B R P BHASKAR
History repeated itself last week -- with a small but significant change.
Eighteen years ago the Kerala police arrested People's Democratic Party chairman Abdul Naser Madani in connection with some allegedly incendiary speeches he had made years ago. He remained in a Coimbatore jail for nearly 10 years thereafter as an undertrial prisoner.
The Tamil Nadu police alleged that he was a party to the conspiracy that resulted in a series of blasts in Coimbatore shortly before the Bharatiya Janata Party leader and then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani arrived there. Since the charge was one of terrorism he was denied bail and parole.
The wanton denial of Madani's human rights generated a certain measure of sympathy for him in all those who did not put narrow political interests above basic human values. At one point the State Assembly unanimously passed a resolution voicing sympathy for him.
The main political formations sent their emissaries to jail to seek his support in the elections. It was the Left Democratic Front government headed by EK Nayanar which arrested Madani and handed him over to Tamil Nadu to stand trial in the bomb blast.
Initially, therefore, he asked his supporters to back the United Democratic Front in the elections. Later he felt that the UDF was not doing enough for him and he switched his support to the LDF.
On his return from jail the LDF gave him a hero's welcome. To ensure his support in the last Lok Sabha elections, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) accepted his suggestion to give the Ponnani seat to an independent candidate. He appeared on the dais with CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.
After the elections, the CPI-M central leadership concluded that the camaraderie with the PDP had not done the party any good. However, the state party leadership continued to maintain good relationship with Madani and his party.
Last week the LDF government arrested Madani's wife Soofia in connection with the burning of a Tamil Nadu bus near Kochi when Madani was still in jail. The bus was burnt ostensibly to press the demand for his release.
The case had been under investigation for many years. At the time of the Lok Sabha elections, the media carried many reports implicating Soofia Madani in the case based on statements given to the police by some persons arrested in the case.
After the elections were over, the police questioned Soofia Madani. However, there was no further action. The state government became active following the arrest of Thadiyantavida Naseer of Kannur, whom the intelligence agencies describe as Pakistan-based Laksar-e-Taiba's commander in south India, in Bangladesh.
As Karnataka police obtained his custody for questioning in connection with a terror case in Bangalore, the state police deputed Inspector General of Police (Northern Range) Tomin J Thachankari to Bangalore to join in the interrogation.
Thachankari is said to be close to the CPI-M leadership. UDF leaders alleged that he had been sent to Bangalore to protect the interests of the party. As Karnataka police arrived in the state with Naseer to gather evidence, there was an abrupt change in the official attitude.
Apprehending arrest, Soofia Madani approached the high court for anticipatory bail, which was refused. She was taken into custody immediately.
After Madani's arrest, the Nayanar government had listed it as one of its achievements. After Soofia's arrest Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan claimed it had improved the image of the government.
Will Soofia Madani get a fair trial? Some citizens' groups have voiced concern over the matter. The concern is based on two factors. One is the politicisation of the case. The other is the malicious media coverage based on selective leak by the police. Newspapers have been full of reports about telephone calls Soofia made or received before and after the burning of the bus. Undeterred by the fact that the contents of the conversations are unknown they have been conveying the impression that they are clinching evidence of her complicity in the bus burning conspiracy.
To begin with, Madani had said the PDP would face the matter legally. Now he is said to be planning a fast unto death with his children demanding justice for his wife. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, December 21, 2009.