Samjautha-what track is the NIA on?

The Samjautha Blasts chargesheet was finally filed after many twists and turns to the case. The accused now in the case are Swami Asimanand, the late Sunil Joshi, Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalasangra.

Although half the accused are either missing or are dead, the NIA has still gone ahead with this chargesheet and this is being seen as a measure to apply more pressure on Pakistan which is doing absolutely nothing about the 26/11 attack. The biggest talking point for Pakistan was the Samjautha Express blasts case ever since Swami Aseemanand made some stunning revelations about the persons really behind the blasts.
On February 18 2007 a conspiracy was hatched to blast this train. The plan was executed to perfection and at Panipat on that fateful day the blast was carried out which resulted in the death of 68 lives. India was quick to suspect the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and accused it of attempting to derail the peace talks between India and Pakistan. The first round of investigations were conducted by the Special Investigating Team, Haryana and when they drew a blank the case was handed over to the National Investigating Agency only last year.

The chargesheet today which depends largely on the confession by Aseemanand states that he along with Sunil Joshi, Kalsanghra, Dange and Lokesh Sharma entered into a conspiracy in order to carry out this attack. Aseemanand had said during his confession that he was angered with the terrorism being carried out by jihadi outfits. During his various meetings with his associates he had proclaimed that the only answers for bombs is bombs. He also said that this train was chosen due to the large number of Pakistani citizens who travel on it.

As per the chargesheet, Aseemanand provided the finances and logistical support while Dange and the rest under the guidance of Joshi procured the material such as IEDs and executed the attack.

The NIA says that the chargesheet had to be filed due to procedure and if it was time barred then the accused could have sought bail on a technicality. However none of them say that this was done in a hurry so as to put pressure on Pakistan which is investigating the 26/11 case as well.

The Road ahead: The road ahead is long and it would be quite a task before the entire investigation to the case is complete. Swami Aseemanand is the only strong link that there is in the case and he is in custody. He has spoken almost everything that was available and he has also managed to provide the required leads for the NIA. Although confident, the NIA would still wait and see if Aseemanand maintains his confession when he is finally put on trial.

The next big link to the case was Sunil Joshi. This man who was murdered under mysterious circumstances is considered to be the over all chief of this group. He was good at logistics and his cronies such as Dange and Kalsanghra reported directly to him. He was the man with most of the answers such as the modules and the cells which were set up by this group.

However with Joshi dead, the biggest links to this case are now Dange and Kalsanghra. The NIA had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh on their head, but till date the whereabouts of the two continue to be unknown. It would take some effort for the NIA to track these two men down since according to sources they are both believed to be hiding in Nepal. The NIA is however keeping a close tab on the two of them and their whereabouts.

However this case is not just about the four men in question. It is a well known fact that these men have not executed just the Samjautha blasts. They are behind the Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts as well. It is a well planned attack and has been carried out with a lot of logistic support from the local modules of these respective places.

The NIA says that the two absconding men will have some answers to this. However to get cracking on the entire modus operandi we would need to look at the three cases in its totality since it is the same module which has executed the attacks.

In addition to all this the NIA is also looking for another accused in the case by the name Amit. He was an associate of the Dange and helped him execute the three blasts. Amit carries a reward of Rs 2 lakh on his head. He is also believed to be hiding in Nepal with Kalsangra and Dange.

Mecca Masjid-4 years later

Photo courtesy: The Hindu

The Mecca Masjid blasts at Hyderabad was a turning point for terrorism in India. Four years have gone by and while the Muslim community in Hyderabad blame their representatives for not doing enough, the investigations on the other hand continue to move on at a snail’s pace.

It is a well known fact that it was the Harkat-ul-Jihadi which was initially blamed for the blasts. The reason given out by the police at that time was this blast was carried out to create a divide in society. However three years later everything changed and some Hindu elements were brought to book for this incident and what sealed matters was a confessional statement by Swami Aseemanand who went on to claim that it was they who carried out the blasts.

Today the case is being handled by the National Investigation Agency and last month they had visited the blast site and reconstructed the incident as part of investigation procedure. An NIA source said that these things take time and we cannot conduct an investigation as per media pressure. We are doing our work and the interrogation of several accused in on. We are also on the trail of Ramji Kalsanghra and Dange who will help provide more leads to the case. We are looking to close the case in the next couple of months, the source also said.

At the moment the NIA has in its custody, Swami Aseemanand, Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma for their involvement in the case.

Lateed Mohammad Khan, convenor of the Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee which has been fighting the case of the Muslim youth who were falsely implicated in this case says that the Muslim representatives have failed to fulfill their responsibilities at a time they needed them the most. All we Muslims are upset with them because instead of making the government of Andhra Pradesh accountable they decided to play defensive. There was no one to console the families of the people died in the blast and firing. They were treated worse than the animals. Police spread such terrorism that the families of the dead could not even perform the last rites properly. People were prevented from joining the last prayer for the deceased.

He further adds that nabbing the culprits is not sufficient in the case. The Hyderabad police have played a role in this and the NIA would do well to investigate this angle to the case as well. We believe that the police provided logistic support to the Hindutva terrorists. Immediately after the blast, police started firing on innocent people which helped these culprits get a safe passage to escape.

We do not understand the attitude of the Government. It had constituted the Bhaskar Rao commission of inquiry to probe the case and it has even submitted a report to the government last year. However the government refuses to table the report or even make it public. This is being avoided since the report mentions the names of several police officers which the government wants to protect. The report further speaks about the torture of the Muslim youth and how they were electrocuted while in custody.

At the end of four years the Muslim community in Hyderabad have the following demands:

-Table the Bhaskar Rao Commission report in the Assembly.

-Investigate the Makkah Masjid bomb blast and subsequent police firing seriously.

-Full stop to the Hindutva terrorism and book these terrorists under rule of law.

-Secular parties and Muslim representatives should fulfill their responsibilities.

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.

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 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.