The death of terror suspect Khalid Mujahid, on Saturday, while being escorted by the police from court to Lucknow jail has turned the heat on the state police and administration by a few notches. Mujahid, along with Tariq Qasmi, was arrested for allegedly being involved in the bomb blasts that took place in the Lucknow and Faizabad courts in 2007 and in the Gorakhpur blasts the same year. Right from the time of the arrests there have been allegations of police high-handedness and targeting of the minority community. The Samajwadi Party had promised in its election manifesto to review the cases against ‘innocent’ Muslim youth lodged in jails on terror charges. Accordingly it moved the Barabanki court in April seeking a withdrawal of the cases against Mujahid and Qasmi. The court rejected the plea.
Relatives have alleged that there were signs of torture on Mujahid’s body and while an FIR has been filed blaming 42 police personnel for the death of Mujahid, including a former DGP of Uttar Pradesh, the state has asked for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death. One of the things the death of Khalid Mujahid points to is the indifferent attitude shown by the Akhilesh Yadav government to the RD Nimesh Commission report. The commission, constituted by the Mayawati government, had submitted its report in August and is believed to have found a lot of discrepancies with the police version of the arrests of Mujahid and Qasmi. It still isn’t clear as to why has the state government not acted upon the suggestions given by the commission. This also leads to the greater question of why do governments fail to act on the recommendations put forward by enquiry commissions. Such inaction leads to public discontent and loss of faith in the government’s commitment towards the people.
Mujahid’s death is not the first instance of custodial death and unless there are serious changes in the way the police function and in the way cases are handled this might not be the last. All cases, especially terror-related, need to be handled swiftly and the officials investigating the cases need to be held responsible for undue delays. Given the nature of this particular case the state government should also ensure that the lives of Qasmi and the other accused are protected.