The probe under Hemant Karkare led to the arrest of nine Hindus including former and serving soldiers and a sadhvi and sparked a divisive national debate.
In weary Malegaon, however, Karkare’s findings were greeted with a collective sigh of relief because they suggested to the rest of India what its residents had been pleading for long that terror is not synonymous with Muslims alone.
“When the news first broke, I could not believe what I was reading. I kept going back to the newspaper through the day,” said Dr Sajid Sidiqi, who also runs a foundation that propagates inter-faith dialogue. “My wife and I asked each other if India’s police could really charge people other than Muslims?”
Scarred by periodic communal riots and police action, Malegaon’s Muslims have a history of deep mistrust of law-enforcement agencies. This lack of faith peaked two years ago with the ATS investigation into serial blasts in the city in September 2006, which killed 32 people.
Today, nine Muslims from the city in their 20s and 30s are in jails across Maharashtra awaiting trial. The Central Bureau of Investigation took over the case in 2007. The town is convinced that policemen fabricated evidence, a view backed even by the city’s Shiv Sena MLA Dagadu Bhuse. Once a government engineer, Bhuse said: “Malegaon’s awaam (people) does not believe these arrests are correct. I also wrote to the police asking them to reinvestigate the matter.”
Chemist Shafiq Khan, who lost his teenaged son and nephew in the blasts, said: “My heart refuses to believe that Muslims could have carried out the blasts in a Muslim-dominated area.”
Garage manager Nooruddin Shamsoda (22), whose brother Noorulhuda (25) has spent the past two years in jail, charged with carrying out the blasts, said: “Present proof. Hang the guilty. None of us will tolerate breaking of the law. But this investigation is completely fabricated.”
Shamsoda likened Karkare’s death to “losing a family member. He would have reinvestigated the 2006 case for links with the 2008 blast. Our hopes have died again.”