On 29 October 2005 as Delhi prepared to celebrate Diwali, it was ripped through by a series of blasts that killed 67 people and injured more than 200. Among those arrested for that terrorist attack was Mohammad Rafiq Shah, an MA student in Srinagar. Twelve long years later he has been found innocent by the courts, along with co-accused Mohammad Hussain Fazili who used to weave shawls in Srinagar. This judgment is the latest to raise serious doubts about the rigour and integrity of police investigations, whether in terror cases or other crimes. Rafiq and Hussain join a growing list of Muslim youth branded terrorists on questionable evidence, growing old before their time in a lonely struggle for justice.
Rafiq was prosecuted in perverse defiance of a strong alibi: he was attending class in Srinagar on the day of the serial blasts in Delhi. What will it take for him to resume any kind of normal life? Mohammad Amir Khan, who in 2012 was found innocent in as many as 19 cases of bombings but only after spending 14 years in jail, says even now every time he steps out of his house he feels like shouting, My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.
Lackadaisical police work, judicial delays and long incarcerations of the innocent are unfortunately chronic in India. Forensic and investigative capacities lag global best practices shamefully. If vulnerable scapegoats are framed in terrorist cases, that gives a leg up to the real terrorists as they are left free to strike again. Second, it stokes resentment in affected communities. The nation cannot afford such undermining. Its law and order architecture must be strengthened and investigations must be thorough, serious and lawful.
The Article First Appeared In TOI
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