- Hindutva Terror
- Hindutva Terror
- Criminal conspiracy
- Uninvestigated links
- Blasts on the Samjhauta Express
- Gujarat: A missing link
- Terror by every other name
The terror trail: From Nanded to Malegaon and beyond
The horrifying spectacle of the Mumbai terror attacks that held us all paralysed for 60 hours, killing more than 187 persons and injuring dozens, also took the pressure off the saffron alliance, squirming for once, for being openly associated with acts of bomb terror. The sangh parivar, including its parliamentary face, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had been facing acute embarrassment, October through November 2008, over the revelations in the Malegaon blast investigations. Six persons died when pipe bombs placed on a motorcycle in a crowded street of Malegaon exploded on September 29, 2008, the eve of Id celebrations in the month of Ramadan.
The slaying of Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief, Hemant Karkare, along with 13 others from the Mumbai police (a total of 17 men from law enforcement died in the attacks) at the hands of Ajmal Kasab and his accomplices on November 26 had an unexpected consequence. The self-appointed saffron torch-bearers of Indian (read Hindutva) patriotism were miffed into silence. The reason? They, who had been busy tearing Karkare’s reputation to shreds for weeks before and right up to the day he was killed, had now been embarrassed into acknowledging him as martyr. But for Karkare’s death, these graceless pseudo-patriots would have cynically raised the public temper to a far more hysterical note, baying for some blood.
What was Karkare’s crime, for which he was a hunted man, targeted by the sangh parivar the day he died? He had dared to carry out the Malegaon blast investigations with integrity and transparency, tracing the masterminds of the crime to a serving lieutenant colonel in the Indian army, Srikant Purohit (who was ably assisted by other, retired army personnel), a Sadhvi, Pragnya Thakur, and Swami Dayanand Pandey among others. Purohit’s close association with an organisation called Abhinav Bharat and the Sadhvi’s own links to the student wing of the BJP, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), embarrassed the highest echelons of the parivar. Moreover, the Sadhvi has also been a popular part of the BJP’s campaign trail in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
On January 20, 2009 the ATS under its former chief, KP Raghuvanshi, filed the charge sheet in the Malegaon blast case naming 14 persons (11 under arrest and three absconding) as accused, holding them guilty of crimes under 16 major sections of Indian criminal law, including murder and criminal conspiracy. The accused have been booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for murder (Section 302), attempt to murder (Section 307) and conspiracy (Section 120B); for promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, and committing acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony (Section 153A); under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 25 of the Indian Arms Act; and Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act.
This was not the first time that the insidious hand of the Hindutvavadi terrorist was revealed. The Malegaon blast investigation is the ATS Maharashtra’s third serious investigation into Hindutva-driven terror. The first was its probe into the Nanded 2006 blast, which resulted in two charge sheets being filed by the squad that were subsequently diluted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the present UPA government (see ‘Blast after Blast’, CC, July-August 2008). The CBI was forced to reopen investigations into the Nanded blast of 2006 following the campaign by Communalism Combat which also happened to receive some welcome support from an unexpected quarter. During interrogations, Rakesh Dhawade, one of the accused named by the ATS Maharashtra in the Malegaon charge sheet, confessed his involvement in the consistent training of seven-eight youth, who were instructed in the preparation and detonation of bombs, at a location near the Sinhgad Fort, Pune, in July-August 2003.
Both the Nanded investigations as well as the Malegaon probe have pointed to the indoctrination/inspiration provided by leaders of the VHP, Dr Praveen Togadia and Acharya Giriraj Kishore, in exhorting youngsters towards these acts. But the ATS has been wary of drawing them into the charge sheet as accused or witnesses
A third such investigation, also underway in Maharashtra, is related to the Thane-Panvel blasts of 2008. In October 2008 the then ATS Maharashtra chief, Karkare, had also investigated and charge-sheeted persons accused in the Thane-Panvel blasts where activists from the Hindutvavadi outfits, Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, were involved. The 1,020-page charge sheet named six accused charged with attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, causing disappearance of evidence and causing damage to property under the IPC as well as sections of the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Significantly, the ATS did not directly implicate the organisations in the crime. At other times similar incidents, where Hindutvavadi outfits were found to be involved in explosives creation, have surfaced only to be suppressed. A blast also occurred at Modasa in Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district on September 29, 2008, the same day as in Malegaon, and primary evidence pointed to a link between this incident and the group(s) responsible for the Malegaon terrorist attack. The Gujarat police however have brazenly refused to make public any details of the incident.
In the charge sheet filed in the Malegaon case, a significant omission is the ATS’s failure to charge-sheet the accused under Section 125 of the IPC for waging war against the nation despite some serious ingredients of the crime being in evidence.
The ATS has also on the face of it treated the involvement of serving and retired army officers (a serious development) as a one-off event despite the evidence that has repeatedly surfaced, through the Nanded, Malegaon and even the Jalna, Purna and Parbhani blast investigations, of a wide network of serving and retired officers being involved in some of these activities. Instances of RDX leakage from the armed forces that have surfaced in over a dozen cases all over Maharashtra since 2002 have also not been treated with the severity the offence demands. Public prosecutor, Ajay Misar, first told Judge HK Ganatra of the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Nashik that another (unnamed) army man had told investigators about Purohit’s role in stealing 60 kg of RDX from the Deolali army base, Nashik, and leaking it out through a person named Bhagwan for use in the blasts. This is not an offence for which Purohit is specifically charged, however.
The ATS has also spared two important private institutes, the Bhonsala Military Schools at Nashik and Nagpur, which were found to have been regularly used for terror training and bomb-making, as well as the Akanksha Resort at Sinhgad near Pune. These institutes enjoy patronage from the highest echelons of the sangh parivar. These locations had earlier been used to train cadre in bomb-making as has been revealed in the Nanded blast charge sheets filed by the ATS in 2006. In the Nanded investigations, and the investigations into both the Malegaon and the Jalna mosque blasts, a common link is accused Rakesh Dhawade, an expert in arms-making. Dhawade’s statement (a copy of which is in our possession) clearly demonstrates his involvement in this terror ring for over six years now.
Both the Nanded investigations as well as the Malegaon probe have pointed to the indoctrination/inspiration provided by high-profile rabble-rousing leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Dr Praveen Togadia and Acharya Giriraj Kishore, in exhorting youngsters towards these acts, both individuals having allegedly visited Nanded on the eve of the blast in 2006. The ATS has been wary of drawing them into the charge sheet as accused or witnesses, however. Similarly, in the Malegaon case, the involvement of Himani Savarkar, niece of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, and daughter-in-law of Narayan Savarkar, the brother of Hindutva ideologue, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, is also handled with kid gloves. Himani Savarkar, a member of Abhinav Bharat, (who is on record on video as saying that she supports the ‘bomb versus bomb theory’) was, according to the ATS’s own investigations, also present at the meeting in which the Malegaon conspiracy was hatched. She is not named as part of the conspiracy but is only named as witness.
Links to other blasts in which this widespread terror ring may be involved have also surfaced during these investigations. During a narco analysis test conducted on November 9, 2008 Lt Col Srikant Purohit spilt the beans about his own role in, and his network’s connections to, the Samjhauta Express blasts that occurred on February 18-19, 2007, killing 68 persons, most of them Pakistanis. Similarly, he spoke during his interrogations of a possible role in the Ajmer Sharif blast (that killed two persons) and the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad (where 11 people died in the blast and five in subsequent police firing). The police forces in Haryana and Rajasthan are reinvestigating two of these blast cases in the wake of this information while the CBI is handling the Mecca Masjid blast case. (Muslim youth who were initially accused of perpetrating the attacks but were subsequently found not guilty had been brutally tortured while in custody of the Andhra Pradesh police.) When public prosecutor, Ajay Misar, first made these declarations public in November 2008, ATS chief, Hemant Karkare, had quickly clarified that the Malegaon investigations had revealed no connections whatsoever with the blasts on the Samjhauta Express.
Given these details, how does one rate the charge sheet in the Malegaon blast case?
The charge sheet has drawn a firm net around the 14 persons accused of the immediate crime that took place at Malegaon. Making a strong argument for the application of MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act), the charge sheet states that "this organised crime syndicate of Rakesh Dhawade (accused number 7) had been committing bomb blasts since year 2003". All the other accused had joined this organised crime syndicate and continued its unlawful activities which "included the procurement and transportation of the materials which are required to make bombs". They had also transferred large amounts of money, arms and ammunition used to carry out unlawful activities and had worked together to advocate and promote their organised gang and continue its unlawful activities, namely promoting their fundamentalist ideology to form a separate Hindu Rashtra. Their strategy, according to the ATS charge sheet, was to explode bombs and other improvised explosive devices in areas with a dense Muslim population even as they seek to create the impression that they act in retaliation and revenge for acts committed by the Muslim community.
But the charge sheet fails to draw a picture of the wider nexus, of a preparatory training ground that breeds cadres of such terrorists, of the scale of their operation and their continued access to the expertise provided by Indian military and intelligence agencies. The latter point raises serious questions about ideological infiltration into India’s security agencies. Detailed revelations of the involvement of over half a dozen serving and retired army officers in this network of Hindutva-driven terror, which spans at least eight states in the country and goes back at least a decade, remain largely ignored, with the ATS Maharashtra treating it as a single, albeit serious, case of terror-driven crime. As investigations go, under both Karkare and Raghuvanshi the results have been professional but limited.
The reluctance of the authorities to track and trace the vicious spread of Hindutva’s terror network despite its systematic planning and exhaustive training in violence is a historical legacy. Eight attempts were made on Gandhi’s life before the final one on January 30, 1948 was successful. Yet public discourse is reluctant to recognise that the first act of terror perpetrated on independent India’s soil stemmed from determined and vicious planning by the Hindu Right. Discourse is formed by what a society allows and accepts out in the open. Be it in our public parks, drawing rooms, state assemblies, Parliament, school texts or public speeches.
It is this reluctance to accept the genesis, seriousness and viciousness of Hindutvavadi terror that has affected our law enforcement agencies as a whole and can be analysed in the charge sheets of both the Thane-Panvel and the Malegaon investigations. These lacunae are rooted in the assumptions reflected in the pervasive discourse that surrounds home-grown terror and violence. Cleverly but not entirely influenced by the ideologues of the BJP and the sangh parivar who are omnipresent in the national media, Hindutva-driven terror is slotted by definition as reactive and through this association as less pervasive and dangerous than the jihadi’s murderous games. Its easy and natural certificate of association with patriotism lends a further dangerous ambivalence to the Hindutvavadi’s actions.
The limitations in the Malegaon charge sheet therefore stem as much from probable and insidious political pressure exerted on officers of the ATS both within and without the system as from this carefully formulated discourse of the sangh parivar. It is a strategy cultivated through propaganda which stresses that any violence stemming from the Hindu fold is only retaliatory, driven by a righteous angst against the heap of injustices perpetrated on ‘us’ in the name of Islam. Where jihadi attacks are seen as only the most recent manifestation of a centuries old plan to devour this civilisation through invasions of both a physical and moral kind.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2009 Year 15 No.137, Cover Story 1
On September 29, 2008 there was a bomb explosion in a crowded locality of Malegaon. The explosion occurred opposite the Shakil Goods Transport Company, located between Anjuman Chowk and Bhiku Chowk, a busy and populous part of town. The blast was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) fitted on an LML Freedom motorcycle bearing the registration number MH-15-4572. Six persons were killed as a result of the explosion and 101 persons sustained various degrees of injuries. Property worth Rs 4,23,500 was also destroyed. The IED was assembled using RDX, ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrite.
This act was the handiwork of a group of conspirators whose ultimate aim, according to the ATS charge sheet in the Malegaon case, was to "propagate a separate Hindu Rashtra with its own constitution and aims and with Bharat Swarajya, Surajya, Suraksha, in its preamble". The charge sheet goes on to say that members of "this organised crime syndicate wanted to adopt a national flag i.e. solo-themed saffron flag with a golden border. The length of the flag would be twice its breadth, with an ancient golden torch (bhagwa dhwaj)".
The charge sheet filed by the ATS runs into 4,528 pages. It contains two confessional statements of accused Rakesh Dhawade and Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi alias Swami Dayanand Pandey, a list of 431 witnesses the prosecution wishes to examine and forensic evidence. The ATS has also included telephone, audio and video transcripts running into hundreds of pages. A total of 14 persons have been named as accused in the crime and arrests began in October 2008. Three of the 14 accused are absconding.
1. Sadhvi Pragnyasingh Chandra-
palsingh Thakur alias Swami Purnachetanand Giri (38), originally from Madhya Pradesh but living in Surat, Gujarat. A member of the VHP’s Durga Vahini and a former member of the ABVP, Pragnya Thakur is closely associated with BJP leaders and has participated in their election campaign meetings as well.
2. Shivnarayan Gopalsingh Kalsangra (36), a native of Madhya Pradesh and living in Indore.
3. Shyam Bhavarlal Sahu (42) from Madhya Pradesh.
4. Ramesh Shivji Upadhyaya (57) from Uttar Pradesh. He organised camps and training modules to ideologically and physically draw young men into violence. (The fact that Upadhyaya is a retired officer of the Indian army is not mentioned in the charge sheet.)
5. Sameer Sharad Kulkarni (39), a resident of Pune but originally from Jalgaon in Maharashtra. A former ABVP member, Kulkarni revived the Abhinav Bharat in Pune. He worked at a Bhopal printing press for some time and was in charge of Abhinav Bharat’s activities in Madhya Pradesh.
6. Ajay alias Raja Eknath Rahirkar (39), living in both Pune and Jalgaon. He was Abhinav Bharat’s Pune-based treasurer who provided logistical and financial support to Kulkarni and Purohit.
7. Rakesh Dattatraya Dhawade alias Rao (42) from Pune district. He is an arms expert linked to Abhinav Bharat.
8. Jagdish Chintaman Mhatre (40) from Dombivli, Thane.
9. Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit alias Balawant Rao alias Shreyak Ranadive (36), living in Pune and Panchmarhi, Madhya Pradesh. This is the first time that a serving army officer has been accused in a terror attack. Purohit is charged with providing training, coordinating the blasts, sourcing funds and arranging for the explosives. Being an army officer, he operated under at least two aliases.
10. Sudhakar Udaybhan Dhar Dwivedi alias Swami Dayanand Pandey alias Swami Amrutanand Devtirth alias Shankaracharya of Sharada Sarvagy Peeth (40), a native of Jammu living in Uttar Pradesh. A self-styled ‘Dharma Guru’, Dwivedi was also guru to the Sadhvi, Pragnya Thakur. There are possible indications that could link Dwivedi to the Kanpur blast in October and the Jammu agitation over the Amarnath shrine last year.
11. Sudhakar Onkarnath Chaturvedi (37), a resident of Nashik but originally from Uttar Pradesh.
12. Ramchandra Gopalsingh Kalsangra (38) from Indore in Madhya Pradesh. The person responsible for planting the explosives at Malegaon, Ramchandra Kalsangra was in constant touch with Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur and coordinated the blasts.
13. Sandeep Vishwas Dange, from Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
14. Pravin Mutalik, a resident of Karnataka.
Sections Applied: Sections 302, 307, 326, 324, 427, 153A, 153A(1)(b) and 120B of the IPC read with Sections 3, 4, 5 and 25 of the Arms Act 1959 read with Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Explosive Substances Act 1908 read with Sections 15, 16, 17, 18, 20 and 23 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2004 read with Sections 3(1)(i), 3(1)(ii), 3(2), 3(4) and 3(5) of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) 1999.
The police are also on the lookout for Swami Ashim Anand from the Dangs district in Gujarat who has been absconding since the day news leaked out that the ATS was on the hunt for him. If caught, fresh details about the plot might be revealed along with possible links to the Ajmer and Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, blasts as well as the blasts on the Samjhauta Express.
This crime syndicate procured and transported the materials required for the bomb explosions... These acts are often committed in areas where there is a dense population of Muslims. The supposed justification for these actions is revenge for acts committed by the Muslim community
The terror ring held meetings at various places i.e. Faridabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Indore, Nashik, etc to plan their conspiracy under the banner of Abhinav Bharat, which was concurrently propagating its idea of a Hindu nation to be established through a takeover by the army.
To further this larger conspiracy, a meeting was held at Faridabad on January 25-26, 2008 at which the accused Prasad Srikant Purohit, Ramesh Upadhyaya and Sudhakar Chaturvedi were present. At the meeting Srikant Purohit took on the responsibility for providing the explosives while Sudhakar Chaturvedi took on the responsibility for providing two men who would set off a blast at an unspecified location. Chaturvedi also offered the use of his house at Vanat Chawl, Bhagur Road, Deolali camp, Nashik, as a location where the IED could be assembled and stored. The keys to Chaturvedi’s house were kept at the Military Intelligence (MI) office at the Deolali camp, Nashik. Purohit had asked Pravin Mutalik (an absconding accused) to collect the keys from the MI office at Deolali so as to enter Chaturvedi’s house for the purpose of assembling the IED which was finally used to explode bombs at Malegaon.
At a similar meeting held in Bhopal on April 11-12, 2008 the conspirators, Pragnya Thakur, Ramesh Upadhyaya, Sameer Kulkarni, Srikant Purohit, Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey and Sudhakar Chaturvedi among others, together plotted to take revenge against Muslims in Malegaon by exploding a bomb in a densely populated area. Srikant Purohit took on the responsibility for providing the explosives while Pragnya Thakur took on the responsibility for providing men to carry out the explosion. It was at this meeting that all the participants decided to carry out the explosion at Malegaon.
Around June 11, 2008 another meeting was held, this time at the Circuit House in Indore. At this meeting Pragnya Thakur introduced Ramchandra Kalsangra (an absconding accused) and Sandeep Dange to Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi, saying that both these persons were her confidants and had always supported her. Sometime in the first week of July 2008, at another meeting in Indore, Pragnya Thakur asked Dwivedi to direct Srikant Purohit to give the explosives to Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange in Pune.
Unravelling a conspiracy
The ATS has held that all the accused persons were part of a criminal conspiracy operating through meetings held in different parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh between January 2008 and October 23, 2008, the object of which was to commit unlawful acts in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy.
The charge sheet states that the organised crime syndicate has been active since the year 2003; a key member of this syndicate, arrested accused Rakesh Dattatraya Dhawade, has been active since then. Rakesh Dhawade was among those present at an oath-taking ceremony of members of Abhinav Bharat that was held at Raigad Fort in 2006, which Srikant Purohit and Ajay Rahirkar also attended. Dhawade and the organised crime syndicate had been carrying out bomb blasts since 2003. All the accused also joined this syndicate and continued its unlawful activities. Dhawade was involved in procuring arms and ammunition for the group. This organised crime syndicate procured, acquired and transported the materials that were required for the bomb explosions and also transferred vast amounts of money, arms and ammunition used to carry out its unlawful activities. These unlawful acts are often committed in areas where there is a dense population of Muslims. The supposed justification for these actions is revenge for acts committed by the Muslim community.
Army and intelligence links
The most dangerous trend revealed by the Nanded investigations and reconfirmed now in the Malegaon probe is the involvement of both serving and retired officers of Indian intelligence agencies and the Indian army in training outfits that are ideologically opposed to the Indian Constitution, in the making of bombs, in generating terror and in spreading bitter communal poison.
A serving officer and four retired officers of the Indian armed forces have already been shown up for their links to various recent acts of terror. The Malegaon charge sheet implicates Purohit and Upadhyaya in the crime. But Col (retd) S. Raikar, a former Indian army officer and until recently the commandant of the Bhonsala Military School, Nashik, who made the school campus available for training terror groups, was questioned by the police but has been spared in the ATS charge sheet. He has since resigned from his position at the Bhonsala Military School.
The earlier charge sheet(s) of 2006 (prepared by the ATS Maharashtra) in the Nanded blast case implicate Sanatkumar Bhate in training members of the Bajrang Dal at the Akanksha Resort at Sinhgad near Pune. Bhate is a former officer in the Indian navy. A legitimate follow-up to this would be to probe the true depth of ideological infiltration into the Indian armed forces, of ideologies that seek to establish a religion-based state through violent means. The ATS does not mention the positions or former positions that some of the accused have held in the armed forces. Does this omission by the ATS stem from a reluctance to track the role of army and navy officers in unconstitutional acts? The ATS has also not probed the involvement of any army officials in these crimes. Those army men who were questioned have been given a clean chit and been named only as witnesses.
Lt Col Purohit procured the RDX (research department explosive) used in the blast while he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir. He stored it in his homes in Pune and Nashik. The transcripts included as part of the charge sheet implicate Purohit in at least two other similar incidents whereas the ATS charge sheet limits itself to the Malegaon incident alone. In these transcripts Purohit said, "Main kuch baat kahunga isse pehle kabhi nahi kahi gayi thi. Do operation humne kiye, successful ho gaye. Operation karne ki meri kshamta hain, swamiji. Mere paas equipment ki kami nahi hain. Main equipment paida kar sakta hoon. Equipment la sakta hoon. Agar jab thaan leta hoon. Lekin target chunna yeh mere ek ke vishay ke hisaab nahi hona chahiye (I will say something that I have not spoken of before. We have carried out two operations in the past and they were successful. I am capable of carrying out operations. I have more than enough equipment. Getting equipment is easy… But choosing the target should not be my decision alone)."
In this probe, the ATS has also failed to question many of the conspirators who plotted a Hindutva takeover of the country. For instance, reference is made to a two-time BJP parliamentarian named Col Dhar and a Delhi-based doctor, RP Singh, who were actively engaged in giving shape to Purohit’s idea of a "new nation". The probable links of the accused with others who currently occupy influential political positions have not been probed further.
The ATS also stops short of drawing the wider link to the larger network of terror that resulted in the Nanded blast of 2006 and the Malegaon blast in 2008. While it has included the Parbhani and Jalna mosque blasts within the wider conspiracy, Nanded is mysteriously absent.
Bhonsala Military School, Akanksha Resort spared
The Bhonsala Military School, located at two places in Maharashtra (Nashik and Nagpur), which were the locations used for training cadres in bomb-making and the use of explosives, has escaped the ATS net. So has the Akanksha Resort at the Sinhgad Fort, Pune, where such training in explosives creation possibly takes place even today.
While some of the school’s functionaries have been cited as witnesses, the ATS has given the institute lenient treatment. This despite the fact that a top functionary of the school, Col (retd) S. Raikar, the then commandant of the Bhonsala Military School, Nashik, and a former officer of the Indian army, is accused of making available the campus where these groups were trained. Raikar himself has only been made a witness.
RDX was used in the IEDs exploded at Malegaon. Another disturbing trend over the past few years or so is the leakage and consequent availability of highly controlled and dangerous substances like RDX in the marketplace for easy use by any outfits that wish to make a career out of bomb-making. In India, RDX is only legally available to the Indian army. Yet there have been reported cases of RDX leakage in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana, which have been treated casually by the state police. Gelatine sticks and ammonium nitrate, volatile substances that are often used in the making of bombs, are carefully controlled in law and leakages from both industrial and retail users should be very easy to trace. The ATS charge sheet in the Malegaon case avoids any investigation into the leakage of these explosive substances.
The fact that this has not been done in any blast-related cases, be it the Samjhauta Express, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Thane or Panvel, establishes not just the laxity in our investigating agencies. It underscores the cynicism of a political class, across party lines, that places a tragically low premium on life itself and uses communalism of all hues to further electoral gain.
The missing Mithun Chakraborty
The Malegaon investigation also reveals in its forensic laboratory reports that a person who went by the name of Mithun Chakraborty, after a training session with recruits, handed over a bag containing large quantities of RDX to conspirators at the Pune railway station. Investigators have concluded that this is an assumed name. Chakraborty is untraceable and the ATS’s failure to trace him remains a gaping hole in their investigations.
The name of a mysterious trainer, Mithun Chakraborty first surfaced during the interrogation and narco analysis test of Rahul Pande, a key suspect in the 2006 Nanded blast investigations who revealed that a tall well-built man identified as Chakraborty alias Sir was the main conspirator in the plot. Pande also stated that Chakraborty had trained right-wing Hindu militants to prepare various kinds of bombs and IEDs and had even procured and provided them with large quantities of explosives to make more bombs.
What is Abhinav Bharat? The ATS charge sheet tells us that the Abhinav Bharat is an organisation floated in 2007. The charge sheet claims this organisation is not the same as the public charitable trust registered in the same name even though its founder, Himani Savarkar, was present at one of the meetings the conspirators held! Savarkar is on record as stating her concurrence with the actions of the Malegaon accused and justifies her position with the assertion that "only bombs can reply to bombs". The ATS’s assertion – that the two organisations bearing the same name and sworn to the same ideology are unconnected – rings hollow.
Why was Section 125 not applied?
The crime syndicate has among other things also advocated the overthrow of the Indian republic bound by the Indian Constitution in favour of a Hindu nation under army rule. These chilling visions of the syndicate’s dream future are clearly revealed in the Malegaon charge sheet. This vision was advocated in public and secret meetings to fire youngsters and urge them to enlist in the cause. The ideology that drives the conspirators is not only manifest in ‘retaliatory’ acts of bomb terror, such as the attack in Malegaon, but also goes to the very foundation of the republic itself. The transcripts describe extensive mobilisation of young cadres by the conspirators and others, in public, to generate anger against the Indian Constitution and advocate the overthrow of the Indian republic. If these acts do not amount to sedition, what does?
Despite detailed transcripts of conversations between Purohit and others that reveal commitment to the overthrow of the Indian secular republic and the creation of a militarised Hindu nation, Section 125 of the IPC – for waging war against any Asiatic power in alliance with the Government of India – has not been applied.
(Speaking to CC, acting chief of the ATS, KP Raghuvanshi said that he was concerned with creating a watertight case that could ensure convictions and not in outlining charges that could not be proved. "We consulted senior public prosecutors who advised us that the ingredients of sedition were not present in the crime itself.")
Section 125 of the IPC states: "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added."
In law the actions of these conspirators amount to sedition and war against the Indian state. If it is proved that this war is being waged from the inside, from a section, not exactly small, of our army, and this fact has escaped the attention of the top echelons of the armed forces so far, it would be logical to conclude that the infiltration into our armed forces runs deep. Just as an ideologically fanatic ISI of Pakistan must shoulder a substantial share of the responsibility for their country’s disintegration into violence and chaos, the trends revealed in the Nanded and Malegaon investigations have the potential, if allowed to pass unchecked, of driving India to disintegration, if not total destruction.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2009 Year 15 No.137, Cover Story 2
November 17, 2002: Pipe bombs explode near the Khadkeshwar Mahadev temple and near the VHP office in Niral Bag, Aurangabad (Lokmat, Aurangabad, November 17, 2002).
September 2, 2006: The police seize 195 kg of explosives (RDX-TNT) from the home of a scrap-dealer, Shankar Shelke, in Kharekarzune village in Ahmednagar district. Shelke, who absconds, dies under mysterious circumstances a few days later (Hindustan Times, September 21, 2006).
September 10, 2006: The Nashik police seize 29 boxes containing 50 detonators each, 11 25-kg boxes of gelatine and five 50-kg bags of ammonium nitrate from a vehicle at Tembha village in the Khardi locality of Thane district, off the Mumbai-Nashik highway. The occupants of the vehicle flee when the police arrive (DNA, September 10, 2006).
October 15, 2006: The police seize 430 kg of ammonium nitrate, 183 gelatine sticks and 566 electronic detonators from the house of the sarpanch of Adgaon village in the Chikalthana area of Aurangabad (IBNLive.com, October 14, 2006).
July 29, 2007: The police recover a large quantity of explosives from four youth in Kinwat taluka of Nanded district (Deccan Herald, December 6, 2008, reporting on complaints made by Muslim organisations in this regard).
September 2007: Three youth who claimed to belong to an organisation called the Jihad-i-Islami and extorted money from people by sending them threatening letters are arrested by the Rampur (UP) police. All three are non-Muslims. The youth are identified as Rajpal Sharma, Dori Lal and Dharam Pal (The Milli Gazette, October 1-15, 2007).
September 26, 2007: Six bombs are found in Mumbai ahead of the victorious Indian cricket team’s arrival in the city from South Africa. The Mumbai police arrest two persons, Rajeev Govind Singh and Sumitra Badal Ray, with six low intensity bombs powerful enough to kill at least half a dozen people (The Times of India, Pune, September 27, 2007).
October 2007: The Latur district police seize ammonium nitrate and gelatine sticks worth Rs 14,72,000 from seven youth: Vikas Mawad, Kailas, Vinod, Dhananjay, Nitish, Mahesh and Ganesh (The Milli Gazette, November 16-30, 2007).
October 11, 2007: An individual named Dr Bafna is killed in a powerful blast in a village in Yeotmal district in Maharashtra. The deceased is said to have belonged to the RSS (The Milli Gazette, November 16-30, 2007).
October 15, 2007: Bombs are sent as Diwali gifts to some persons in Wardha. The police arrest four persons in this connection: Chintu alias Mahesh Thadwani, Jitesh Pradhan, Prakash Balve and Ajay Jivtode. However, the "mastermind" of this plan, Bandu Telgote alias "Laden", absconds (Dainik Bhaskar, November 3, 2007).
January 24, 2008: A bomb blast occurs at the RSS office at Tenkasi in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Following a thorny investigation, the Tamil Nadu police arrest eight persons belonging to various sangh parivar outfits. The police say that 14 pipe bombs were assembled and the operation commenced in July 2007. The arrested persons later confess that their objective was to create a communal divide (The Milli Gazette, February 16-29, 2008).
April 2008: During investigations into a minor riot involving two communities the police find that in Amerti village in Chopda taluka of Jalgaon district, deadly weapons such as pistols, swords, choppers, etc are being manufactured on a large scale. The investigation also reveals that a person named Shetty Phitewala, a resident of Samata Nagar and an active member of a communal party, trains youth in the use of weapons and shows them communally provocative films and CDs (The Milli Gazette, May 16-31, 2008).
April 17, 2008: The Malegaon police raid a pathological laboratory situated in the basement of a private hospital and recover five live RDX explosives, three used RDX explosives, one pistol, a laptop, a scanner, two mobile phones, four fake currency notes and some money. They arrest three persons, Nitish Ashire, Sahebrao Dhurve and Jitendra Khema, all belonging to an unknown organisation (The Milli Gazette, May 1-15, 2008).
July-August 2008: Pramod Mutalik of the Rashtriya Hindu Sena (RHS), an offshoot of the RSS, forms an anti-terrorist squad, Rashtra Raksha Sena, in Karnataka, consisting of 700 persons from all over the state and 150 persons from Bangalore alone. Mutalik claims he has set up the team to weed out terrorism from the state (Pune Mirror, August 23, 2008).
October 2, 2008: In Talegaon Dabhade, Pune district, the VHP and Bajrang Dal organise a "Durga Mata Daud" (rally) during the 10-day Dussehra festival. Youngsters carrying swords, lathis and flags participate (Lokmat, Pune, October 4, 2008).
Several such rallies were also organised elsewhere in Maharashtra, in which swords, torches, trishuls and lathis were carried and provocative slogans against Muslims were shouted. The largest such rally was held in Sangli where about 5,000 people participated.
November 9, 2008: The police recover seven live crude bombs from Manjargaon village in Badlapur taluka in Maharashtra’s Jalna district. One person is arrested (The Indian Express, Pune, November 11, 2008).
November 10, 2008: In Kerala’s Kannur district, two RSS activists are killed in a blast that occurred while they were assembling a bomb. The following day the police recover 18 crude bombs from the house of BJP leader, Prakashan, not far from the spot where the two persons were killed (The Indian Express, Pune, November 11, 2008 and The Times of India, November 13, 2008).
November 11, 2008: ULFA chairman, Arbinda Rajkhowa alleges that the RSS was behind the deadly blasts in Assam on October 30 as well as the ethnic violence in the Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD) which claimed 140 lives (85 in the blasts and 55 in ethnic violence). He claims that ULFA has enough evidence to prove the RSS’s involvement in the blasts. A few months earlier, in its mouthpiece, Freedom, ULFA had also referred to secret directives allegedly sent by the RSS to carry out blasts in different parts of the country (DNA online, November 11, 2008).
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2009 Year 15 No.137, Cover Story 3
On February 18-19, 2007, near Panipat in Haryana, 68 persons were killed as bombs exploded on the Samjhauta Express bound for Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan blamed each other for the tragedy. The Indian government hinted at the involvement of a Pakistan-backed terrorist outfit based across the border. However, at the first meeting of the Indo-Pak Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism held on March 6, 2007 it could only hand over a photograph of a suspected Pakistani national believed to be involved in the terror attack (one who had also lost family members in the tragedy!) and sought Pakistan’s cooperation in tracking him down.
In contrast, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Haryana police, which had been sent to Indore in Madhya Pradesh during the first week of March 2007 on the basis of investigative inputs, made a positive breakthrough in the investigations. This included the uncovering of evidence from shopkeepers who had sold the suitcases in which the RDX is said to have been carried (The Statesman, March 11, 2007, The Indian Express, March 13 and 19, 2007, The Hindu, March 14, 2007).
At this stage, when it appeared that the Haryana police had almost cracked the case, newspapers reported that further investigations had been abruptly stopped and nothing was heard about the progress of these investigations immediately thereafter.
Seven months later, while reporting that the investigations into the Ajmer blast case had also led the Rajasthan police to Madhya Pradesh, The Indian Express, Pune, in its edition dated October 10, 2007 reported that when the Haryana police had been on the verge of solving the Samjhauta case in March 2007, they got no cooperation from their colleagues in Madhya Pradesh and could thus proceed no further. What information the Haryana police had unearthed and why the Madhya Pradesh police were so reluctant to pursue it remains a mystery. The BJP was and is the party in power in Madhya Pradesh.
The Malegaon link
It was only after Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur, Lt Col Srikant Purohit and others were arrested in connection with the bomb blast in Malegaon that some information started trickling in. Following pertinent revelations by Purohit in the narco analysis test conducted on him at the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore, on November 9, 2008, reports of the possible involvement of the Malegaon accused in the Samjhauta Express blasts began to appear in the media (Sakal, Pune, November 13, 2008, The Sunday Times (of India) and Sakal, November 16, 2008). The Pune Mirror dated November 19, 2008 also reported that "Purohit told the officials who conducted the narco analysis test that Praveen Togadia was responsible for the Samjhauta Express blasts".
Thereafter the ATS suddenly altered its stance. Briefing the press on November 17, 2008, ATS chief, Hemant Karkare said that the ATS public prosecutor, Ajay Misar, had been misquoted and that Misar had not in fact made a statement claiming that the RDX stolen by Purohit was used in the Samjhauta Express bombs (Pudhari and The Times of India, November 18, 2008). The Times of India further reported that "Soon after Misar made the sensational charge in Nashik the Intelligence Bureau, which is keeping a close tab on the probe, alerted the centre about the implication of Misar’s statement. When the train blast took place, the centre had blamed Pakistan’s ISI for the terror strike on the basis of the bureau’s finding."
Immediately after the blasts on the train India had been quick to assign responsibility for the attack to a Pakistani outfit. Was this hasty stand now constraining investigations despite evidence to the contrary? The Times of India has also quoted a senior bureau officer as saying "The ATS’s charge on Friday would have impaired the centre’s credibility internationally and that forensic examination of the blast site and two unexploded bombs had conclusively proved that RDX was not used" (The Times of India, November 18, 2008).
Against this background, the hasty interruption of the Samjhauta probe, after investigators had traced links to Madhya Pradesh, appears particularly suspicious.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2009 Year 15 No.137, Cover Story 4
In November 2008, days before Swami Ashim Anand (variously called Swami Aseemanand or Asheemanand) went underground, a Gujarati daily carried reports that the Maharashtra ATS was on the lookout for him. The Dangs in South Gujarat, where the Swami has nurtured his base, has seen a spate of attacks against Christians from 1998 onwards and also, more recently, against Muslims in 2008. The Swami was at the epicentre of the attacks against Christians, their homes and churches in December 1999.
Swami Ashim Anand is documented by sangh activists as being part of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Gujarat. Ashwin Modi, former president of the Surat unit of the Bajrang Dal, identified the Swami as being part of the "Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, an organisation affiliated to the VHP". Sections of the national media have previously identified Swami Ashim Anand as being "the national president" of the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and have reported on his presence in the Dangs district as follows: "After coming to Waghai… the Swami had spearheaded the formation of Bajrang Dal units in every village."
With the grisly terror link widening its base into Gujarat, critical issues for the investigating authorities remain. Of particular concern is the crucial matter of the funding that these outfits receive, as there is reasonable evidence to suggest that many of these organisations receive funds from overseas affiliates. The moot question is whether this foreign funding is used to fuel not just hate speech and violence but now terrorism as well. Another question concerns the organisational support base for such terror attacks, given the fact that the international general secretary of the VHP, Dr Praveen Togadia, has been named in the Nanded blast investigations as one of those responsible for exhorting youth to action. And the spotlight now falls on the Swami.
The linking of Swami Ashim Anand with the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, his mandate being the creation of Bajrang Dal units in the tribal villages of Gujarat, provides a vital link to a major nodal development agency, the India Development Relief Fund (IDRF). ‘The Foreign Exchange of Hate’, a 2002 report collectively researched by Indians in the United States under the banner of the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), has extensively probed these links. It is time to revisit these links today.
In a report on his visit to Gujarat and to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad ashram at Waghai, Chetan Gandhi, a former vice-president of the IDRF, stated that Swami Ashim Anand was in charge of the ashram’s activities in the district and that he was well respected by the community. It is not difficult to explain the presence of an IDRF vice-president in Gujarat or his reporting on the activities of the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad in Waghai. The Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad has been a direct beneficiary of the IDRF, having been listed as an IDRF-supported project in Gujarat.
Documentation also exists to demonstrate the IDRF’s support for other sangh parivar organisations, such as Sewa Bharti, the Ekal Vidyalayas and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, implicated in the violence against minorities in Madhya Pradesh. In 2002 Sewa Bharti, an IDRF-funded organisation, was implicated in anti-Christian violence in Madhya Pradesh, which in fact led to the then Congress state government under Digvijay Singh revoking the organisation’s licence. Similarly, activists belonging to the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad in Kotda (another organisation also directly supported by the IDRF) led a campaign of terror against the Muslim families in Juda village that resulted in their large-scale migration to neighbouring villages.
The anti-Muslim pogroms that took place in the state of Gujarat in 2002 saw extensive and active participation by the Adivasis in the violence against Muslims. Several commentators have noted the role played by the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and the Vivekananda Kendra in actively communalising the tribal mind and creating an anti-Muslim ethos. Again, the pertinent connection here is that both organisations are funded by the IDRF.
The period from 1998 to 2000 saw a spate of anti-Christian violence in the tribal belts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. For several months now Orissa has once again been reeling under the effects of this communal poison as Christians have been mercilessly targeted.
In Gujarat, the laying of infrastructure for conversion-related violence is attributed to Swami Ashim Anand. For the two years (1998, 1999) that he was active in the Dangs, not only did the Swami conduct forcible reconversions of tribals to Hinduism but he also spread terror among the local Christians by organising large-scale aggressively militant Hindu rallies on Christmas Eve and Good Friday in tribal villages with significant Christian populations.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2009, Year 15 No.137, Cover Story 5
The year 2008 may well be remembered for numerous acts of terror that reached a horrifying climax with the November 26 siege of Mumbai. Blasts in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi were followed by continuing acts of mob terror against tribal Christians in Orissa (where 22,000 people still lived in relief camps until January 31, 2009 before the Patnaik government, à la Gujarat, ordered their forcible closure).
Serial mob attacks on Christians and churches in Karnataka led to demands for a nation- wide ban on the Bajrang Dal, an organisation closely associated with the attacks. September 29, 2008 saw two incidents of bomb blasts, in Malegaon, Maharashtra and Modasa, Gujarat. Other blasts also occurred in Thane, Panvel and Kanpur last year. The ATS Maharashtra has held groups of the RSS family, such as the Abhinav Bharat, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and the Sanatan Sanstha, responsible for some of these attacks. Terror has no religion and terror comes in different forms.
Even as we grapple with the fallout of such acts of terror, we also see more and more manifestations of the mob in action. Maharashtra enjoys the dubious distinction of allowing vicious mob violence spearheaded by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). People are brutally beaten and taxis, shops and other establishments are repeatedly destroyed yet the man who leads this violent movement is free to carry on. On January 26, 2009 MNS workers actually stormed a school in Nashik and beat up teachers and employees for playing Bhojpuri songs. Days later, three MNS workers were signed up by film producers making Bhojpuri films. Rough justice or a crude quid pro quo? In the MNS case, while the Mumbai police have made attempts to enforce the law, it is the ruling Congress-NCP combine that is refusing to sanction prosecution of Raj Thackeray. Déjà vu? Like uncle, like son.
And Karnataka is not far behind. On January 24, activists of the Sri Rama Sena (another breakaway of the RSS-Bajrang Dal group) attacked young women at a pub in Mangalore. Yet Pramod Mutalik, the mastermind behind this act of mob terror, was promptly granted bail despite the fact that there are over three dozen criminal cases pending against him.
It is this culture of impunity from prosecution that the politically powerful enjoy in India, which allows them to embrace violence without fear of the law. The executive, the law and order machinery and the judiciary have all been equally responsible for allowing this transparent lawlessness to continue. Small wonder then that though we may boast of being an electoral democracy, constitutional non-negotiables like the fair enforcement of the rule of law, regardless of caste, class, gender or community, are still a pipe dream.
The creation of the National Investigating Agency through a special legislation arose out of the need to treat all acts of terror, regardless of where they stemmed from, as a federal crime. The inclusion of specific provisions to ensure judicial scrutiny even at preliminary stages of the investigation (a break from the routine criminal procedure which allows judicial scrutiny only after a charge sheet has been filed) was the result of a nationwide campaign spearheaded by CC following its special cover story, ‘Blast after Blast’, in July-August 2008.
As we go to press, there is news that the centre plans to pass a bill to legislate the creation of a National Textbook Council, a statutory body to monitor the content of school textbooks that emanate from private schools run by socioreligious organisations. This monitoring body was also the result of an effort in which our educational programme, Khoj, participated. As member of a committee appointed by the Central Advisory Board of Education to propose measures to regulate and monitor these trends, we had recommended the establishment of such a mechanism.
Elections 2009 are around the corner and the political class has started to flex its muscles. For us however the real concern is whether issues of non-discriminatory governance, accountability and transparency will figure at the hustings.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2009 Year 15 No.137, Editorial