The loss of nine precious Indian lives and the injuries inflicted on another 58 worshippers at the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad when an improvised explosive device was set off as they congregated for Friday prayers in 2007 can never be made good. But now that a special court has acquitted Swami Aseemanand and four others whom the National Investigation Agency had zeroed-in on as the main accused under the previous UPA regime, albeit the charge-sheet in the case was filed in the first few months of the BJP coming to power in 2014 the bulk if not all of the investigations had been completed by the NIA while the UPA served to successive terms at the Centre, it is fair to ask: Who were the actual perpetrators of this attack? Till an answer to this question is forthcoming, there cannot be closure. Neither for those who suffered the loss of loved ones nor for the country’s security establishment which must find and ensure punishment for the villains if they are indeed not the five accused as the court has held.
While the BJP is right to call out the venality of a section of the Congress/UPA which had dubbed the case an example “Hindu/saffron terror” now that those accused have been let off for lack of sufficient evidence, and the latter is busy back-peddling furiously lest its efforts to build an image for itself as a political organisation not inimical to the Hindu/Indic tradition of the country is undermined in the run-up to the General Election, the damage the verdict has done to the already pretty tattered reputation of the nation’s premier investigative agency especially in terror cases is likely to be long-lasting. Unless, of course, the NIA manages to find and make a strong case before the courts for the conviction of the real culprits. As for the political slanging match that has broken out in the aftermath of the verdict, well, the acquittal does indicate that the UPA was up to no good and didn’t pause for thought before casually bandying about phrases to establish an equivalence of terror when none existed on the ground. That is an electoral-political strategy which is susceptible to definition by only one word: Despicable. The BJP, on the other hand, if it really believes the five accused who were let off on Monday were framed by a vindictive and divisive Congress-led UPA, needs to get the NIA to take a long, hard look at what the options are in terms of the course of action to be followed in nabbing the anti-nationals behind the despicable attack on a place of worship.
If there is a larger lesson in the Mecca Masjid blast case for political parties, civil society organisations and the ordinary or garden variety of citizens, however, it is that premature articulation does untold harm to both victims and accused. That the Indian investigative, police and judicial system is creaking and decrepit would be stating the obvious. But till change is wrought and its impact seen on the ground, we must all adhere to what there is rather than let our normative biases cloud our acceptance of court verdicts. We should, instead, gainfully expend our energies to press for the Justice Malimath Committee Report (2003) on reforms in the criminal justice system and the Supreme Court directives in the Prakash Singh versus Union of India case (2006) for police reforms to be implemented.