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March 23, 2019

Samjhauta ruling


March 23, 2019

For a country that loves to lecture Pakistan about how it is dragging its feet on holding terrorists legally responsible for their crime, India certainly seems to have an equally difficult time in securing convictions against those who target Pakistanis. In the 12 years since extremist Hindutva terrorists killed 70 people – most of them citizens of Pakistan – aboard the Samjhauta Express, cases against the accused have endlessly been dragged out in the courts. In that time, one of the alleged ringleaders was killed and the list of the accused kept dwindling to the point where only four men faced trial for a massive attack that surely required detailing planning. Now those four accused too have been found not guilty on the basis that the state did not provide sufficient evidence of their guilt.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this acquittal is exactly what the state wanted. One of the accused had even admitted he was the main planner of the attack – although he later recanted his confession and said it was obtained through torture. Most of the accused had links to the RSS, an extremist organisation that is close to the BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Clearly it looks like the religious extremists of the BJP have come to the aid of their fellow religious extremists of the RSS.

Pakistan has reacted strongly to the verdict, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi tweeting out his condemnation and the Foreign Office summoning the Indian high commissioner to lodge a protest. We are sure to bring this up whenever India accuses Pakistan of trying to cover up the Mumbai or Pulwama attacks. But this verdict should not be used as a way to one-up India in the constant battle for point-scoring. It is a tragedy in its own right that India is refusing to take action against growing right-wing terrorism in its country. Just last year, all 11 accused of killing six people in an attack on the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad were acquitted by an Indian court. The government of Narendra Modi has encouraged and incited violence against Muslims. As it did with the pogroms against Muslims in Gujarat, Modi’s BJP is willing to turn a blind eye to the most heinous violence against Muslims. With the Samjhauta Express bombings too, India’s initial reaction was to blame Pakistan and Muslims in general for the attack. The day when states will stop looking at the religious and national identities of attackers seems still very far away.

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