The textile town of Malegaon has seen at least three serious bouts of communal riots in two decades.
But the 2006 serial blasts at a local mosque, which Hindutva leader Swami Aseemanand has claimed responsibility for, brought the two communities together.
“Hindus donated blood, helped the injured and allayed the fears of Muslims,” said Sanjay Dusane, a Shiv Sena leader in the local municipal corporation.
Dusane said the communal riots of in 1984, 1995 and 2000-2001 had left the town battered. “We regressed by years and residents had to work hard to re-build not just the social fabric but also to develop this town,” he said.
The confessions of Swami Aseemanand, who worked with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has become a topic of discussion in the power loom town. Many feel vindicated about their stand that the 13 men arrested for their alleged involvement in the 2006 blasts were innocent.
But they do not blame the Hindus. “We realised whether the blasts were the handiwork of Muslims or Hindus, we had to fight terror together and there was no way we were going to give in to divisive forces,” Dusane said.
Yasin Ansari, a primary school teacher at an Urdu medium municipal school, said business keeps the two communities together.
“The structure of this town is such that Hindus and Muslims are bound together. Muslims produce the fabric, which Hindus buy and sell,” he said. There are questions for the police, the government and their political representatives who they feel failed them.
Mohammed Anwar, who has been helping the families of the incarcerated youth, said local politicians are trying to gain mileage from the latest developments. “ They want to take credit because municipal elections are in a couple of years,” he said.
Advocate Momin Mujeeb Ahmed, who is representing the blast accused, said people are not upset with the Hindus: “We are only saying investigate the case fairly and arrest the real culprit. Why couldn’t they [the police] investigate properly and conclude that someone else could have been involved?”
These developments, however, will not necessarily mean freedom for all the accused, feels six-time legislator, Nihal Ahmed.
“The confession is not going to have any impact,” the veteran Janta Dal (Secular), leader said. “No one talks about the fact that seven of the nine arrested were also named as accused in 2006 seizure of arms so despite the confession, they are still going to remain in jail.”