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No Closure for Victims of Samjhauta Atrocity?

Will the perpetrators of the heinous Samjhauta terror attack – with fingerprints of the Modi-aligned Sangh Parivar all over it – ever be brought to book?

Most of the seventy who died in the terrorist attack were Pakistani civilians. They died in a blaze following blasts that tore apart a train just after midnight on 18 February 2007. Fourteen years later, the families of the victims of the 2007 Samjhauta Express attack are yet to find closure for the tragedy.

Investigations by India’s own law enforcement revealed a Hindutva nexus to the attack.

“The Samjhauta Express attack was engineered and executed by RAW on the same pattern only to blame Pakistan for it before the international community”, Senator Rehman Malik late wrote.

“DIG Hemant Karkare of India had exposed RAW and RSS in the Samjhauta Express episode before the Supreme Court of India but he was later assassinated by RAW agents during the Mumbai episode”.

Samjhauta Express is a twice-weekly train service between Delhi and Lahore. On the night of the tragedy, bombs were set off in two carriages full of passengers after they passed Diwana near the city of Panipat, 80 kilometres north of Delhi.

Investigators found plenty of evidence of explosives and flammable material including three undetonated bombs. Inside one of the suitcases was a digital timer along with bottles containing fuel oils and chemicals.

The attack aimed to sabotage the peace dealings between the two neighbouring countries, this incident became exhibit A of unseen hands scuttling every peace initiative between the two nuclear rivals.

Small wonder, then, that an Indian court in 2019 acquitted all the accused in the case on account of a prosecution failure to secure adequate evidence. Among those who were acquitted was also Swami Asseemanand, the self-confessed mastermind of the attack.

And surprise, surprise! This is exactly how all cases of Hindutva attacks against Indian Muslims inevitably turn out. Especially under the fascist Modi regime, India has consistently embarked on an Islamophobic policy aiming at marginalisation of Indian Muslims.

The Indian courts have consistently failed to show an even hand between Muslims and their attackers from the Babri Masjid to the Makka Masjid to the Malegaon Blast. The very edifice of Indian justice system seems to have been skewed against Muslims by rampant, institutionalised Islamophobia.

While the acquittal of Samjhauta perpetrators was met with strong reaction from the Pakistani government, there is little anybody outside India can do to offset the deep-seated systemic bias against Pakistan and Muslims, even if they are Indian Muslims.

This systemic imbalance is visible in a long series of adversities that have befallen India’s Muslim community – ranging from mob lynching to state-sponsored mass murder – going unpunished.

It is important to remember that while RSS gained a stranglehold of political power in India comparatively recently, its influence in the Indian society has been pervasive for decades. Nor are the Nazi and Fascist connections of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party any secret anymore.

Says Indian author Palash Ghosh: “The current BJP is the successor of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) party, which itself was the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a group that espoused openly militant Hindu activism and the suppression of minorities in India.

“The RSS was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a doctor from the central Indian town of Nagpur in Maharashtra, who agitated for both independence from the British crown and the strict segregation of Hindus and Muslims.

“What may surprise many in the West is that some of the most prominent figures of RSS deeply admired Fascism and Nazism, the two totalitarian movements that swept through Europe at the time.”

Modi’s genocidal policies and his Fascistic tendencies, therefore, do not really come as a surprise. It is just that the world is content to appease India for now. But this cannot last – and when the tide turns, India’s pretentions to championship of democracy will be left without any legs to stand on.

The Indian civil society has some evidence of an awakening to the dangers of fascism but it may be too little too late. Also, the Modi regime is working overtime to snuff out any organised effort to challenge it. The outcome of this tussle will determine the future of the Indian republic.

If it goes the way of the Fuhrer’s Third Reich, the world may become a very dark place to live. But humanity will fight back – humanity always does.

The promise of reckoning for the families of the Samjhauta blast is therefore hinged on the success of the Indian civil society in reclaiming their republic – or, failing that, the success of humanity in coming to terms with a fascist India.

For those who have been grieving their loss for fourteen years and counting, it has to be the one or the other. There has to be reckoning for the lost souls.

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