With a series of arrests made by Karnataka police SIT, Maharashtra ATS and CBI in recent weeks, progress made in probing terror activities by some shadowy Hindutva outfits is encouraging. It is incumbent upon these agencies now to coordinate and work together, amid ample indications that the cases they are probing are interlinked. Recall the divergent conclusions in other cases probed by multiple agencies, like the Abhinav Bharat case and 2006 Mumbai serial blasts. The lack of immediate breakthroughs in the Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh assassinations had put Maharashtra and Karnataka police under immense pressure and embarrassment. Now the cobwebs appear to be clearing somewhat, but progress must be kept up.
Karnataka SIT produced the breakthrough by arresting, since March, ten men allegedly involved in killing journalist Gauri Lankesh. Information the SIT shared with Maharashtra ATS led to the arrest of four men, including a gaurakshak and a former Shiv Sena corporator, reported to be plotting terror blasts in multiple Maharashtra cities. Recoveries include bombs, detonators and pistols. CBI also joined the action arresting an alleged shooter in the Narendra Dabholkar case. But in its chargesheet filed in 2016, CBI had claimed that two other men, absconding till date, were the shooters.
A Lankesh murder suspect has also reportedly confessed to involvement in the Kalburgi case. Names of two outfits to which some of those arrested owe allegiance – Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha – have cropped up repeatedly. Agencies must now keep up the good work by ensuring that evidence gathered holds up in court. Indian authorities must remember what we keep telling Pakistan: that terror is indivisible. Crimes and assassinations cannot be condoned by looking at ostensible religious justifications for them. That would be fundamentally subversive of and a direct threat to not just democracy and free speech, but also to the rule of law – as it would permit murders to be carried out by citing a religious justification (this happens often with Pakistan’s blasphemy laws).
In recent times a violent fringe – which neither fears police nor has respect for the law – has been unduly emboldened. However, India cannot afford its own contingent of ‘non state actors’. Lives and freedoms are at stake, not to mention that providing security to citizens is the first function and duty of a modern state.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.