant Karkare as the chief of Maharashtra's Anti-terror Squad. Mr Karkare was killed battling the Lashkar e Taiba terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 24, 2017 at 4:46pm

Chhattisgarh: 26 #Indian police officers killed & 10 badly injured by #Maoist rebels. #India #Modi via @indiacom.
http://www.india.com/news/india/chhattisgarh-11-crpf-jawans-killed-...

Raipur, April 24: At least 25 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in an encounter with the Naxal militants in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. The deceased jawans were members of the 74th battalion of CRPF. One among the deceased was also an Inspector-rank officer.
The encounter broke out at nearly 12:25 PM on Monday. The security forces and naxal militants were locked in a gunfight in the region falling between Burkapal and Chintagufa, falling in Sukma district. The area is considered to the hotbed of Maoist militancy, with maximum number of Naxalite cadres emerging from the area. ALSO: LIVE updates: Reaction of Centre on Sukma encounter
According to reports, the encounter broke out after the CRPF patrolling party was fired upon left-wing extremists who were present at their hideouts. Caught off-guard, the CRPF jawans launched a retaliatory attack, indulging in a prolonged gunfire with the heavily armed Maoist militants. “”The Naxals fired at a patrolling party of the CRPF near Burkapal village,” confirmed D M Awasthi, Special Director General (anti-Naxal operations) of Chhattisgarh Police, while speaking to PTI.
Apart from 26 CRPF personnel being killed, nearly 10 jawans are critically injured, as per reports. The injured jawans have been evacuated from the encounter site, using helicopter. The jawans were rushed to the nearby medical government hospital. They were later shifted to the medical facility in Raipur. 

The CRPF jawans were deployed in the Chintagufa to oversee the road construction work being undertaken in the region. The contractors and labourers were sought to be protected from the Maoist militants, who oppose development work undertaken by Indian government in the region.
Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh called an emergency meeting on Monday to review the security condition in the Maoist-dominated belt in the state. He left Delhi on being informed about the encounter, cancelling all his engagements planned in the national capital for later in the day.
Apart from the Chhattisgarh CM, the Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi also called a meeting of top officials to review the security state in the Naxal-affected regions of central India, reported India Today. Bastar IG Vivekanand Sinha and DIG Sunderraj were instructed to leave for Sukma to take stock of the conditions on the ground.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh instructed MoS Home Hansraj Ahir to visit the encounter site at the earliest. “Extremely pained to know about killing of CRPF personnel in Sukma. My tributes to the martyrs and condolences to their families. Spoke to MoS Home Hansraj Ahir about attack in Sukma, he is going to Chhattisgarh to take stock of the situation,” he said.
According the reports, the jawans were targeted using IED bombs, before being fired upon in an indiscriminate manner by the naxal militants. In the subsequent gunbattle which lasted for nearly four hours, no claims of neutralisation have been made so far.
According to an injured jawan, the CRPF team was attacked by nearly 300 Naxal militants who were heavily armed. “They were around 300 and we were around 150, we kept firing. I shot 3-4 Naxals in the chest,” the injured jawan, identified as Sher Mohammed, was reported as saying by ANI.
In an encounter between security forces and naxalites in the Burkapal-Chintagufa belt of Sukma district last year, 12 CRPF personnel were killed. Centre had subsequently launched a crackdown on naxal forces in the region, killing more than 29 naxals and arresting more than 100.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 26, 2017 at 5:22pm

Deadly ambush raises fears of #Maoists rebel resurgence in #India. #Chattisgarh #Modi

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/deadly-ambush-rai...

The attack, which killed 25 soldiers, has raised fears that the five-decade insurgency is seeing a revival. This year is already one of the bloodiest in recent years, with 72 soldiers killed in the rebel heartland of Chhattisgarh. By comparison, 36 were killed during all of last year.

“You let him die,” Kumar’s 15-year-old daughter cried to the soldiers carrying the body of her father to his home in the northern hill town of Palampur on Tuesday night. “Why didn’t you do something?”

Indian soldiers have been battling the rebels across several central and northern states since 1967, when the militants — also known as Naxalites — began fighting to demand more jobs, land and wealth from natural resources for the country’s poor indigenous communities. The government has said the insurgents, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, pose the country’s most serious internal security threat.

Before this year, the deadliest Maoist attack was in 2010, when rebels killed 76 soldiers in Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest states despite vast mineral riches. Rebel attacks in other Indian states are less frequent, but also sometimes result in casualties.

Analysts said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is slipping in its commitment to fight the rebels, and that authorities should be deploying more police and paramilitary troops while simultaneously focusing on boosting economic development for poor villagers who may be moved to support the rebels.

“It’s as if no lessons have been learned from similar attacks in the past,” said Ajai Sahni, a security analyst in New Delhi.

The troops attacked on Monday had been having lunch along a partially built road cutting through scrubland, taking a break from scouting the area ahead of a construction team, when they were ambushed by about 300 armed rebels, touching off a three-hour gunbattle.

“I find it incomprehensible that the Indian state cannot deploy enough soldiers to protect 70 kilometers of road within the country,” Sahni said.

Facing a resurgence in the rebellion, the government should change its standard deployment and surveillance tactics, he said. Authorities also need to improve living standards for local villagers, noting that none had warned the troops about the presence of hundreds of armed rebels moving through the region.

Years of neglect — marked by a lack of jobs, school and health care clinics — have helped to isolate the local villagers, making them open to overtures by the rebels, who speak their tribal languages and have promised to fight for a better future with more education and job opportunities.

The “government needs to reduce the economic deprivation, which has led to an alienation of the local people,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Raj Kadyan, a defense analyst, told India Today television channel.

Other analysts noted that Monday’s attack occurred when the soldiers deviated from the standard operating procedures by sitting as a group for lunch, without anyone standing watch, as reported by soldiers who survived the attack.

One survivor said they’d first been approached by villagers, whom the rebels then followed.

“We thought it was a group of villagers coming toward us, when the rebels began firing from behind,” said Sher Bahadur, who was among six soldiers injured.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 26, 2017 at 5:39pm

#Indian State At War With Its "Own People" Since 1947. #Kashmir #Nagaland #Manipur #Mizoram #Talangana https://youtu.be/M6Y3H1WdkMk via @YouTube


Indian writer Arundhati Roy says that the Indian upper caste Hindu state has been perpetually at war with people in Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Talangana since 1947.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 28, 2019 at 9:06pm

#samjhautablastcase: With ‘anguish’, NIA judge says crucial evidence was “withheld” by prosecutors resulting in ‘dastardly act’ going unpunished for want of proof. #Modi #Hindutva #terrorism #Islamophobia #Pakistan | #India News, The Indian Express

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/samjhauta-express-blast-wit...

The court has also rapped the investigating agencies in general for what it called a "malaise" to "coin various terms like Muslim terrorism, Hindu fundamentalism etc or brand an act of criminal(s) as act(s) of particular religion, caste or community".

Coming down heavily on the NIA, the Panchkula special court judge, who last week acquitted all four accused in the Samjhauta Express blasts case, said he was doing it “with deep pain and anguish” because a “dastardly act of violence” was going unpunished.

In a 160-page order which was released Thursday — the verdict was delivered on March 20 — special NIA court judge Jagdeep Singh said the “best evidence” was “withheld” by the prosecution and was not brought on record. He said some of the cited independent witnesses were never examined or sought to be declared hostile for cross-examination when they chose not to support the prosecution case.

Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Kamal Chauhan, Rajinder Chaudhary and Lokesh Sharma were acquitted by the court on March 20. Sixty-eight people including 43 Pakistan citizens, 10 Indian citizens and 15 unidentified people were killed in the blasts which took place on the Attari-bound Samjhauta Express on February 18-19 night in 2007. Two explosions took place in two unreserved coaches between Diwana and Panipat in Haryana. Two bombs that did not go off were recovered later.

Three accused, Amit Chouhan (Ramesh Venkat Malhakar), Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, have been declared proclaimed offenders. Another accused, Sunil Joshi — the NIA called him the mastermind — was killed in December 2007 in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh.

In his order, the judge said: “There are gaping holes in the prosecution evidence and an act of terrorism has remained unsolved. Terrorism has no religion because no religion in the world preaches violence. A Court of Law is not supposed to proceed on popular or predominant public perception or the political discourse of the day and ultimately it has to appreciate the evidence on record and arrive at final conclusion on the basis of relevant statutory provisions and settled law applicable thereto.”

“In the present case, there is no evidence regarding any agreement to commit the crime amongst the accused persons. There is no evidence regarding any meeting of minds between the accused to commit the crime. No concrete oral, documentary or scientific evidence has been brought on record to connect the accused, facing the trial, with the crime in question. There is not an iota of evidence to make out any motive on the part of the accused to indulge in the crime,” he said.

Observing that a large number of witnesses turned hostile in the case, the judge underlined the need for a sound and workable witness protection scheme in the country. Of 299 witnesses in the case, 224 deposed before the court. Of these, 51 were said to have turned hostile, changing statements recorded earlier.

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