Samjhauta ruling

Updated March 22, 2019


THE ruling in the Samjhauta Express bombing acquits all four accused. Twelve years after the incident, the apparently strong indictment of the accused has been trumped with a simple one-line message: the investigating agency has failed to prove the conspiracy charge and the accused deserve the benefit of the doubt.

The fact that the prosecutors failed to apprehend three out of the eight people it wanted to charge-sheet is in itself indicative of just how impossible the trial was. Reports say there are no plans to challenge the ruling in a higher court.

The ruling is an insult to the 42 Pakistani victims of the Feb 18, 2007, bombing of the train that had set off for Lahore, and a sharp reminder of how opponents of subcontinental peace are allowed to get away with the biggest crimes.

It is a rebuke to the more than 20 victims of the explosion with Indian nationality and it is a snub to the efforts of those investigators of Haryana, where the incident took place, who tracked the suspects in a high-pressure probe.

There is a painful contrast between the work of police investigators assigned to look into this blatant act of terror in the initial stages and a special court of India’s National Intelligence Agency which announced Wednesday’s judgement.

That police team overcame all kinds of pressure to first reject the opinion that this was an act carried out by a Muslim extremist group, and then to actually announce it was a job carried out by organised Hindu extremists.

The prosecution termed it a criminal conspiracy which threatened the “unity, integrity, security and sovereignty” of India.

If these strong words offered any hope to the families of the victims and to pro-justice people generally, the rhetoric eventually gave way to the usual politics.

True to form, Delhi tried to find refuge in the exchange of allegations with Pakistan where both sides have pointed a finger at the other for not seriously prosecuting groups blamed for terrorist acts inside each other’s territory — this despite many appeals that have highlighted what dangerous consequences a half-baked probe of such acts could lead to.

Pakistan’s reaction to the Samjhauta ruling has been as predictable as it is sharp. Islamabad’s response aptly underlines the fact that the terrorists had publicly confessed to their ‘odious crimes’. It says the verdict smacks of duplicity and hypocrisy and exposes the Indian policy of patronising Hindu terrorists.

The distinction though is that it did begin with confessions — but the proceedings progressively degenerated into a cover-up for the accused.

On its part, Pakistan can do better than India by taking the Mumbai terror case to its logical conclusion. This would show the world that it is serious about combating militancy and be a befitting response to India that stands exposed after the Samjhauta ruling.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2019