After a 11 year chase, key accused in Ajmer blasts case held

New Delhi, Nov 26: In a major break-through the Gujarat Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) has arrested an accused in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case. Suresh Nair, was held by the ATS at Bharuch, following a tip off that suggested he was going to visit, Shukltirth, a religious place on the banks of the Narmada river.

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Bhagwat assasination plot

Pic: India Today
Pic: India Today

Is Mohan Bhagwat, the Chief of the RSS an accused as claimed by a magazine which says it interviewed Swami Aseemanand or is he is a target of some fanatics as per the probe of the National Investigation Agency.
The NIA has made it clear that no where during the investigation into Aseemanand had he ever said that Bhagwat had blessed the bombings. However an angle that they had probed was regarding an assassination plot by Sunil Joshi and others. It was found that Joshi and some of his accomplices had hatched a plan to kill Bhagwat since they were unhappy with him. Continue reading “Bhagwat assasination plot”

Bhagwat vs Aseemanand

mohan-bhagwat-500Swami Assemanand is at it once again and this time around he has named RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. The accused in the Samjautha Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts has alleged that it was Bhagwat who sanctioned these strikes.
The National Investigation Agency which is seized off all these cases is however treading cautiously on the issue. Aseemanand is known to backtrack on his statements and has done so once in the past as well which left the NIA red faced before the court. NIA sources tell that they will wait and watch and would not want to jump to any conclusions since these are statements given before a magazine. Not once in our entire questioning of the man has he ever named Mohan Bhagwat and hence there is no reason for us to act suo motu on the case. We will instead wait for a court order and only then act, the NIA official also pointed out.

Continue reading “Bhagwat vs Aseemanand”

NIA readies Sunil Joshi murder chargesheet

suniljoshiThe National Investigation Agency is all set to file its chargesheet in connection with the Sunil Joshi murder case. The agency which has been investigating this case for over a year now say that the motive was to ensure that secrets do not get out and also add that it was the work of his close circle.

The prime intention of the murder on December 29 2007 was to ensure that Joshi does not spill the beans on the activities. Joshi was accused of being an extremist and it was also stated that he was the one who knew everything about the Malegaon blasts. There was a tussle between him and some of associates and he had decided to come clean on the entire issue. This the NIA says was with an intention of entering into public life and he wanted a clean slate. However this did not augur well with the rest of his troop as a result of which they murdered him.

Continue reading “NIA readies Sunil Joshi murder chargesheet”

RSS terror remark- What have the investigators got?


The remark by Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde on terrorism and training camps run by the RSS has created a furore across the nation. It has even given the likes of Hafiz Saeed, top man of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba some ammunition to bash India.

The question is what prompted Shinde to issue such a statement linking the RSS to terrorism by some Hindu fundamentalists and if the investigators have been able to ascertain the direct role of the RSS in the various attacks that rocked the nation in the past couple of years.

Continue reading “RSS terror remark- What have the investigators got?”

Samjautha blasts- NIA gets its man

The arrest of Rajendra Chowdhary in connection with the Samjautha Express blasts is a major breakthrough for the National Investigation Agency. The 32 year old Rajendra Chowdhary has been on the list of thr NIA for quite sometime now. He had a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head and according to the NIA he was one of the persons who planted the bomb on the ill fated train. Continue reading “Samjautha blasts- NIA gets its man”

Malegaon accused gets bail

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The failure on the part of the National Investigating Agency has ensured that an accused in the Malegaon 2008 blasts case got bail. The Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Court (MCOCA) court judge Y D Shinde granted bail to accused in the case, Lokesh Sharma.
The court whil granting him bail ordered him to execute a personal bond of Rs 25000. After his arrest in connection with the Malegaon 2008 case he was produced first before the court on February 27 2012. However the NIA which ought to have filed the charge sheet within 90 days of his arrest failed to do so. The court while taking into account this discrepancy ordered that bail be granted to Sharma.
Sharma was first named by the NIA in the Samjautha blasts case. He is said to have been closely associated with Sunil Joshi and in their remand application the NIA had stated that he was the one who planted the bomb on the train.  During investigation, the NIA is said to have found links between this man the other accused in the Ajmer, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts as well.
A resident of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Sharma according to the NIA was also closely associated with terror masterminds, Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange. The duo are however still absconding.

Samjautha & ors-NIA has much to do and undo

Samjautha Express- pic, dailybhaskar
There was one thing common where the Samjautha Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts are concerned. All these three cases today as per the investigations are inter-linked and it is only a matter of time before the National Investigating Agency closes these cases.
The NIA has a dual job in all these cases now. Apart from having a lot to do they also have a lot to undo in all these cases. When one takes into account all these cases, at least 110 members from the Muslim community were arrested after being blamed for these attacks. While many of the accused in the Mecca Masjid blasts were let off by the court after investigations took a different turn, the same exercise will have to be conducted in the other cases as well.

Slow on Ajmer and Hyderabad:
The NIA will however be bundled with problems before all these cases come to a close. They have managed to file the chargesheet in the Samjautha case and sources say that this was done first only because of the international ramifications it has. Moreover it was also a means of putting pressure on Pakistan to act in the 26/11 case.
Activists from Hyderabad and Ajmer however say that they wished the same speed was applied in these two cases as well. Lateef Mohammad Khan from Hyderabad says that the situation is the same in Ajmer and Hyderabad and there are a lot of people awaiting justice. Only once the NIA files its chargesheet in both these cases will the innocent youth be able to rest in peace. These activists say that the accused persons in all these cases are more or less the same. However they are hoping that the probe would pick up since at the moment it appears as though these two cases have come to a stand still.

Arif Qasmani:
While this is one part of the case the other question that is being asked by several persons is the UN report relating to the Samjautha case. The UN report dated 2009 still shows Arif Qasmani, a close Dawood Aide as the key plotters of the Samjautha express blasts. Qasmani a resident of Karachi who today facilitates the movement of Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan is shown as one of the main accused in this case. It is said that he had raised funds through Dawood to fund this attack.
The Samjautha chargesheet however does make any mention of this which would mean that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba angle is not being looked into. So far as the UN report goes that would be changed once the trial is complete and the information sent across. However what investigators say is that Qasmani continues to be a major threat to India and what they have been able to ascertain is that he was the major player in the 2006 train blasts.

The Confession:
While the NIA was never easy thanks to the multiple angles in all these case, the job was made slightly easier with the confession of Swami Aseemanand. However today he has decided to withdraw the confession stating that it was done under duress. The NIA however points out that confessions are never the sole aspect of a chargesheet. The leads are picked up from the confession and independent investigations are conducted based on those leads. The withdrawal of the confession would not have any impact on the case. The links and the roles of these persons have been ascertained and now the battle is before the court. His confession also covered both the. Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts and this withdrawal will not have any impact on any of these cases, investigators also pointed out.

Indresh Kumar: This was one of the names that did the rounds all through the past few months. However Kumar has not been shown as an accused in the Samjautha chargesheet. No doubt that the NIA dug very deep into this particular angle of this case, but the fact was that the material which was found on him was not convincing enough to name him as an accused in the case. The investigators however point out that this is no indication that a clean chit has been given. It is just that more evidence needs to be brought forward in order to even name him in the case.
Moreover the case relating to Kumar is not a simple one. Considering the position that he holds any wrong move could have horrible political ramifications and hence the NIA would want to tread carefully on this aspect.
Indresh Kumar was once questioned by the CBI and is likely to be questioned by the NIA too. They would also be exploring the alleged rivalry between Colonel Purohith and Indresh Kumar in order to get further leads on this angle to the case.

The absconders:
While it is believed that the Ajmer, Samjautha and Mecca Masjid blasts were carried out by one module while the Malegaon blasts were staged by another, investigators would continue to see if the two are linked. Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange are the common persons in all these attacks. Swami Aseemanand too had spoken about Kalsanghra and Dange stating that they had bombed Malegaon.
While investigators feel that the big fish have been netted in all these cases, there are many aspects that remain incomplete thanks to the fact that two very crucial operatives are still missing. Dange and Kalsanghra are very crucial not only to the case but also to the busting of these modules. Take all the blasts mentioned above. These two were part of each and every meeting. They have taken part in meetings convened by Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Sunil Joshi and also Aseemanand. Moreover these were not ordinary foot soldiers and had ample information on the functioning of the entire module. The duo were extremely close to Sunil Joshi (now dead) who is considered to be the big boss of all these operations. In fact it was Joshi who wanted the Samjautha express blasts to be carried out as he wanted to eliminate the Pakistanis on the train. Not only will the duo provide information on all the operations and the manner in which the modules have been functioning, but they will also be able to help investigators find more clues on the Joshi murder, which again is suspected to be an insider job.

The extremist turf war in Nepal

The chargesheet in the Samjautha Express blasts case which was filed recently states that two crucial players in the case are still absconding. Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange are two very crucial players, not only in this case but also in those incidents relating to the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts.

The National Investigating Agency does realise the importance of nabbing both these men and say that a finality to this entire terror cycle can be attained only once these two are in custody.

The NIA is on a hot trail of these two men, but the more important question is where are these men hiding. Some intelligence inputs go on to suggest that the moment was heat was up, they managed to slip into Nepal. This is not the first time that a person from this module has taken shelter in Nepal. Praveen Muthalik who is an accused in the Malegaon blasts too has taken the same route. He was however nabbed when he made a visit to India a couple of months back.

The Nepal corridor has been often discussed and this used to be a primary route for ISI sponsored terror groups. However there is now a clear turf war on in this country between the two modules-one from India and the other from Pakistan. According to sources in the Intelligence Bureau, most of the Pakistan based modules have now shifted operations to Bangladesh since they find that to be a safer haven.

When some fringe elements within the Abhinav Bharath set out to carry out terror attacks one of the aspects that was discussed was relating to the hideouts. Every terror group when it commences operations takes into consideration this very important aspect since they need to find a safe haven once the attack is carried out.

These elements had discussed the possibility of Nepal being a hide out once operations were completed. The main issue at that time however was that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Dawood Gang were using this base extensively and they did not want any clash with them. Over the years, they started to set up modules within Nepal and also created a safe route to slip out once an attack was carried out. This group however did not exercise this option for quite sometime since all the attacks that were being carried out by them were being attributed to the Muslims. However when the investigations took a different turn, some of the key men involved in the attacks began moving into Nepal. For this group Nepal was the best option since it is a familiar terrain for them. The language, the culture were similar and hence they found it easier to gel with the locals there and remain undercover.

Once these modules in Nepal were activated there were changes in the Lashkar modules. There was a clash between the two modules and this prompted the Lashkar to close down several of its modules and shift into Bangladesh.The Lashkar too found this to be a better option when compared to Nepal since their operatives were finding it more comfortable to be in Bangladesh once again due to the similarities in cultures.

Investigations into the Samjautha, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts have gone on to show that there are very few modules within India. These men did thrive on the moral support of some people. Moreover it was also learnt that they did want to keep their operations a secret and hence did not involve too many people. Right from the planning stages, to the logistics and then the execution, the operations were known only to a hand full of people. The plan was to build up more modules within India over a period of time while they had decided to use all the modules created in Nepal as hide outs.

The NIA is however doing a proper check on the whereabouts of the two absconding men and are even ready to bring them down from Nepal. There are no major issues on the diplomatic front to bring down criminals and hence this task should not be difficult. However they would want to be 100 per cent sure before they can make a final move. The NIA does realise that the probe will hit a road block if these two men are not nabbed and hence the trail on them is really hot.

Malegaon chargesheet-Its ATS vs NIA
It was an interesting move on part of the ATS which went ahead and filed a 305 page chargesheet against Praveen Muthalik in the Malegaon case. This chargesheet is significant since it comes at a time when the National Investigation Agency has been ordered to take up the same case and re probe it.
What can one expect in such an event? Many questions are being asked and this development makes one wonder whether Home Minister P Chidamambaram was right when he told the US Ambassador that he doubted the legality of the constitution of the NIA.
However going by the rules of the NIA it clearly states that it can take over any investigation pertaining to terrorism in the country. Now that this has been done in the Malegaon case, the question is what relevance does the ATS chargesheet have? Legal experts term the chargesheet as a mere formality because the NIA will sooner or later file a fresh chargesheet which will finally be the one which will be referred when the trial commences.
At no point would the investigating agency want to try and push two chargesheets into the court room which tries these accused. The accused would get an upper hand in the case and seek an acquittal on the grounds of double jeopardy. This clearly means that the chargesheet which has been filed by the ATS will not be the one used during the trial. The accused in the case would have to wait to much longer before their case could go on trial.
The NIA would certainly probe the case afresh and as per Rule 6 of the NIA act of 2008 they have the power to take fresh statements from all the accused who find a mention in the ATS chargesheet. Sources say that the NIA investigators would go through the entire exercise once again and only then come out with a chargesheet.
Ganesh Sovani, advocate for Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur one of the accused in the Malegaon case says that the chargesheet by the ATS is a formality and it is their perception that they have put into it. Ultimately the matter will be probed by the NIA and it is their chargesheet that would prevail. Whether the NIA would depend on the chargesheet filed by the ATS would be a matter that one would have to wait and see. However it seems unlikely since if that is done then the very purpose of the NIA taking over the case becomes a futile exercise.
The Malegaon case will be the first time that the rules of the NIA will be tested. Indications are that the ATS will not go to trial with the chargesheet that they have filed today and would instead wait for the NIA to take over and put forth their version before the court.
Moreover the NIA probing the Malegaon case makes more sense considering the scope and the jurisdiction that the agency has. Sources say that going by the statement of Swami Aseemanand, it makes it clear that the Malegaon case was linked to the Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and also the Samjautha Express blasts. The NIA will not view both the Malegaon cases as individual cases but would join the dots where the other cases are concerned. The NIA so far has independently probed all the accused involved in this case and are still on the hunt for Ramji Kalasanghra and Dange who are most crucial to the case.