First, a government apparently framed him. Taking a cue from their political masters, a bunch of journalists condemned him. Consequently, a large section of society, except his brethren in the Army and nationalists among ordinary citizens, questioned him. In the meantime, the section of the media that should have stood up for him managed nothing more than opinion pieces questioning the inquiry rather than investigative reports. For, unlike their leftist counterparts, they were not equipped with the necessary manpower of reporters who could extract the whole story from the investigating agencies. Taking full advantage of this market devoid of competition, the UPA government set the narrative of “Hindu terrorism” — while insisting terrorism has no religion whenever a Muslim was implicated — and scribes friendly to the ancien regime quoted officers from the Anti-Terror Squad selectively, an unethical practice that attempts at prejudicing the judiciary.
The nation failed Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, whose name surfaced as an accused when the previous government mysteriously replaced all Pakistani and Muslim names that had emerged prima facie. In the 2006 Malegaon bombing case, the names of the accused Noor-ul-Huda, Raees Ali, Abrar Ahmed, Shabbir Masiullah and Zahid Majeed changed to Dhan Singh, Lokesh Sharma, Manohar Singh, Rajendra Chaudhary, Sandeep Dange, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra, Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu and Raj Mehul for reasons known best to the de facto Sonia Gandhi government. The next year, the bomb that was so weak that it killed none — but caused a fire due to which 68 passengers of the Samjhauta Express succumbed to burn injuries — was claimed to have been an RDX-assisted device procured from the Army! This was the case into which Lt Col Purohit was dragged. It also had Sadhvi Pragya, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Ramji Kalsangra as the co-accused. The soldier’s plea that he was on a mission to infiltrate terror outfits and bust them, thus serving a cause of the nation, fell on deaf ears. One has to wait for the court verdict on Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid blast to know whether the then government was hell bent on continuing with the discourse, fabricated or otherwise, as Swami Assemanand, who says he ‘confessed’ under duress, and four others were booked by the law enforcement agencies.
The plight of Lt Col Purohit is to be lived to be believed. A soldier of the Indian Army, which imbibes nothing but patriotism in its men, is branded a terrorist and his family has to spend nine long years with the shame. Neither documentaries nor columns will shed copious tears for his wife who underwent the tribulation of discomfiting questions from the neighbourhood and larger social circles, and his two sons who might have been harassed no less by school mates. His job status hangs in the balance even though suspension is technically not a punishment; once the issue settles in his favour, which is expected, the profile and compensation denied to him for all these years will be restored. We should feel as sorry for the nation whose military intelligence suffered as a result of the political cacophony over three tenuously interlinked cases. Of course, a bail is no verdict. Nevertheless, when the charge is no less than that of terror, the accused is not let out until a higher court believes, with reason, that the prosecution at the lower court is charting a legal course that will be untenable. Lt Col Purohit’s bail is also a sad commentary on the state of affairs of the country’s lower judiciary, in many trials of which the higher courts have to intervene and several important verdicts of which fail the test of appellate jurisdiction. Given that one is innocent until proven guilty, the nation, which a soldier protects with his life, owes an apology to Lt Col Purohit.