IMC-USA Weekly News Digest – February 16th, 2009

IN THIS ISSUE

NEWS HEADLINES

POTA NOT APPLICABLE IN GODHRA RIOTS CASE: GUJARAT HC (FEB 13, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)

In a blow to the Gujarat government, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday ruled that the seven-year-old Godhra train carnage was not an act of terror and hence Pota was not applicable to the case. The state government appointed special investigating team (SIT) had applied Pota after 59 persons, mostly kar sevaks, were killed when S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set ablaze on February 27, 2002, sparking off Gujarat-wide riots. The news would come as relief for 79 undertrials who allegedly formed the mob at Godhra railway station on that day, who, according to sources, have already started celebrating their prospective release.

A division bench of the High Court upheld the Pota Review Committee’s conclusion that the Godhra train fire was not a result of terror conspiracy. Now, the accused will be tried under IPC where bail would be easier. "Our priority now is transfer of proceedings to Godhra sessions court and moving bail plea for prisoners who are in jail for quite a long time," said advocate Ilyaskhan Pathan, amicus curiae appointed by the Pota court. The High Court dismissed the petition by Sardarji Waghela, a relative of a Godhra carnage victim, which was supported by Gujarat government and VHP. The court also pulled up the state government for relying heavily on confessions by an accused, Jabir Binyamin Behera, to build a terror angle without any other supporting evidence.

The HC’s evaluation of the case, after the SC supported the review committee’s recommendations for removal of Pota charges in this case, is in stark contrast with the state government-appointed Nanavati-Mehta judicial probe panel which concluded the burning of the coach was a part of "deep-rooted terrorist conspiracy". Seven kg of sweets were brought to the Sabarmati Central Jail on Thursday evening by some visitors. Unbridled celebrations erupted in the jail campus after that as 79 prisoners booked under Pota for the Godhra carnage sensed freedom finally. "It was like Eid inside the jail campus. The Godhra undertrials were embracing each other and celebrating. They now feel that can get bail soon," said a jail official. All these prisoners are kept in the high-security zone.

The inmates have asked their advocates to move a caveat in the Supreme Court to ensure their point of view is taken if the matter goes for a review. At Signal Falia, Godhra, where it all happened seven years back, the joy was echoed but there were no open celebrations. Polan Bazaar, which chief minister Narendra Modi had visited on January 26, there was an air of subdued excitement. Saeed Umarji, son of Maulana Umarji – the prime accused of hatching the "terror conspiracy", said: "The judgement has rekindled our hope for justice. The immediate cause for joy is that the families will hopefully see their men come back soon."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4120487.cms

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DSP SLAPPED WITH MURDER CHARGE IN 2002 GODHRA RIOTS CASE (FEB 9, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)

Valsad Deputy Superintendent of Police K G Erda,the first police officer to be arrested by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) in a 2002 Gujarat riots case, has been slapped with a murder charge besides dereliction of duty and evidence tampering offences. Erda was produced before the Metropolitan Magistrate C B Patel at his residence on Monday morning and remanded in police custody till February 13 after the SIT sought his custody for detailed interrogation.

Erda, who was posted at Meghaninagar police station as an inspector during the post-Godhra riots, was arrested yesterday in connection with the gruesome mob attack on Gulbarg society that left 38 people dead including ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafferi. The SIT, which since March last is investigating afresh some worst post-Godhra riot cases, has under its scanner some key police officials posted in areas affected by communal clashes during post-Godhra 2002 riots.

Erda, who has been accused of dereliction of duty and tampering with evidence, has also been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which include 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder). He was recently interrogated by the SIT along with some other policemen posted in the riot affected areas.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4100085.cms

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FILE STATUS REPORTS ON CUSTODY DEATHS: SC TO STATE GOVTS (FEB 10, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)

The amendments brought in recently in the CrPC drew the attention of the Supreme Court on Monday, which observed that these amendments have rendered the famous landmark judgment in D K Basu case ineffective. The judgment had specified measures to be taken while carrying out arrests or preventive detention. "After CrPC amendments, the earlier order on arrests no longer survives," observed the Bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, as it agreed with the counsel assisting the court that custodial death was a serious issue that needed to be checked.

After hearing senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is assisting the court as an amicus, the Bench, also comprising Justice P Sathasivam, asked all state governments to file their status reports, detailing the exact number of such incidents and steps taken to check them.

Earlier Singhvi, while arguing before the court said that the number of deaths in custody has been increasing and is hence, a cause of worry. Citing the case of Punjab, where 73 cases of death in judicial custody were reported in 2006 and seven cases of deaths in police custody during the same period, the counsel said the states have not been filing their replies.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=421328

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KOLI AND PANDHER GET DEATH IN NITHARI CASE (FEB 13, 2008, IBN)

Businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surendra Koli were on Friday awarded the death sentence for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl – the first punishment in the gruesome murders of 19 children and young women from Nithari village near Noida city in Uttar Pradesh. A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court ruled that the rape and murder of Rimpa Halder was the "rarest of rare" crime and deserved capital punishment. Of the 19 cases of abduction, rape and murder, the CBI has filed charge-sheets in 16 cases. All the cases are being heard separately. Koli, 38, has been charged with rape, abduction and murder in all the cases and Pandher, 55, is co-accused in six cases.

The courtroom, packed with relatives of the victims who were raped, murdered and some eaten, fell into silence as judge Rama Jain pronounced her sentence. "No more penalty could be awarded to the accused persons otherwise. They deserve more punishment as their act of murder and rape in this particular case was beyond all the canons of humanity," the judge said. Pandher, a supplier of earth-moving machines, looked dejected and resigned when the court announced the punishment. It was behind his bungalow in Noida that the body parts of the victims were found in December 2006.

His estranged wife Devinder Kaur and son Karandeep were present as the death sentence was pronounced. "Don’t worry, we’ll appeal to a higher court," Devinder told her husband and tried to hug him before police whisked him away. "I can’t let my dad die," Karandeep told IANS. "Although my father said ‘let me die’, we will be filing an appeal in the high court," Karandeep said about his father, a member of India’s elite old boy’s club having graduated from St. Stephen’s College and done his schooling from Bishop Cotton in Shimla.

There was no such support for Koli, who hails from a village in Uttarakhand, who stood surrounded by policemen, his face covered with a black balaclava. It was pulled down by police, probably for the cameras, and Koli seemed ready to burst into tears. But for Rimpa’s father Anil Haldar, an autorickshaw driver who has lived with the knowledge that his daughter was sexually abused and cannibalised, the ruling was some sort of vindication.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/koli-and-pandher-get-death-in-nithari-case/85245-3-1.html

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THE TEMPLE TRIDENT (FEB 9, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)

As former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh reworked his position on the demolition of the Babri masjid ahead of the Lok Sabha polls – he owned "moral responsibility" and immediately followed it up by taking "total responsibility" – his old enemy and new "friend" Mulayam Singh was not the only one tracking his hectic exertions. At least three of his former colleagues in the BJP, key protagonists in their own right in 1992, were watching and remembering, in different ways, the movement that brought them together and then splintered. Uma Bharti sees Kalyan Singh’s cross-over as primarily arising from "personal hurt" rather than an ideological shift, caused by the lack of accommodation shown by the BJP to a senior leader. For Govindacharya, it is a marker of a larger change in the BJP; the former BJP ideologue laments the passing of the age of "political polarisation" that he also sees as a time of "political innocence". Vinay Katiyar, however, expresses outrage that "anyone" could join hands with "those who claim ancestry from Babar" and vindication at BJP president Rajnath Singh’s invocation of the Ram temple issue in his speech at Nagpur on Saturday.

Uma Bharti, frozen in public imagination as the "fiery sanyasin" because of her aggressive speeches and role in the Ramjanambhoomi agitation in the late ’80s and early ’90s, is one of the eight accused in the demolition case. Expelled from the party in December 2005, she floated her own Madhya Pradesh-based outfit, the Bharatiya Janshakti Party to take on the BJP in April 2006. "Kalyan Singh became chief minister because of the Ramjanambhoomi movement," she says. "He took advantage of it, and got a clear majority. But he did not lead the movement in UP. I did." Bharti does not view Kalyan’s new political alignment with the Samajwadi Party as an ideological shift. "The BJP should have responded to his grievance. If he said that Ashok Pradhan should not be given a ticket from Bulandshahar, because Pradhan had humiliated him there, the party should have fielded Pradhan from some other seat. The BJP is a big party. It should have listened to Kalyan Singh."

Bharti reiterates her own role in the movement for the Ram temple that "collapsed" after the demolition. "I am proud of it. I will never disown it. If there is another movement to construct the Ram temple, I will certainly participate in it." Because "for me, Hindutva was never a political agenda. It was a personal faith that drew me to the BJP and the sangh". And because, "the demolition of the masjid was necessary", though "not in this manner". A temple would have been built, claims Bharti, if the high-level political talks that were underway at the time, engaged in crafting a "consensus", had been allowed to "mature". Then, she says, Ramjanambhoomi would not have been an issue today. Today’s issues, says Bharti, must be different. "Terrorism and corruption should be the political issues today."

Govindacharya was the high-profile and highly articulate Hindutva ideologue from the late ’80s to 2000 when he took a sabbatical from the BJP; he left the party three years later. Now he heads the Rashtriya Swabhiman Aandolan which takes up issues that are "pro-poor" and "pro-India", and stakes claim to a political space that he says has been vacated by both the Congress and BJP. Kalyan Singh’s leaving the BJP and floating his own party in 1999, or his joining forces with Mulayam Singh now, does not surprise or shock him, says Govindacharya. Because, "Kalyan Singh merely took the credit after the demolition. Even on December 6, his reaction to the loss of power showed that he did not have conviction in the movement. He only tried to encash it politically later". The "lessons" of December 6, he says, have not been learnt. "The BJP has neither confronted nor resolved the tension between the dynamic of a cadre-based party and that of a mass movement." Moreover, "the BJP is becoming more like the Congress, the difference between the two parties is narrowing everyday", he says.

The "old polarisation" that was so visible in 1992 is lost, laments Govindacharya. "We need a new polarisation", he says, in which the Congress and BJP are seen to be on the same side. Vinay Katiyar, long-time Ayodhya trooper, founder president of the Bajrang Dal and former president of the BJP’s UP unit, was most recently in the news for demanding a ban on the Islamist seminary of Dar-ul-Uloom. He is also one of the eight accused in the demolition case. For Katiyar, the issue has not changed in 17 years. "Everyone has the freedom to decide where they want to be," he says. "But those who advocate terrorism, and organisations like the SIMI, and those who praise Aurangzeb, must not be supported," he says on Kalyan Singh’s decision to campaign for the Samajwadi Party. "I feel insulted every time the Ram Janambhoomi is referred to as the Babri Masjid. I don’t know about the BJP, but Vinay Katiyar began the movement and Vinay Katiyar will see it through," he says. For Katiyar, once a Ram temple is constructed, "all terrorism will end and our borders will be secure".

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=421179

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MORAL POLICING: GIRL COMMITS SUICIDE IN MANGALORE (FEB 12, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)

In a tragic fallout of moral policing in the city, a teenaged girl allegedly committed suicide after suspected Sangh Parivar activists publicly humiliated the girl for being friendly with a Muslim boy and handed both of them to police. Sixteen year old Ashwini, a student of class ninth at the Aikala High School in Kinnigoli, along with her friend Mahadevi had gone to Maroor near Moodabidri in a bus to meet Saleem, a conductor-cum owner of the bus on Tuesday afternoon.

A group of suspected Sangh Parivar activists stopped the bus and took the three to Maroor police station. Police then called Ashwini’s parents and handed her over to them. Unable to bear the humiliation, the girl committed suicide by hanging herself at her house on Wednesday night, police said.

However, on the complaint of the girl’s father, a case has been registered against Saleem under Section 376 and 305 of the IPC for luring and raping the girl, police said. The case come close on the heels of the kidnap of the daughter of a Kerala CPM MLA, who was dragged out of a bus while she was talking to her male friend, who belonged to a minority community.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=422628

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VHP MEN RANSACK JHARKHAND POST OFFICE FOR SELLING V-DAY CARDS (FEB 13, 2008, HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) supporters on Thursday ransacked the main post office of Bokaro district to protest the sale of Valentine’s Day cards. A post office employee was injured, police said. More than 50 supporters of VHP attacked the Bokaro head office on Thursday afternoon. They shouted anti-Valentine’s Day slogans and smashed window panes. Shashi Das, an employee, sustained head injures.

Das was admitted in a private nursing home for treatment. His condition is said to be out of danger. Police arrested three VHP supporters involved in the incident. The post office employees filed a case against the VHP workers at a city police station.

The post master of Bokaro head office Laldeo Singh told reporters: "There is nothing wrong in selling Valentine’s Day cards. It is beyond our imagination why VHP supporters attacked the post office and stared abusing the postal department staff and the customers."

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=40d526ce-5ae6-492a-b820-6af1eb85fa17

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TWIST IN RIZWANUR CASE, COP FOUND MURDERED (FEB 11, 2008, IBN)

A key witness in the Rizwanur Rahman murder case that had rocked Kolkata and the West Bengal government has been found dead. Arindam Manna was found dead in exactly the same way as Rizwan. Manna, who was also the first investigating officer in the case and later turned witness, was found on the railway tracks in Hooghly with cut marks on his neck. The body was found at 0830 hours IST on Wednesday morning.

Police believe it is a case of murder. Manna was posted with General Railway Police, and had begun investigation in the Rizwanur Rehman case. The Supreme Court on January 16 granted bail to Kolkata industrialists Ashok Kumar Todi and Pradeep Kumar Todi in the Rizwanur case. A Bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and P Sathasivam rejected the CBI’s argument that the accused will influence the investigation if freed on bail.

The apex court, however, granted liberty to the CBI to move an application for cancellation of bail if and when the accused indulge in such attempts. Ashok Kumar Todi and his brother Pradeep have been accused by the CBI of abetting the suicide of Rizwanur Rehman due to his matrimonial relationship with the former’s daughter Priyanka Todi. Rizwanur, a 30-year-old graphic designer working with a multimedia firm, was found dead on September 21 last year near railway tracks at Kolkata’s Patipukur suburb, barely a month after marrying Priyanka.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/twist-in-rizwanur-case-cop-found-murdered/85057-3.html

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FEROZABAD COP SUSPENDED, BOOKED AFTER RAPE CHARGE (FEB 10, 2008, INDIAN EXPRESS)

A Ferozabad Station Officer was suspended and booked for allegedly molesting a rape victim at the police station on Sunday evening. The girl, who belongs to the Dalit community, alleged that when she came to the police station, the SO, Satyendra Sheel, took her in a room to "record her statement" and then raped her. The ADG (Law & Order), Brij Lal, said Sheel had not raped the girl, but he has been suspended. The Superintendent of Police (SP) Ferozabad-Chandra Prakash said, an internal inquiry concluded that "it was a case of molestation, not rape."

The CO Jasrana, Jai Prakash, who conducted the inquiry, said the circumstantial evidence and the statement of other policemen suggested that the SO was alone in a room with the girl and he made advances on her. "But the doors of the room were open and no attempt was made to rape the victim. Still, since the girl alleged rape, a detailed investigation is on," he said. The Station House Officer of Jasrana, BD Pushkar, is formally investigating the case. Sheel was suspended after the Prakash’s report was submitted to the Superintendent of Police, Chandra Prakash.

The 18-year-old girl, a resident of Keshpura village, had come to the police station after her brother lodged an FIR at the Fariha police station on February 7, alleging two local men, Tinchu and Shilesh, had raped her. Sheel asked him to bring her and get her statement recorded, said Chandra Prakash. The brother later alleged that the girl rushed out of the room and told him that the Sheel had raped her. Earlier, the girl had denied that she had been raped by Tinchu and Shilesh, the SP said. Initial inquiries revealed that she had eloped with Tinchu and her family had forcibly brought her back. Later, they lodged the FIR. The medical examination of the girl after the first FIR had ruled out rape, the SP said.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story_print.php?storyid=421436

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COPS SUSPENDED OVER DALIT WOMANS DEATH (FEB 12, 2008, TIMES OF INDIA)

As many as nine police personnel, including the police station in-charge, were put under suspension on Wednesday in connection with the death of a Dalit woman, who was assaulted by the cops from Itwa police station in Sidhartnagar district. Additional director general of police (ADG) Law & Order, Crime and Special Task Force (STF) Brij Lal said that the action was initiated on the basis of the news report (front-paged by TOI in its edition dated February 11, 2009 highlighting police attempts to hush up the case). "Senior officials have been directed to look into the lapses including the delay in lodging of a case in connection with the woman’s death and fix responsibility accordingly," Brij Lal said.

The nine policemen suspended include all those who were involved in the said raid at the house of victim Baasumati in Itwa police circle late night on February 7. "Apart from the police station in- charge, a sub-inspector, six con stables and a police driver have been put under suspension with immediate effect and an inquiry has been ordered into the entire episode," Brij Lal said. Allegations are that a police team from Itwa in Sidhartnagar district reached the house of Baa sumati looking for her teenaged son Bindeshwari on February 8, 2009. The police action came after two alleged robbers picked up by the Itwa police earlier the same evening, named Bindeshwari as their associate. When the police failed to find Bindeshwari, they allegedly assaulted his mother Baa sumati, who suffered severe injuries and was admitted to the hospital, where she later died.

Surprisingly, the Itwa police tried to hush up the case and the station officer (SO) Itwa himself denied that any such incident had happened when contacted by the TOI on phone on Tuesday night. Sidharthnagar SSP though admitted to be aware of the incident, expressed his inability to confirm if any FIR had been lodged in connection with the incident. "I think the scene of the incident would come under Balrampur district but I am not sure," SSP Sidhartnagar Sridhar Pathak said. SP Balrampur, however, claimed that he too had heard that such an incident had taken place, but even he was not aware of the details. "It must have been registered with the Itwa police in Sidhartnagar," SP Balrampur K Eji learsan told TOI on phone on Tuesday night.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4115026.cms

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OPINIONS AND EDITORIALS

POVERTY OF IDEAS – EDITORIAL (FEB 11, 2008, DECCAN HERALD)

The return to the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya as an election issue at the BJP national council meeting, which concluded in Nagpur on Sunday, only shows the poverty of strategy and ideas that confront the party before the general elections. The invocation of Lord Ram’s name may excite some hawkish elements in the party and the rabidly Hindutva bodies in the Sangh Parivar which make up the flanks of the BJP’s campaign forces. But it is unrealistic to expect that it will have any impact on the voters. The parenthesis that the temple will be built when the party comes to power on its own strength makes the issue irrelevant too. Nobody, even within the party, expects the BJP to come to power on its own in the near future. The country has moved so forward in the last many years that the Ram Janmabhoomi issue is no longer a potent issue. Its mention would only show how cut off from reality the BJP leaders are.

The NDA has shrunk in size after the last elections and even those who are with it would find the Ayodhya slogan unacceptable. Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar has already pointed out that the issue is outside the NDA’s electoral agenda. The BJP itself had de-emphasised this and other divisive issues like a uniform civil code and Article 370, and there is little to gain from resurrecting them. With elections only weeks away, the party may be looking for issues to take to the people but finds that it is unable to identify and package them as effective campaign themes. Terrorism and its handling by the government has been a favourite issue with the party, but it is unsure how the government will handle Pakistan’s role in the Mumbai attack in the coming days.

Demands like severing ties with Pakistan have already been made by functionaries of the government. The BJP is also defensive on terror after the role of Hindutva organisations in acts of terrorism have come to light. The same confusion is seen in the call to return to Gandhian economics as an antidote to the current economic problems. After the failure of the ‘India Shining’ campaign in the last elections, the party might want to focus on rural development and village self-reliance as important ideas but their efficacy as electoral issues is in doubt. At the end of the congregation, the BJP leaders have returned from Nagpur with many hazy and uncertain ideas and not with a coherent and appealing electoral strategy.

http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Feb112009/editpage20090210117718.asp

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THE TERROR TRAIL – FROM NANDED TO MALEGAON AND BEYOND – BY TEESTA SETALVAD (FEB 8, 2008, PEOPLES DEMOCRACY)

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 blasts 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 blasts 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, K P Raghuvanshi, filed the charge sheet in the Malegaon blasts 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 and 5 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 blasts investigation is the ATS Maharashtra’s third serious investigation into Hindutva-driven terror. The first was its probe into the Nanded 2006 blasts 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’, Communalism Combat, July-August 2008). The CBI was forced to reopen investigations into the Nanded blasts of 2006 following the campaign by CC which went on 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.

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 1020-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 H K 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 kilos 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, as also 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 blasts 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, 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 blasts in Hyderabad (where 11 people died in the blasts and five in subsequent police firing). The police force in Haryana and Rajasthan are re-investigating these blasts in the wake of this information while the CBI is handling the Mecca Masjid blasts 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, the then ATS chief, late Hemant Karkare, had quickly clarified that the Malegaon investigations had revealed no connections whatsoever with the blasts on the Samjhauta Express.