Who Killed Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi?

Mohd. Qateel Siddiqi of Darbhanga had been in jail since November 2011 after being arrested on charges of involvement in several blast cases. On 8 June, inside Yerawada jail in Pune, two gangsters, Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, are said to have strangled Qateel to death.

It should be noted that the Maharashtra ATS had failed to file a chargesheet against Qateel in the 7 months from November 2011 till June 2012. We can recall that recently, the Adarsh scam accused got bail because the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated 6-month period. If the same norms had applied to terror cases, Qateel should have been free, given the failure of authorities to assemble any proof against him. Yet, he remained in jail, and the ATS kept claiming he was a ‘key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative.’

The gangsters claim they killed Qateel because he was ‘anti-national’. It is a telling comment on the state of democracy in India, that criminal gangsters can claim to be ‘patriotic’ on the strength of having murdered a young Muslim terror-accused, who they can brand ‘anti-national,’ even without charges being framed, let alone proved in court!

The custodial murder of Qateel raises serious questions about the role of the jail authorities and investigative agencies.

As it is, the intelligence agencies stand deeply discredited in successive high-profile cases including Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, and Samjhauta Express blasts. Muslims jailed and tortured for years were proved innocent, while today, members of Sangh Parivar outfits stand implicated. Increasingly, instances of false framing of innocents are also being exposed. In a recent case, Naqee Ahmad from Darbhanga, an informer for the Delhi Police Special Cell, was overnight transformed into one of the main accused by the Maharashtra ATS in the 13/7 Mumbai blast case, with a public tug-of-war between the two agencies over him.

Rather than risk embarrassment in the case of Qateel being proved innocent, it might well have seemed convenient to investigative agencies to have him eliminated within the jail itself. Had he remained alive, he was likely to disown his ‘confession’ which he had claimed was obtained under torture. Now that he is dead, his ‘confession’ is likely to be used to implicate others.

Qateel’s fate underlines the vulnerability of Muslim youth arrested on terror charges. Another recent instance is that of Bihar-origin engineer Fasih Mahmood, who was picked from his home in Saudi Arabia on 13th May, allegedly on the request of Indian investigative agencies, but who is now missing.

The murder of Qateel also exposes the duplicity and hypocrisy of the Congress. During the UP elections, Salman Khursheed invoked ‘Sonia’s tears’ for the Batla House victims, while Digvijay Singh similarly tried to invoke Batla House in order to garner votes at Azamgarh. But Congress-ruled Governments like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are foremost, on par with BJP-ruled Gujarat, in the false framing and custodial attacks on Muslim terror-accused.

An impartial enquiry must be ordered at the earliest to establish the truth in the murder of Qateel Siddiqi, and compensation must be given to his family by the Maharashtra Government, in whose jail the murder took place. Above all, there is a need to strongly resist the disturbing trend to make Darbhanga another stage, like Azamgarh, for the communal profiling and witch-hunt of Muslim youth.

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