Malegaon-court will take a final call

Sadhwi Pradnya Thakur. Photo courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/
As the Central Bureau of Investigation readies itself to re-investigate the Malegaon bombs blasts case, the focus of the entire nation is upon the agency. The CBI says that it has a Herculean task ahead since it will have to question all the accused once again apart from finding more than what the ATS had already found.

The focus will however be on Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur one of the accused in the Malegaon case who was one of the fist persons to be arrested in connection with this case. He statements will be crucial to the investigation. He advocate Ganesh Sovani however points out that they have not decided as yet to challenge the re-investigation of the case. In this interview with rediff.com, he however points out that the CBI has its task cut out but the final call will be taken by the court which can accept or even reject the new line of investigation taken by the CBI.

What are your immediate reactions to the CBI wanting to reinvestigate the Malegaon case?

I am a bit taken aback as the CBI had already taken over the investigation of Malegaon 2006 blast case way back in December, 2008. One wonders, what was it doing since then ? Why should it wait for someone like Swami Assemanand to stake claim by way of his alleged confessional statement in December, 2010.

Do you think the Central Bureau of Investigation will do a better job than the ATS?

It is not a question of good job or bad job. When the ATS Maharashtra had filed charge sheet through Investigation Officer ACP Kisan Shengal on 22.12.2006, it was doing so after a thorough investigation of the crime, in which some Pakistan nationals too are accused. All this had happened when NCP & Congress governments were at Mumbai and Delhi respectively. Now how the ATS investigation of 2006 can be brushed aside simply because some one else (i.e. Sunil @ Manoj Joshi) has made claims about those previous blast before Swami Aseemanand and on the top of that person making such claim is no more alive. So unless there is a corroborative evidence about the alleged claims made by Sunil Joshi, so called confessional statement of Swami has no significance at all.

When the provisions of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Aact have been confirmed in this case is it necessary to have a second investigation?

The legal position is this ever since the charge sheet was filed way back in December, 2006 in this matter. The matter has now come to a standstill and to the best of my knowledge even the charges have not been framed. And none of the accused have even filed any discharge application in it, nor any move has been made for striking off the charge sheet, what we call in legal parlance as (quashing proceeding under section 482 of Cr.P.C). So, ATS investigation of 2006 blast is ‘unchallanged’.

How do you think the confession of Aseemanand will affect this case?

Well, as I said earlier, a confessional statement per se is not sufficient even to convict a person making such statement, simply taking it by its face value. There has to be a corroborative evidence to that effect. Merely because, Swami says now in 2011 that a person who is dead had made some claims, without any corroborative evidence, nothing can affect the earlier investigation.

There is an outcry that some Muslim accused in the Malegaon case have not been released as yet? Could you please explain what will happen to that initial case?

See, the Cr.P.C. provides ‘further investigation’ under section 173 (8), but the concept of ‘fresh’ or ‘re-investigation’ is not incorporated in the law. However, there are some rulings of High Courts and also Hon’ble Supreme Court on it. However, it would be a Herculean task for the investigation agency to come to a ‘diametrical opposite’ conclusion and come out with new findings and obliterate an earlier investigation. It has never happened so, unless any malafide intention or an ulterior motive of earlier investigation agency comes to the fore.

What does your client Sadhvi Pragya Singh have to say about the recent development after Aseemanand?

Well, I haven’t met her since long, as I am in touch through her relatives.

When one looks at the Aseemanand confession it looks very different to what the ATS had said in the initial part of the case. What do you have say about that?

Going by the affidavit reply filed by the ATS in Supreme Court in Sadhwi’s bail by default application, ATS says that Sadhwi’s arrest (which officially) took place on 23.10.2008 was based on two confessional statements made by one Dharmendra Bairagi and Dilip Nahar Vinod Patidar under the same provisions of law before the Metropolitan Magistrate court Girgaum, Mumbai on22.10.2008. However, after they went back to Indore, they filed two respective criminal cases against ATS personnel on 26.11.2008 for alleged torture, intimidation, threatening, etc. before the JMFC, Indore, in which the deceased Hemant Karkare was made as Accused No.1 apart from scores of other officers. While filing those two criminal cases, both have retracted their confessional statements and have narrated all the events under which they were made to confess.

Do you think this case has become a politically motivated one now?

Well, I can’t answer this question, as I don’t hold any brief on behalf of political party.

There has been a lot of talk regarding Indresh Kumar. Why do you think he has not been arrested as yet. Do the rest of the accused including Sadhvi feel let down by this?

If at all Rajasthan ATS would have found out any evidence about Indresh Kumar or any one else, it would have made him or such any other person as accused. But neither Indresh Kumar nor Swami have been shown as ‘wanted accused’, going by Ajmer blast charge sheet. So this is purely an after thought and by taking help of the media, some loose statements are deliberately made to deflect the attention of the people.

Please tell us what your next course of action is. Would you move the higher court against a reinvestigation?

Well, I have no instructions in this regard. Let us see, how the events get unfolded.

Why do you think the CBI wants to reinvestigate the case?

The timing of CBI approaching for the re-investigation could become a top of debate, as it was ‘seized’ with the matter since December, 2008, ever since it took over. The onus is on it to explain, what it did since the last twenty four months? Whether the investigation was taken over merely as a ‘formality’ ?

What is the task ahead of the CBI now?

The CBI will have to gather independent and separate evidence to come to a conclusion that is completely different from the one the ATS has come to. However the final authority lies with the court as it can accept or reject the new findings. The courts have the power to accept the new findings in toto, partially or even reject it completely.

What do you make of the recent controversy regarding the death of Hemanth Karkare and also thr statements by Digvijay Singh?

I would prefer to deal with it separately and not to mix it up with the developments subsequent to Swami’s alleged confessional statement.

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How the CBI will relook Malegaon

Photo courtesy: Reuters
The Central Bureau of Investigation got the nod to re-investigate the 2006 Malegaon case on Thursday. The decision by the MCOCA court throws open a lot of questions regarding the earlier investigation and the CBI now has its task cut out since it will not only have to deal with the new set of accused but also with the nine other Muslim accused who have been languishing in jail ever since the attack took place.

When the Malegaeon attack took place, several accused were picked up and it was said by the ATS that this was a SIMI styled attack to create a communal divide. However it was the same ATS under the leadership of Hemanth Karkare which brought to light another angle to the case. The first person to be picked up in this new angle to the investigation was Sadhvi Pragya Singh.

Investigating agencies consider this case to be the mother of cases since it was the first time that a terror probe in India moved away from the Islamic angle.

Analysing the manner in which the probe has gone it looks as though there are three different angles to this case of 2006.

Between 2006 and 2008, the version that the ATS stuck to was the SIMI angle to the case. They made nine arrests and even filed chargesheets against these persons. However in the year 2008 things began to change and the very same ATS began to say that it was the handi work of fringe Hindu groups.

In 2011, the Hindu angle to the case persists, but there are certain inclusions in the case and the reason why the CBI wants a re-look into the case is because of the Swami Aseemanand angle.

The CBI now has three things on hand. First and foremost they will need to give a clean chit to the first set of accused who continue to languish in jail. Sources say that it would tell very badly on the ATS if they had to do this and hence it required another agency to take up this task.

After the Sadhvi angle to this case came to light, the arrests of two other important players such as c and Dayanand Pandey took place. Although the Sadhvi has been in complete denial of her involvement, both Purohith and Pandey have nailed the Sadhvi.

The statements of Purohith and Pandey clearly go on to state that the Malegaon operation was carried out only because of the Sadhvi. Pandey in particular was very vocal during his interrogation regarding the Sadhvi angle. He continued to say that Sadhvi was in a relationship with Sunil Joshi and she believed that it was some members of the SIMI who killed him and hence the Malegaon blasts were carried out to avenge that. Pandey further adds that the Malegaon blasts were masterminded by Sadhvi and the entire operation was carried out at her behest.

Purohith on the other hand goes on to nail Pandey during his interrogation and says that the latter had set up a terror wing comprising 800 people. Pandey had also asked me for help since he wanted to give a fitting reply to the SIMI.

No where in the first half of the investigation does the name of Aseemanand crop up. There were just references in general being made about a god man who was the mastermind behind this attack. Now with the arrest of Aseemanand, the theories put forth by Pandey and Purohith almost get negated.

The Aseemanand confession throws open to the investigating agency a whole new angle to the case. The role of Pandey is almost minimal as per this confession. The role by Purohith does not have a direct reference to the Malegaon case.

As per the confession and interrogation of Aseemanand, the main players in the Malegaon case are Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsanghra, Dange and Sadhvi Pragya Singh. In fact the latest revealations run contrary to what has been said in the earlier part of the investigations. According to Aseemanand the Malegaon attack was carried out by Dange and Kalsanghra and was masterminded by Joshi. He says that he was once asked to be picked up Kalsanghra and Dange and they had told him that they were coming back from Maharashtra and it was days later he realised that a bomb had gone off in Malegaon.

Sources told rediff.com that it is almost like starting the case afresh. Nothing that has been said in the past match with the current statements and they will have to re-interrogate every one involved yet again and file a fresh chargesheet. Only once that is done can a clean chit be granted to all the rest of the accused involved in the case.

Another interesting angle that would be subject to investigation in this case is the fact that Purohith goes on to say that since there were no experts in the bomb making, he had used the services of some SIMI members to undertake this job.

Ganesh Sovani, counsel for the Sadhvi however is not impressed with this new development. I am still looking into this. I would however like to bring to your notice that the Supreme Court had confirmed the imposition of MCOCA in this case and the court would not have not done that unless there was some kind of evidence. I don’t think this is a wise move, but I will comment more on this later since I am still looking into it.

1 crime and 2 confessions

Swami Aseemanand and Safdar Nagori
October 2008- The Samjautha blasts were carried out with the help of activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India with the help of Pakistani nationals who had come from across the border- Safdar Nagori, chief of Nagori SIMI faction.

January 2011- I met with Sunil Joshi and Bharat Rateshwar at Balpur and I was told that there would be good news. I then returned to the Shabari Dam ashram and two days later read about the Samjautha blasts. I asked Sunil Joshi about the same and he said that his men had carried out the blasts- Swami Aseemanand in his confession statement before a Delhi court.

This is a very interesting tale of two confessions made by two persons from diagonally opposite factions in connection with the same case.

Safdar Nagori who had broken away from the mainstream SIMI since he wanted the faction to become more aggressive following the ban on the organization was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police two years back. He was subjected to thorough interrogation and also a narco analysis test in which the police claim he sang about both the Mumbai train bombings and also the Samjautha blasts in which 68 persons were killed. During his interrogation he goes on to speak about the manner in which this deadly blast was carried out. He says that activists of the SIMI had carried out these blasts with the help of some Pakistan nationals who had come into India. The primary idea was that the Pakistan based terror groups were opposed to the idea of Indo-Pak peace talks and wanted to derail the same by targeting the tran and the people in it.

Swami Aseemanand on the other hand who was arrested only recently goes on to make a confession statement before the Magistrate in Delhi. During the confession he does not mention anywhere that he was kept in the loop about these blasts, but during a meeting with Sunil Joshi (now dead) in which he was told to expect some good news. Two days later he read about the blasts and Joshi told him that his men had carried it out.

Both the police and the National Investigating Agency have probed this case for quite some time. It was only a year back did the Aseemanand angle to the blasts come to the fore. Prior to that it was said that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had used the support of the SIMI to carry out this attack.

The question now is which of these reports will be taken before the court. Legal experts say that when an investigation has dealt with two outfits in the past few years in connection with the same case, they will need to present both the cases before a court of law. The fact that Aseemanand’s is a more recent confession does not mean that the Nagori report can be shunted out.

The investigating agency has a very big task ahead of them and since this case involves two sets of contrary statements they will need to probe harder and build up a case.

Justice N Satosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court of India explains that a lot would depend on the judge since he will have before him both versions of this case. The investigating agency will have to place both the cases before him and convince the judge as to which version has more weight and why they have investigated the case in a particular direction. The judge in turn will have to evaluate the case and pass orders accordingly.

However in the legal scenario it appears that the Aseemanand confession will have a bit more weight when compared to the one made by Nagori. However the game for the NIA could change since it is possible that Aseemanand may retract his statement claiming that he had done so under duress. There is no laid down law which states that an accused cannot retract a confessional statement before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. There are arguments galore across various courts in the country where the prosecution has been advancing arguments stating that an accused should not be allowed to retract a 164 statement.

The Nagori statement on the other hand will have less weight before the court since it was a statement made before the police and also during a narco analysis test which does not have much evidentiary value before the court as per orders of the Supreme Court.

Coming back to the instant case on hand, legal experts say that the onus is on the judge to evaluate the two statements. The fact is that both the statements per se have no evidentiary value before a court of law. There is a direct contradiction and both these statements have been made when the accused persons were under police custody.

Although it may be argued that Aseemanand statement will have more weight as it was made before a Magistrate, the law clearly states that this will not have evidentiary value and it is not sufficient to gurantee a conviction. The most such a statement could do is give supportive evidentiary value to the investigating agency.

The court will have to look into the other evidences supplied by the investigating agency to finally come to a conclusion. A lot would however depend on what the two accused persons- Nagori and Aseemanand finally say before the court. In addition to this if the NIA decides to go ahead with the Aseemanand angle to the case then it will need to explain why it is doing so.

Currently the NIA is completely focused on the Aseemanand angle and feel that there is more meat in this version of the case. However for that to happen they will need to take into custody the likes of Ramji Kalasanghra, Ashol alias Amith and Dange. Both versions will be probed thoroughly and it is not as though the Nagori version will be completely discarded. Investigations cannot be merely on the basis of statements and independent investigations are needed, a source in the investigating agency said.

Bhatkal’s mother doesn’t believe he is dead

Riyaz Bhatkal's parents at his house in Bhatkal
They refused to accept that their son is a terrorist and they are pretty taken aback when Riyaz Shahbandri alias Riyaz Bhatkal alias Sharukh Khan is termed as India’s most wanted terrorist.

As the Indian police and the intelligence bureau works over time to confirm the news regarding the death of Riyaz Bhatkal, his mother Suwaida still awaits a confirmation. I have been reading about it and watching it on television, she says when asked about news of her son’s death.

I do not know what to say and I continue to believe that stories have been cooked up and my son has been termed as a terrorist. No one from the police department has contacted me after this news broke out and I really cannot say if it is true or false. I have not been in contact with my son for the past six years and I do not no where he is. Some say he is in Pakistan while others say he may be still in India. I have no idea and the fact is that my son has not contacted me for the past six years

Suwaida lives on the Madeena street on Bhatkal with her husband Ismail. Apart from this Riyaz’s wife Nausha and her three children also live in the same house. There is a mixed reaction about the death of Riyaz Bhatkal in this area. Some in the community believe that he is a creation of police imagination while others feel that he has changed the very face of Bhatkal by getting into ISI related activities which has kept the IB busy in Bhatkal town.

While there is a mixed opinion about Riyaz, the mother continues to believe that he son is innocent. My son is an engineer and we educated him well, she had said when we spoke on an earlier occasion. It is tough when I don’t get to see my son’s face for so many years and I am a mother after all. Today with so much being written about them, our own relatives do not want to talk to us.

Both the IB and the police are still verifying whether the news of his death is true. There has been some activity in Bhatkal where the police are trying to verify through some relatives if there had been any contact from his end in the past few days. The police had however managed to confirm that Bhatkal was in Pakistan and this was based on a couple of calls. In addition to this Salman alias Chotu an IM member had told the Delhi police during his interrogation that Bhatkal had slipped into Pakistan and was living in the Gulshan Iqbal area under the protection of the ISI where he is said to have been shot dead.

Bilal-Bhatkal two untold stories

Riyaz Bhatkal and Shahid Bilal
The news regarding the death of India’s most wanted terrorist Riyaz Bhatkal is yet to be confirmed by Indian Intelligence agencies. There was news about him being shot dead by the Chota Rajan gang who later claimed responsibility for the same.

The case of Bhatkal is very similar to that of Shahid Bilal who belonged to the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami. Bilal who was wanted for his role in the deadly twin blasts of Hyderabad.

Both Bhatkal and Bilal were products of the ISI hailing from a very communally sensitive region.

Bilal was a small time social worker as per his dossier available with both the police and the Intelligence Bureau. At his area Moosrambagh in Hyderabad he was looked up to as a messaiah. He is said to have fallen out with some politicians and was fixed in a false case which made him take the extreme path. This is when some persons from the ISI roped him in and there began Bilal’s journey into terror.

Bhatkal on the other hand was a small time goon in Bhatkal. When he started out there was plenty of communal tension in the area and both communities always looked for information against each other. Bhatkal decided that he would earn his money this way and began passing on information between the two communities. A police officer who has interrogated him on various occasions says that he was very unassuming and did not hold up against interrogation and often crumbled. It was shocking to see him move into the world of terror since he did not show any signs of carrying out such big operations. Things began to change for Bhatkal in the year 1999 when there was a major ISI programme in Bhatkal where several youth including Bhatkal towed the line.

The IB says that the similarity between Bhatkal and Bilal were their organizing capabilities and hence at a very young age the two managed to move up the ladder. The ISI was looking for modules down South and their answer lay in Bilal and Bhatkal. Both the old city of Hyderabad and Bhatkal had extreme potential and these two youth were capable of drawing the youth towards them.

Bilal carried out his job to perfection and managed to set up a perfect module for the Harkat-ul-Jihadi in Hyderabad. According to the police and the intelligence, he did manage to convince several youth and even today there continues to be a section in this city who are ready to cross over and strike on Indian soil.

However the role played by Bhatkal whose actual name is Riyaz Shahbandri was much larger. He managed to set up one of India’s deadliest home grown terrorist outfit called the Indian Mujahideen. The setting up of this outfit changed the terror set up in India and Bhatkal who ran operations under the alias of Sharukh Khan became India’s most wanted man.

According to the IB, he has been more effective when compared to a Bilal. While Bilal managed to set up a deep rooted network just in areas of Hyderabad, Bhatkal on the other hand laid out the road map for the IM. His strategy of roping in the Safdar Nagori faction of the SIMI gave him the dividends and with this they managed to carry out a series of blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Jaipur and Pune.

Interestingly both started off as small time operators and grew very big in the terror set up and their deaths too were very similar in nature. Both operated in India for a considerable amount of time before slipping into Pakistan. Bilal’s death took place one and half years back and it was said that he was killed by some local gangsters in Pakistan. The Indian Intelligence however believes that it was the ISI which knocked him off since they tend to do this with people who have become a liability and when the demand for his extradition increases.

However in the case of Bhatkal it appears that it was Chota Rajan who carried out this operation. Rajan has been looking to come off as a patriotic don and would carry out such an operation to show that he is against anyone who is anti India.

The fact however remains that while India can feel happy that two men who had become major irritants have been killed, they would have still loved to catch them alive since these men had on them a lot of information about the terror network in India which they had set up to perfection.

Bhatkal shot dead?

India's most wanted: Riyaz Shahbandri a.k.a Riyaz Bhatkal a.k.a Sharukh Khan

Is it the end of India’s most wanted terrorist Riyaz Bhatkal? Underworld don Chota Rajan has claimed that his aides have killed Riyaz Bhatkal and an associate of his Anwar at the Gulshan Iqbal area in Karachi Pakistan.
The don further goes on to claim that Bhatkal was shot dead and he died on bed number 18 in ward 222 of the Jiauddin hospital in Karachi. He further goes on to claim that the body of Bhatkal was identified by a person by the name Abdul Aziz Bhidani.
The Indian Intelligence Bureau, the Mumbai ATS, Karnataka police and his relatives in Bhatkal when contacted said that they are looking into this claim and are yet to ascertain the claim made by Rajan. His relatives in Bhatkal told rediff.com that even if this news were to be true they would not get information so soon. However no confirmation regarding this has come as yet.
The Mumbai ATS is also verifying these claims and Rakesh Maria the chief of the ATS said that they would be looking into this. The Intelligence Bureau says that this is a serious issue and they are looking into this. There is no confirmation as yet but they would are trying to get more information on this.
Bhatkal was wanted in a spate of blasts which rocked India in the past couple of years. He was the person who co-founded the Indian Mujahideen and had masterminded the deadly blasts at Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi. Soon after these blasts he fled to Pakistan and this was confirmed by the IB last year itself. The confirmation came after the IB tracked the call records of some of his associates and when the voice samples were matched they were sure that it was Bhatkal on the other side. The calls were also traced to Karachi where Bhatkal was residing.
Bhatkal whose actual name is Riyaz Shahbandri worked under the alias of Sharukh Khan while in India and in Pakistan changed his name to Dilawar Iqbal.
Bhatkal started off his journey into the crime scene in his hometown of Bhatkal. He started off by acting as an informed in this coastal town in Karnataka which is communally charged. His crime sheet states that he used to pass on information for a few bucks to both communities who were at logger heads since time immemorial at Bhatkal. It was during an ISI progrom at Bhatkal over a decade ago that he set foot into the world of terror. His capabilities to arrange for men and provide accurate logistics made him an instant favourite with the ISI and he was handed over charge of setting up of the Indian Mujahideen. He was helped by Pakistan based Amir Reza in this venture.

 

And the hunt continues…..

Photo courtesy: Outlook
While a lot has been written about the likes of Ramji or Ramchandra Kalasanghra and Sandeep Dange, the NIA list of wanted in the Samjautha express blasts takes another name called Ashok.

The NIA which announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for those who provide information on Kalasanghra and Dange also said that any person giving inputs about Ashok would be rewarded Rs 2 lakh. The case against Ashok who also goes by the alias Amith is being built up in the Samjautha blasts case.

According to the NIA, it was the trio of Kalasanghra, Dange and Ashok who executed the Samjautha blasts under the guidance of Sunil Joshi.

The blasts on the Samjautha express was probably the biggest operation carried out by this outfit and the NIA would be keen on solving this case at the earliest. The initial part of the investigations go on to show that Aseemanand did not have that big a role to play in the Samjautha case when compared to Joshi and his men. In fact Aseemanand goes on to state that when he had met with Joshi he was told that he had a surprise for him and had also asked him to keep a watch on the newspapers. A couple of days later he read in the news paper that a major blast had been carried out on the Samjautha express in which nearly 60 persons had been killed. This had happened in the month of February when Joshi along with Bharath Rateshwar had come on a motor cycle to meet with Aseemanand. The meeting took place at a temple in Balpur and there Aseemanand was told that there would be good news. Aseemanand then returned to the Shabari Dam Ashram and two days later read about the blasts.

The NIA probe in this case has shown so far that the operation was Joshi was the key man in this operation and he was the one who had arranged for the funds and logistics in this case. The NIA says that Joshi would have had all the answers to this case and he knew more than Aseemanand, but unfortunately he is dead. He then contacted Joshi and asked him how this attack had taken place and then Joshi told him that these blasts were carried out by his men. The men that Joshi refers to have not been mentioned by Aseemanand in his confession in connection with these attacks, but the NIA says that these are the three men directly involved in the blasts.

As the investigations unfold it comes to light that the entire operation was staged by Joshi and he had used Kalsanghra, Dange and Ashok to execute these blasts. Aseemanand’s confession however makes it clear that he was in the know of this attack and it was in a meeting with Joshi the latter had suggested that mostly Pakistanis travel by this train and it would be good to target this.

The probe based on these statements so far show that Dange had arranged for the explosives for this blast while Kalsanghra and Ashok went about planting the bombs apart from preparing the logistics.

With Joshi dead, it the arrest of three men who can help solve this case. Apart from this they would also like to find out who exactly had financed these blasts and whether there were more persons involved in this attack. The NIA would also probe to find out if Indresh Kumar had anything to do with the financing of this attack and also try and find out up to what extent he had gone to even arrange for the men who finally carried out this blast.

Kalsanghra, Dange and Amit have been part of the Joshi team since all these attacks were being planned. The trio along with another person Lokesh Sharma were part of a core team which always executed attacks with Joshi. Investigators say that their names figure in all these blasts and it becomes clear that they were these men took centre stage.

Aseemanand does make a reference to Ashok once during his confession. The first time that these persons met was at Bharath Rateshwar’s house in Valsad. During the meeting Sadhvi Pragya Singh was present. Joshi turned up later and along with him he brought Dange, Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Ashok alias Amit.. It was during this meeting that Aseemanand told them that the time for revenge had come. However he realised that Joshi and his four men were already planning something.

What next after Aseemanand?

The Swami Aseemanand confession may be done, but the road ahead for the investigators is anything but easy. If Aseemanand’s confessions are anything to go by then it becomes clear that the blasts on the Samjautha Express, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and Malegaon are all interlinked.

Investigators told rediff.com that the Malegaon blasts will be the key since it is concerned to be the mother of this terror jigsaw as the breakthroughs were first made in that case. While the likes of Sadhvi Paghya Singh Thakur, Colonel Shrikanth Purohith, Dayanand Pandey and now Swami Aseemanand are already in custody, the investigations will not be complete unless and until all the agencies probing these cases coordinate with each other and also they will need to very soon get into their custody a couple more accused who will help complete the terror jigsaw.

If one reads the confession made by Swami Aseemanand a couple of days back, then he takes the names of Indresh Kumar, Bharat Rateshwar, Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsanghra and terms them as major players in this case.

The Central Bureau of Investigation which is seized of most of these cases says that they will not only have to get these men into their custody, but will also have to travel back to the Malegaon case and interrogate the accused involved in that case since it is all interlinked. In addition to this the CBI also plans to meet with the officers of the NIA which is handling the Samjautha case and review with them every 20 days regarding these cases and also share information.

Ramji Kalsanghra: A key man to the investigation who has been absconding since 2008 ever since the Malegaon probe gained steam. Investigators say that he used to be a pracharak from the RSS and was directly responsible for the Malegaon blasts. Investigators say that while he was directly involved in the Malegaon blasts, he was also in the know of the rest of the blasts and had played a key role in conspiring these blasts. Aseemanand in his confession while speaking about Kalasaghra says that he had got a call from Dange and was told to pick him up. When he did so he saw Kalsanghra with him and they had with them a suit case with some heavy ob-jects. When he spoke with Kalsanghra he told him that he was coming back from Maharashtra and it was the next day that I realised that bombs had gone off at Malegaon. Investigators say that the arrest of Kalasanghra apart from giving them details about the cases on hand would also help them with information regarding the others in their modules.

Aseemanand also goes on to speak about a meeting that he had with Sunil Joshi in which Kalsanghra was present. It was in that meeting that Aseemanand is alleged to have said that we will reply to bombings with bombings.

Sandeep Dange: He was also part of the conspiracy and figures several times in the confession made by Swami Aseemanand. He was a pracharak in the RSS at Indore and he too went missing after the Malegaon probe opened up. Investigators point out that Dange formed part of a core group in this module and he was in the know of things. Considered to be very close to Joshi, Dange operated most of the time with Kalsanghra. Aseemanand mentions his name on various occasions and the investigators believe that he was with Kalasanghra when the Malegaon operation was carried out. In fact Dange was also part of the meeting with Aseemanand in which Joshi, Kalsanghra were present. The CBI feels that interrogating Dange will give them clues as to who the persons were who planted the bombs on the Samjautha express and also at Ajmer.

Indresh Kumar: This is probably the most controversial name to come out in this case. A central committee member of the RSS, his name has been taken several times in the past by the various persons interrogated in connection with the above mentioned attacks. There have been various versions to the role allegedly played by him in these cases. Sources say that the accused started spilling the beans on him since he had assured them that they would be safe but at a later stage they felt let down by him as he did not protect them. Colonel Purohith too had a falling out with him over the political scenario in Nepal in which India was interested. Purohith felt that Kumar was in favour of restoring democracy in Nepal while he felt that the rule of the king should remain as it needed to continue being a Hindu country.

Today as per the interrogation of Aseemand, it was Indresh who mentored these attacks and also financed them. The god man also goes on to add that he had handpicked pracharaks from the RSS to carry out attacks. Aseemanand also goes on to say that he met with Indresh at the Shabri Dam ashram at the Dangs. I was told that my job was not to bomb, but to take care of tribal welfare. He also told me that he had assigned Joshi for this job and he was ready to extend any help in this regard. He further goes on to say that Indresh financed these operations and also motivated several pracharaks for the same. The CBI or the NIA have not yet taken him into custody, but would be looking to interrogate him in the wake of the Aseemanand confession.

Bharath Rateshwar: His name cropped up on an earlier occasion too. It is said that this businessman from Valsad had allegedly lent his house in which the meeting of June 2006 was held. Aseemanand goes on to say that he along with Sadhvi, Joshi and Rateshwar decided to give a fitting reply. He also speaks of another meeting which he held with these people in which the Mecca Masjid and Malegaon blasts were discussed. Further the god man says that in 2007, he met Joshi along with Rateshwar and was told that there would be good news in a couple of days. It was after this that the Samjautha blasts took place.

Rateshwhar does not figure as an accused in any of these cases as yet. Ganesh Sovani, advocate for Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur says that Rateshwar’s name figures only as a witness in the Ajmer blasts case. He further goes on to add that no agency has tried to interrogate his client after the Aseemanand confession. This confession is not incriminating against either my client or any of the accused including Aseemanand. These are all tall claims and is based on hear say which will not survive the test of the legal process. There is no need for us to challenge this and we are presently fighting the case in the Supreme Court where we have challenged the imposition of MCOCA against my client.

Aseemanand confession-looking forward

The confessional statement by Swami Aseemanand will be a turning point to four different cases and the legal process for the acquittal of many youth is all set to commence. The Swami Aseemanand confession which took place a couple of days back details the manner in which the Mecca Masjid, Samjautha, Malegaon and Ajmer blasts were carried out. While there is a debate still on whether he actually confessed on his own after being touched by the conduct of a former accused in the Mecca Masjid case or did he confess under duress, the fact remains that there is a ray of hope among many youth who continue to languish in jails after being implicated in the above mentioned cases.

The Mecca Masjid Case: It sent shock waves after it had been bombed. There was a subsequent police firing in which many others died. The immediate blame went toward Shahid Bilal a resident of Moosrambagh in Hyderabad and his outfit the Harkat-ul-Jihadi. Bilal was however not in Hyderabad and had moved to Bangladesh at that time. The Hyderabad police picked up 110 men in a few days and detained them for questioning.

Finally the Hyderabad police narrowed it down to 27 youth and claimed that they had carried out the Mecca Masjid blasts in a bid to create communal tension.

In a plaint filed by these youth before the court, they said that following the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad, the police immediately started making claims that some organisation referred to as HUJI or some other militant group was responsible. There was police firing after the blast, and both in the blast as well as in the firing, several persons died. All of them were Muslims. That apparently records of the firing show police excesses.

However after the initial arrests, the case against these youth started to fade out and all were booked for conspiracy. In the chargesheet the police claimed that these youth had gathered at a grave yard and were viewing CDs of the Babri Masjid demolition. The police also claimed that they had circulated CDs of the same and were spreading communal hatred. However these youth are all free today and have already been acquitted for want of evidence.

Dr Junaid who was termed as the main accused in this case says that he was subject to torture in jail and he was forced to admit his role in the case. Kaleem another accused in the case was subject to a narco analysis test and following this the police claimed that he had admitted to his role in this case.

The Malegaon Case: On the eve of Shab-e-Barat on September 8 2006, a series of blasts rocked Malegaon in which nearly 30 people were killed and several others injured. A month later, the police picked up a youth by the name Noorul Huda Shamsuddoha and termed him as the person who planted the bomb at Malegaon. A couple of days later, the ATS picked up Shabbir Ahmed and termed him as the mastermind in the case. They also had in their custody Ahmed Rajjab and termed him as the co-conspirator in the case.

The next couple of days saw more arrests. Dr Salman Farsi, Lateef Aimi and Dr Faroq Makhdhomi. While the ATS continued to claim that this was an operation carried out by the Muslims, the people of Malegaon termed this as a conspiracy against them and said that Muslims could not have been involved in the killing of their own people. However the ATS continued to claim that they had not arrested even a single person and they had a very strong case on hand.

However this case changed completely after Hemanth Karkare took over as the Chief of the ATS. His investigation into the case blew the lid of the earlier ATS theory and as investigations progressed, he brought to book the likes of Colonel Purohith, Sadhvi Pragya Singh and the likes. This part of the probe sent shock waves and the whole angle of terror by Hindutva factions came to the fore. Today the Malegaon case is at a stand still at least for the Muslim youth who are in custody. The youth who have been arrested continue to fight the legal battle and a demand for their release in the wake of the Aseemanand confession has only become louder.

Ajmer blasts: Following these blasts, there was a big theory on how Islamic groups had started targeting Muslim shrines. The finger was pointed at the Harkat-ul-Jihadi and it was said they had adopted the Lashkar-e-Tayiba policy of attacking Sufi shrines since it did not subscribe to their ideology.

The fact that there was never any major break through made in this case. The entire investigation which was carried out by the Rajasthan ATS was based more on theory and after a couple of days, they did manage to put one name into the case. Syed Salim was called the mastermind in this case. The police had said that he belonged to Hyderabad and had fled the place. They also went on to claim that he had settled in Ajmer and he got in touch with the HuJI operatives while in Ajmer. The Rajasthan police said that they had specific information that he belonged to Hyderabad and Telegu newspaper which was found at the site was one of the leading clues to this.

This probe however took another turn after the government in Rajasthan changed. The ATS started looking deeper into the case and found that the blasts were the handiwork of the Malegaon bombers.

Samjautha Blasts: This is an often spoken about blasts and it was stated at first that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had carried out this operation to derail the Indo-Pak peace process. The Haryana police which was had handed over the investigation commenced its probe looking for a Lashkar-e-Tayiba angle into the probe. Despite months of investigation they did not find anything in this regard.

They then made a break through when they tracked a shop from which the suitcase was used to carry the bomb. It was traced back to the Kothari marker in Indore. However this probe came to a stand still with some in the investigating team saying that they were under immense pressure not to probe the case any further.

The first time that the other angle to these blasts cropped up was when the Malegaon case was cracked. Dayanand Pandey was the first person to speak about their involvement in this case and that is when the probe started taking a turn. The NIA is now in charge of this case and will probe it on the basis of the statements made by Swami Aseemanand.

Why did Aseemanand confess?

At Saleemnagar in Hyderabad, there is a sense of relief following the confession of Swami Aseemanand alias Jatin Chatterjee. The family of Abdul Kaleem who is now under arrest for allegedly providing a cell phone to his brother Khaja ( an alleged Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative) in jail says that they are proud of the fact that it their son who prompted this confession by the God Man in the first place.
Aseemanand who confessed to being in the know of the Mecca Masjid, Samjautha, Ajmer and Malegaon blasts also stated prior to his confession that it was a boy named Kaleem who became the reason for him to make this confession before the Magistrate. It was his good conduct and the manner in which he helped me which prompted me to make this statement and come out with the truth about these blasts.
The Kaleem story to this entire confession is an interesting one. Kaleem a resident of Saleemnagar in Hyderabad was one of the first persons to be picked up in connection with the Mecca Masjid blasts when the police had concluded that it was an operation of the Harkat-ul-Jihadi. Following the arrest they conducted a narco analysis test on Kaleem and later the police issued a statement that during that test he had confessed to being the master mind in the blasts. A law student from the Mahatma Gandhi Law college, Kaleem languished in jail for nearly two years before being released as none of the charges against him had been proven.
Just when he thought that his trauma had ended, his brother Khaja was arrested on the suspicion that he was an operative of the Lashkar and also that he was very close to Shahid Bilal. Bilal was a HuJI operative from Hyderabad who was later killed in Pakistan following the twin blasts that rocked Hyderabad. The twin blasts at Hyderabad at the Lumbini Park and the Gokul Chat was carried out by Bilal and company to avenge the bombing and subsequent police firing at the Mecca Masjid.
After Khaja was arrested, Kaleem went to meet him in jail. However he had another shock waiting for him. He was immediately arrested by the police. The offence made out against him was that he had provided a cell phone to his elder brother.
Kaleem was lodged in the Chanchalguda jail and it was during this time that he came in contact with Swami Aseemanand who the CBI had brought down in connection with the Mecca Masjid blasts.
At jail the two got talking and Aseemanand was impressed with the conduct of Kaleem. In fact Kaleem even helped out Aseemanand a great deal in jail and these actions moved the latter a great deal. Kaleem also told him how he had been tortured and falsely implicated in the Mecca Masjid blasts. Kaleem took great care of Aseemanand and even brought him water and food every time he needed it. This moved Aseemanand a great deal and he thought that it was time to come out with the truth and bare his heart out. Aseemanand goes on to mention this in his confession before the magistrate as well.
Lateef Mohammad Khan who has been fighting Kaleem’s case says that this was a good gesture by Aseemanand and the truth has finally come out. His family is touched too and they say that they hope that such atrocities against the Muslim youth in general would stop. They also go on to say that their children have been falsely framed and they should be released.