Colonel Purohit’s bail plea in Malegaon blasts case rejected

col prasad-shrikant-purohit
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The Bombay high court has denied the bail plea filed by Lt Colonel S Purohit in connection with the Malegaon blasts case. The same court that granted Sadhvi Pragya Singh bail in the case refused to entertain the application filed by Purohit.

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Samjautha blasts- Is this priest the link?

Pic: Sify
Pic: Sify

The National Investigation Agency claims that it is getting closer to cracking the Samjautha Express blasts case. The latest arrest of Ram Lakhan Maharaj who also goes by the alias Dhan Singh is yet another breakthrough for the NIA which will help it inch close towards closing the case. Dhan Singh who according to the NIA is a key conspirator in the Samjautha blasts case was working as a priest at a temple. He was a close friend of Sunil Joshi and also the suspected bomber who planted the explosives on the bike at Malegaon. Continue reading “Samjautha blasts- Is this priest the link?”

Malegaon- Who planted the bomb?

There is a sense of relief in Malegaon after the youth who were said to be falsely accused got bail in the blasts case of 2006. It is just a matter of time before the National Investigating Agency files its status report on the case in which the likes of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Purohith are alleged to be involved.

It is pretty much a straight forward case for the NIA and the entire focus of the probe has been on the basis of the Swami Aseemanand confession statement despite the same being retracted. The confession by Aseemanand has acted as a guide for the NIA and has made the job easier and all they needed to do was to join the dots and make sense out of the confession.

As per the law there would be an argument before the court regarding the statement being retracted. Even if the court permits it to be retracted it does not prevent the NIA from using the information to gather more leads and till date it has used the details of the confession to obtain the leads into the case.

Legally Aseemanand’s retraction of his statement would not make much of a difference according to legal experts. He will have to prove before the trial court that the statement was made under duress and he would the court would also direct the Magistrate before whom the statement was made to testify before the court regarding the same aspect. However the NIA would be watchful and would use the confession only to obtain leads rather than make it a document before the court.

The biggest point of debate regarding the investigations into the Malegaon 2006 blasts in particular is regarding the persons who have planted the bomb. After the Hemanth Karkare angle to the probe started becoming public, the first of the angles was that Colonel Purohith had threatened some Muslim Youth from the Students Islamic Movement of India to prepare the bombs since they had the required expertise. However a while later it was also said that some Muslim youth were hired to plant the bombs.

There is however a third angle to this issue pertaining to the planting of the bombs. This was in fact revealed in great lengths during the investigation into the Nanded blasts which is considered to be the mother incident leading up to the various blasts allegedly carried out by Hindu groups. Although the Nanded blasts was a flop operation, there was something very interesting that the investigators found.

During a  raid that was conducted after the blasts the police found the Muslim attire, fake beards and caps at the place where the operation was being planned. During the course of the investigation it was also found that these men had planned on dressing up like Muslims while planting the bombs so that the blame falls on the other community. Now this is one of the possibilities in the Malegaon case as well.

This is a big debating point in Malegaon and some of the people feel that the hiring of Muslims to plant the bomb angle is being deliberately brought in as a face saving measure. Some activists who did not want to be named feel that there is a great need for the investigators to justify the fact that some Muslim youth were targeted after the blasts and hence they would like to focus on the above mentioned angle. The argument is when it could happen in Nanded then why not at Malegaon as well.

Investigators have found a lot of similarities between the Nanded and Malegaon operations. What Swami Aseemanand had said in his confession statement before retracting it matches up to the probe into the Nanded blasts. One of the accused in the Nanded blasts, Manohar Rao had confessed to having procured the Muslim attire, beards and also the caps. The accused persons said that they did not want the blame falling on the Hindu outfits and wanted the same to point towards the Muslims. Hence if they planted the bombs in that attire then the eye witness statements would point in the other direction. This was the same modus operandi that was adopted for the operations at Jalna, Purna and Parbhani. Further this module had also created a couple of email ids in the names of Muslims once again with an intention of misguiding the investigators.

Even the sourcing of the explosives were from Pune and the funding for the operation was done on a very small scale. These were through donations and also small businesses. Moreover the motives that have been spelt out in all these blasts are also very similar. The Aseemanand probe does not go into any detail regarding the operations at Nanded, Parbhani, Jalna and Purna. The Aseemanand confession relates to Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Samjautha and Ajmer. This gives the indication that the modules that were in operation were completely different, but the pattern, modus operandi and the motives were very similar. The accused in the Nanded case said that they wanted to hit back at the Dawood Ibhraim gang for helping terrorists carry out the Gateway of India blasts of 2003. On the other hand Aseemanand too in his confession speaks of similar revenge while making the very famous statement bomb ka badla bomb.

The NIA may file a status report in a couple of days, but according to its own officials the Malegaon case is a very difficult one. This like the rest of the cases like Mecca Masjid has a lot to be undone since the probe was on a different line all these years. In addition to this the cases cannot be treated as one off cases as there are four cases which are inter linked and spread across the nation.

Mecca Masjid to Modasa, NIA to probe all

Taking into account that there is a strong link between the Mecca Masjid, Ajmer, Malegaon and four other blast cases, all these incidents will now be probed by a single agency, the National Investigating Agency.
The cases that will now come under one single umbrella are the Malegaon blasts of 2006 (currently under CBI), Mecca Masjid blasts case (CBI), Malegaon blasts of 2008 (Maharashtra ATS), Ajmer Blasts (Rajasthan ATS), Samjautha express blasts (NIA), Modasa blasts (NIA) and the Sunil Joshi murder case (MP police).
Sources say that it was necessary to bring all these cases under one agency since they were all interlinked. Going by the investigations and confessions before the various agencies probing these cases, it became important that they were all probed by one agency. Although the CBI which is also a central agency could have taken up this case, it was handed over to the NIA since this agency was specially formed and an Act put in place only to probe cases specific to terrorism.
A source added that the extent to which the probe had reached was the Aseemanand confession. A lot about all the above mentioned cases revolved around his confession. During the probe of the Samjautha blasts case by the NIA it was noticed that the same men had a role to play in all these above cases. The missing links were Ramji Kalasanghra and Dange for which the NIA has launched a massive man hunt.
Although the NIA had managed to gather information regarding the Samjautha blasts on its own, it was becoming tough to probe the case since there were six other cases which were inter linked. In order to investigate cases such as these it becomes important for any agency to join the dots and interlink all the cases connected to it. The NIA was looking for a lot of information and the probe was being slowed down as they had to rely heavily on the other agencies which were looking into the other cases.
Sources say that Kalasanghra and Dange are the two major operatives in these cases. Their whereabouts could be found out through the likes of Aseemanand, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Purohith. Hence there is a need to keep questioning these people and if the probe is under the NIA then they can freely question them instead of going through the state agency which is currently looking into some of these cases. For the NIA however the crucial case would be the murder of Sunil Joshi. They can pick a lot of leads from this case and there have often been complaints that the Madhya Pradesh government is not doing enough to look into this case.
Another aspect that will help in this probe would be the fact that the NIA can draw up its own data regarding the modules and cells used by these persons to carry out the blasts. There are said to be modules in Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and also Maharashtra. It is very obvious that the members who executed these blasts juggled modules to carry out the blasts and if these probes are under one agency then it would only make the job easier.
Unlike a CBI probe there is no need for an approval from the state governments for an NIA probe. The act makes it clear that a permission from the state government is not needed in order to hand over a probe to the NIA. However the states are informed so that the police lend a cooperative hand. While all states have agreed for an NIA probe, the union government may need to convince the Madhya Pradesh government to hand over the Joshi murder case to the NIA since it does not exactly fall under the purview of a case of terrorism per se.

what led to the murder of Joshi?

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The name of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi has been doing the rounds for quite some time. Ever since the Malegaon case version 2 was out in the open his name surfaced. The first time that his name came out was following the murder of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur who today has been chargesheeted for the murder of Joshi.

During the first part of the investigation, it was said that the Sadhvi was in a relationship with Joshi. However according to these people Joshi was killed by members of the Students Islamic Movement of India and hence to avenge this, Sadhvi decided to take revenge and plotted the Malegaon blasts.

However there is an entirely different version to this case today. The chargesheet filed by the Madhya Pradesh police states clearly that she was the one who masterminded this killing. The big question is why was this done?

The plan to counter Islamic terrorism was hatched several years back. The likes of Colonel Purohith, Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Swami Aseemanand, Swami Dayanand Pandey, Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsanghra and the rest were all part of this. Joshi was a crucial operative in this ring.

When the Abhinav Bharath launched itself with its so called propaganda of protecting Hindu interests, they realised that they needed to monitor the movements of the SIMI which was undoubtadely Lashkar-e-Tayiba’s Indian outfit. The Abhivav Bharath was new to the concept of terrorism and they thought that they needed to trail the SIMI activists and also understand how they functioned. During the interrogation of Purohith it became clear that the manner in which the bombs were made were all adopted from the SIMI cadres.

Hence the Abhivav Bharath wanted a man to be on this job and mingle with the activists of SIMI. The choice was Joshi who moved around with these cadres for nearly three years. During this period he started sharing information about SIMI activities and also picked up the manner in which they set up their modules and also procured equipments to carry out bomb blasts.

Today despite a chargesheet being filed against Sadhvi, confusion still looms large over the death of the 45 year old Sunil Joshi. Speaking to the investigating agencies both in the Madhya Pradesh police as well the Central Bureau of Investigation it becomes clear that Joshi had too much information on him. The stronger version that the police give out is that he was absconding following the murder Pyar Singh Nenama. There was a massive hunt for Joshi and his team mates felt that his arrest may lead to him spilling the beans on the entire outfit and their operations. However doubts are raised over this theory since a section feel that he was well protected since he had a friendly government in Madhya Pradesh and also the fact he was too committed to the cause to even spill the beans.

Another angle which investigating agencies would seriously probing is Joshi’s affiliation with the SIMI. He led most of his life post his association with the Abhinav Bharath, underground. Investigating officers say during his stint with the SIMI, he mingled day and night with them. In fact he had become a part of them and this had started to worry his group members. They were under the lurking fear that he may spill the beans to the SIMI members or may even get caught with them since at that point of time, the heat was exceptionally high on the members of the SIMI. During his last days there was a great deal of misunderstanding between him and his outfit members. He maintained that he was only undertaking the job of counter terrorism which was assigned to him. However his associates misunderstood this and felt that he may end up spilling the beans on them which eventually led to his murder.

The case is however at a very premiliminary stage and the MP police may well file an application to file an additional chargesheet in this case. Advocate for Sadvhi, Ganesh Sovani says that he is yet to receive a copy of the chargesheet. This is something new to me and I am yet to look into it. However I would also like to add that all through the investigations into the Malegaon case and the arguments that followed, this angle had never cropped up.

Is the Malegaon probe inching towards a closure?

The investigations into the Malegaon blasts are inching towards a close with the ATS arresting Praveen Muthal. Praveen Muthalik who was a member of both the Abhinav Bharath and the Shri Ram Sena was picked up and is being interrik.ogated for his role in the Malegaon blasts.
Initialy reports of his interrogation make it clear that he was the man who helped with the logistics and also was one among the three who planted the bombs at Malegaon.
The ATS was on the look out for Muthalik for quite sometime and now information that trickles in goes on to suggest that he had been hiding in Nepal and the intelligence had kept a track on his phone calls at all times. It was only recently that he came down to Karnataka from where he was picked up.
Muthalik hails from Gokak in Karnataka and his name had cropped up for the very first time during the interrogation of Colonel Purohith of the Abhinav Bharath who has also been arrested for his role in the Malegaon blasts. The name of Muthalik also found a mention in the interrogation of Dayanand Pandey a self styled god man also wanted in the same case.
If one notices the manner in which the Abhinav Bharath went about its activities there is a shocking resemblence to the manner in which the Students Islamic Movement of India operated. The entire modus operandi of the SIMI had been replicated by the Abhinav Bharath to ensure that they do not get caught. Investigators point out that Purohith who was part of the military intelligence had a lot of information on him regarding the manner in which the SIMI operated and used the exact same modus operandi to carry out activities of the Abhinav Bharath as well. Drawing similarities to the manner in which both these outfits functioned it becomes clear that the Abhinav Bharath was trying to replicate SIMI. The manner in which they were setting up modules, the preparation of the bombs and even the same hide outs were used so that all trails of the police force led to SIMI which is also notorious for its terror related activities.
Muthalik, ATS officials say was an important member of this gang. He has with him a lot of answers to modus operandi.
The investigations relating to Muthalik so far show that he along with Sameer Dange and Ramji Kalasanghra carried out the Malegaon blasts at the insistence of both Purohith and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. Immediately after the blasts, Muthalik went missing and the intercepts that have been picked up on him suggested that he was hiding in Nepal along with both Dange and Kalsanghra. The investigators suspect that Dange and Kalsanghra too may be hiding in Nepal and the NIA has already put out a Rs 10 lakh reward for the person giving more information on these two men.
Apart from this the CBI would also question him since they believe that he had a role to play in the Mecca Masjid blasts. The more important aspect however is that investigators suspect that these men have hidden away some explosives. At the time the Malegaon blasts were carried out there were a lot of explosives that had been sourced and only a portion of it had been used, investigators say.
Investigators say that Muthalik had been the perfect person for the Abhinav Bharath since he was a smart operator. He travelled a lot collected information and also provided logistics for operations. He never had a full time job and always did odd jobs to stay undercover. There were times when he worked as a news paper agent and at times he also worked at a cell phone shop. He was very much in the inner circle of the Abhinav Bharath and hence his arrest becomes extremely important for the agencies to put up a water tight case.

What ATS seeks from Muthalik

The Maharashtra Anti-terror Squad made a very important arrest in the Malegaon blast case late Monday night. Praveen Muthalik, who is said to be one of the executors of the blast, was arrested and later remanded in police custody till February 14. He had been absconding for nearly two years.

The ATS has been on his trail since his name figured in the interrogation of Colonel Srikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, other accused in the case. The ATS had even gone to Karnataka two years back to look for Muthalik but returned empty handed.

Muthalik’s arrest solves a major problem for the ATS. He is important since he is one of the three persons who planted the bomb in 2006, which killed several people. Two others in the team — Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange — are absconding. Muthalik’s arrest may help the ATS make sense out of the case and also help investigating agencies in their search for Dange and Kalasanghra.

Interestingly the confession of Swami Aseemanand, who is an accused in several blasts cases, does not make any mention of Muthalik. However, investigators say that this does not indicate that Muthalik was not involved since Aseemanand’s confession regarding the Malegaon incident is very vague. He only says that he met with Dange and Kalsanghra and both had told him that they had returned from Maharashtra and two days later he had read about the Malegaon blasts.

ATS sources say that Muthalik was part of the gang which executed the Malegaon attack. They are not sure whether he had any role to play in the other blasts in which the names of his accomplices, Dange and Kalsanghra, have cropped up.

Many other agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency will want to quiz Muthalik. Apart from information regarding the other two missing accomplices, Muthalik may also have information regarding the sourcing of the RDX used in the blasts, which still remains a mystery.

An earlier version that Purohit had stolen them from the army and sourced it for the Malegaon blast has not been established and the ATS has been hoping that Muthalik will provide those answers.
Muthalik’s interrogation will be very crucial for investigators as they try and join the dots in the case.

Why did Purohith want to kill Indresh Kumar?

Indresh Kumar. Photo courtesy: Samay Live
The name of RSS leader Indresh Kumar has often made the rounds in the past couple of months in connection with various acts of terror which the country has witnessed. Barring a few instances of some of the accused taking his name, the investigating agencies have not yet managed to get anything concrete against him as of now.
However what both the NIA and the CBI are looking into now is the statement allegedly made by Colonel Srikanth Purohith in which he said that he wanted to kill Indresh Kumar and a plot to attain the same had also been hatched.
Although these revealations are not directly connected to the ongoing investigations into the Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer or Samjautha blasts case, investigating agencies are keen to find out more since it indicates that there was a clear split in this network.
What is more important in this angle to the investigation is that Purohith also goes on to claim that Kumar had alleged links to the ISI. Sources say that this allegation forms part of an intelligence report from the military and they will need to probe further on it since if it is true then it is a very disturbing development.
Sources told that there was constant confrontation between Indresh Kumar and Purohith of the Abhinav Bharath and the the latter had hatched a plan to eliminate him. While Purohith claims that it was a total conflict of interest that made him hatch such a plan, officials point out that this conspiracy could have been hatched since Purohith and the rest felt betrayed that Kumar didn’t do much to protect them as had been allegedly promised.
The first of the problems between the two began during the Nepal issue. Purohith had been very vocal that there should not be a regime change in Nepal since he felt that under the King, it was a complete Hindu Rashtra. However according to him, Kumar didn’t do too much to ensure that the King’s rule remained and there was not the required amount of tinkering in that administration which eventually led to the king being dethroned.
Further there is also an allegation that Kumar may have had a vested interest in Nepal since he had some personal business which in turn has upset Purohith as he felt that at no cost a Hindu rashtra should be compromised due to vested interests.
Going by the interrogation of Purohith it comes to light that he was a hardliner. He had no other interest but to counter the ISI which he felt had become a big menace for India. All through his interrogation he has stuck to this fact. He also goes on to say that he was focused on attaining a Hindu nation and for this all ISI elements had to be eliminated. It was in this regard that he launched the Abhinav Bharath. He roped in cadres and also businessmen from Pune to fund his operations, his interrogation has also revealed. He also branched out his outfit to do separate jobs such as finances, arms supply and logistics. He was however particular that people like Kumar should not remain in this network since he had felt betrayed and cheated by him.
The ATS Maharashtra which has been probing Purohith have found certain versions regarding this conspiracy to be contradictory in nature. One version that they initially got from Purohith was that he was asked to kill Kumar. However one of the financiers of the outfit, Shyam Apte claimed that it was purohith who launched this plan. HOwever the investigations so far have shown that he had first complained to the army regarding Kumar and his links across the border, but they were never taken seriously and hence he decided to do this by himself.
During the planning stages he also tried to rope in Sadhwi Pragya Singh into this conspiracy, but she had refused since she had high regard for Kumar. Purohith is alleged to have told Pragya Singh about this plan and had also sent two persons to her and asked her to accommodate them until they needed to go ahead with the plan. However she had flatly refused to be part of this operation and there is a lurking doubt that she may have also informed Kumar about this plan.
As per investigations it has been found that this plan was hatched in the year 2008 in New Delhi. He had gone to an ashram in Faridabad along with a retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer and Bharath to carry out this assassination. Over there he met with Dayanand Pandey a god man and here it was decided that they would need to procure arms and ammunitions to carry out this attack on Indresh Kumar.
Ganesh Sovani, advocate for Pragya Singh however said that these aspects have not come up for probe since they do not find any mention in the reports handed out by the investigating agencies.
The plan to eliminate Kumar however did not materialize since Purohith was arrested and the entire operation fell flat.