Malegaon to Samjhauta: How politics of terror derailed these cases

New Delhi, Apr 18: The BJP after selecting Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as its candidate from Bhopal said that the decision was taken to punish the Congress for its Hindu terror bogey.

The Congress said it would request the EC to review its decision, as the campaign did not name any person.

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Malegaon, Samjautha blasts: A standstill as NIA yet to set up special court

  
The Malegaon and Samjautha blast cases have come to a virtual standstill in the absence of a special court being set up by the National Investigating Agency.
We have no idea when the special court will be set up and unless the same is done, the matter will not progress, the counsel for several accused persons say.
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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”

Sadhvi Pragya cleared of Joshi murder

Sadhwi Pradnya Thakur. Photo courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/
Sadhwi Pradnya Thakur. Photo courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/

After an ordeal of six long years, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur will be given a clean chit in the Sunil Joshi murder case. Sunil Joshi who has been named as an accused in the Malegaon and Samjautha Express blasts case was found murdered at Dewas on December 29 2007.

The National Investigation Agency which was handling this case had named Pragya Singh Thakur, Harshad Solanki, Vasudev Parmar, Anand Raj Kataria and Ramcharan Patel in the case. However during the course of the investigation the NIA found nothing on the above mentioned persons and have now decided to drop charges against them in the Joshi murder case.

Continue reading “Sadhvi Pragya cleared of Joshi murder”

Right wing terror vs state of Maharashtra

Pic: NDTV

The Maharashtra government conveyed a strong message when it stated that it proposes to act tough on right wing terror. In a recently filed affidavit before the Bombay High Court it indicated that it had recommended to the Union Government to ban Sanathan Sanstha under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Continue reading “Right wing terror vs state of Maharashtra”

An aling NIA- Witch hunt or ego?

Pic-indianetzone.com

In a span of hardly 5 days two persons accused in the Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts case were granted bail by the court. Ironically the bail granted was not on the basis of merit, but thanks to the failure of the National Investigating Agency to file a charge sheet in the stipulated time frame of 90 days as mandated by the Code of Criminal Procedure. A clear indicator that in both these cases the NIA has not managed to put up a case for the courts to take cognizance.

The first question that comes to mind is whether the NIA has enough against these accused persons who they rounded up by the dozen. However while speaking to scores of officials in Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan it becomes very clear that it is an ugly ego battle on between the local police and the NIA which is hurting the cases bad.

Many legal experts and police officials who have been following these cases closely (Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and Samjautha) are of the view that the road ahead for the NIA looks very tough and there may be many more accused who would come out on bail due to the fact that the charge sheets are not filed in the mandatory period.

On the first of June, a Hyderabad court granted bail to an accused by the name Bharath Ratheshwar. The NIA had arrested him in connection with the Mecca Masjid Blasts case. The court had granted him bail on the ground that the NIA had failed to file a charge sheet even after being granted time of 180 days. The Cr.PC makes it clear that a charge sheet shall be filed in 90 days after the arrest failing which the accused is entitled for bail unless the investigating agency is able to give sufficient reason for the delay.

On Tuesday another accused in the Malegaon blasts-2008, Lokesh Sharma secured bail on similar grounds that the NIA was not able to file the charge sheet in the 90 day stipulated period.

In addition to this there have been other cases too in which bail has been granted to the accused. Sham Sahu, Shivnarayan Kalsanghra and Ajay Rahirkar, all accused in the Malegaon case too were granted bail. While granting bail to these accused persons, Justice A M Thipsay of the Bombay High Court had virtually held that there was no evidence against these persons. They were granted bail after spending three years in jail.

While the NIA says that these are complex cases and need a lot of time for investigation, many others feel that the proofs are not coming by because the investigation or re-investigation into these cases started off as a witch hunt exercise for political reasons.

NIA sources say that there has been lack of cooperation from the local police who form the back bone of any investigation. Moreover these cases were investigated in a particular direction for many years and we got the job to un do the mess which has only made the job much harder. The basic piece of evidence is procured by any investigating agency from the spot where the incident took place. The accused were walking free for nearly four years before we could take over the probe and during this period a lot of evidence has gone missing.

The local police who were initially handling these cases say that the NIA has been pretty arrogant while handling these cases. They cannot look at the police personnel as accused in the case and treat them as one. Just because they are a centralised agency that does not mean we are subordinates and we too need to be treated properly.

However the basic understanding that one gets while looking at these developments is that the cases have been used more as political weapons. Ganesh Sovani who represents Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the Malegaon case says that this is a result of witch hunt. They have conducted arrests on the anticipation that these persons are accused in the case. It is nothing but an artificial investigation in furtherance to fix people for political needs. When the start of an investigation itself is such then the NIA is left with very little choice but to fabricate evidence. However it wont be too long before the cat is out of the bag because even the courts these days are very cautious while dealing with such cases.

The NIA has appeared desperate while handling these cases, says a senior police official. They are definitely under pressure to crack these cases. The agency was set up with a great deal of hype and we had all welcomed the formation of a central agency. However when goes through the Harshal Vasani case from Rajasthan it becomes clear that the NIA is desperate. Vasani had filed an affidavit stating that he was offered Rs 1 crore by the NIA to name a couple of senior RSS leaders in these attacks.

The news on the ground level too is not too good and it has become evident that the NIA has been getting no support from the local police. The tussle if clear as we speak to some of the police men who had initially handled these cases. They have a long list of complaints against the NIA. However what one gets to see is that it is a clear ego battle. What has emerged is unhealthy competition and this is hurting the probe. Many even point out that the NIA has been trying to undo their investigation. If they are trying to undo the investigation that means we are helping those who are trying to put us in bad light.

The NIA which says that the local police have not been helpful say that they get answers in yes or no and on some occasions have been told to refer to the earlier reports for their probe. A probe can never work on a yes or no and we need more details. Moreover what is the point in referring to earlier reports when they were wrong in the first place.

The other issue that the NIA faces is that most of the junior officers have often told them to speak to their seniors in the department. Now, in order to speak to higher ups there is a procedure that ought to be adhered to and this obviously takes up a lot of time. The other issue that they have found is the lack of support from the local intelligence wings. The local intelligence wing and the local police work in tandem and it appears as though they have ganged up against the NIA which again is hurting their cause no end.

The case status with regard to the above mentioned blasts is nothing to boast about for the NIA. There have been scores of arrests that have taken place, but the NIA is falling short at the crucial moment. There have been many conspiracy angles and also one must mention that some accused who had made sensational revelations have withdrawn their statements. All this put together is making the dots very hard to join.

Right-wing terror-Probe on or gone?

It is a fact that the blasts right from Nanded to Malegaon were all inter-linked. Although a different set of persons carried out the attacks, the fact remains that the entire operation emerged out of one similar module. The National Investigation Agency has managed to ascertain that the ammunition for the blasts at Nanded, Modasa, Samjautha, Ajmer, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid were all procured from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh.

The NIA has many in its custody and there are also some who are absconding. It has been almost a year since the NIA was handed over the charge of all the above mentioned cases. But there appears to be something drastically wrong with the manner in which the probe is taking place today as there is no concrete breakthrough as yet.

For starters the probe into cases involving some extremist right wing activists went wrong right from day one. The Nanded blasts which is considered to be the mother of these set of incidents was badly probed and investigators who continued the probe found it extremely tough to make a start. Going into the investigations into the Nanded blasts, the police at first did manage to get a grip of the case, but then again the time lag in probing the matter gave the accused ample time to give the slip.

Today the NIA is faced with this herculean task of cracking all these cases which are inter-linked and sources in the agency say that the foundation of the case itself is extremely weak that they are finding it hard to give it closure. There are leads in every case, but in none of them have they managed to achieve a break through. On one hand the NIA has been finding it hard to dish out the evidence as most of it seems to be lost of destroyed and on the other there are teething problems within the agency which are specifically probing these cases. Take for example the Modasa and Malegaon blasts- it has just two officers on the job. The Ajmer blasts on the other hand does not have a leader at the moment as three officers have stepped out due to personal reasons. The Samjautha blasts investigations too appears to be hitting a dead end as there is no leader in that team as well. In fact this team was pulled up for its slow pace in investigations.

Nearly a year back there was this sensational confession by Swami Aseemanand. The NIA thought it had it all cracked. However there was a turn around when the God Man refuted his statements alleging that the confession was forced. Had Aseemanand stuck to his confession the scenario would have been entirely different and would have made the job of the agency easier. However now they have to start right from scratch as most of the statements will be denied. To make matters worse most of the chargesheets that were filed in these cases were very much dependant on the confession of Swami Aseemanand. Now with him refuting the statements, it would be a herculean task to piece together the evidence that they would have to give the court.

NIA sources however point out that they alone cannot be blamed for the slow progress or no progress into these cases. They were probably the third agency to investigate the same case. It started off with the ATS then the CBI and now the NIA. There has been a lot of activity in between. Ideally the ATS ought to have got it right in Nanded itself as this could have prevented a series of blasts in the days to come. The CBI which took over the investigation too had teething problems while investigating this case. Both the CBI and the NIA point their finger at the ATS and say that had the foundation been laid strongly the investigations would not have been this weak.

However the Maharashtra ATS has its defence. A source who was part of the Nanded probe informed that their hands were tied at that point in time. In a case of terror one cannot restrict themselves to one place only. During our investigation we did find that the men who took part in the Nanded blasts had trained in Pune. However we were not permitted to probe the Pune angle as we were asked to restrict ourselves to Nanded only. They also say the other draw back was that three persons who were involved in this attack were also killed during the preparation of the bomb and this weakened the case.

This shows that there was utter confusion since day one and more importantly there will remain several unanswered questions in this case. Till date the agencies are not able to tell who exactly the mysterious Mithun Chakraborthy was involved in this case. The ATS says it is a fake name, but the fact remains that there was a man like this who played a very vital role in these cases.

While these are details specific to the cases that the NIA are probing, the other headache was the arrest of innocent youth in all these cases. This had to be undone and only then could they start their investigations afresh. The NIA may question some Maharashtra ATS officials who were involved in these cases and find out how exactly such a turn of events take place and why was the matter probed in a different direction.

Status- NIA officials say that there is no cause for panic and these cases will be cracked in good time. There has been plenty of confusion and it would take some time before the wrong has been undone.

In the Modasa blast the chargesheet is yet to be filed. Most of the work has been done by the Gujarat police and they have registered cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and also the Explosives Act.

In the Samjautha blasts case, the chargesheet has been filed, but then again the NIA says that the case would result in a closure once the main accused who goes by the name Amith and alias Prince is arrested.

The case of Mecca Masjid is almost similar. There is a supplementary chargesheet that has been filed, but then again they have not been able to nab two important players, Dange and Kalasanghra and have also not traced the local module behind this attack. Moreover there is still confusion as the Hyderabad police continue to hold on to half the case which deals with the unexploded bomb.

In the Malegaon and Ajmer case, the chargesheets have been filed, but the NIA is yet to corroborate the evidence and this job has become tougher as Aseemanand who gave the leads through his confession has retracted his statement. Moreover the accused persons who are the same in the Mecca Masjid case are absconding. In addition to the two names the NIA is also trying to track Amit, Mehul, Suresh Nair, Bhavesh Patel and Jauyanti Bhai Gohil.

As part of the investigations apart from ascertaining that the material had been procured from Madhya Pradesh and a major part of the financing done by Aseemanand, the agency has also got leads regarding the use of mobile phones. The agency says that the SIM cards were procured from Faridabad and all these have a similar series. However the NIA is also tasked with an additional headache in these cases and has also been entrusted with the job of probing the mystery murder of Sunil Joshi. It is believed that this killing had a lot to do with these blasts and Joshi could have threatened to spill the beans which eventually led to his murder. However this one too appears to be having a tough time since by the time the NIA took over the investigation a lot of material had gone missing. Once again the NIA would point its finger at the Madhya Pradesh police who they feel had gone slow which led to this mess.

What Muslims do for an alibi?

Investigations into incidents of terror have been the focal point of discussion and debate over the past couple of years. Sadly the topic of debate in such cases has been more about the manner in which the police have bungled rather than solving a case. Trideep Pais, a senior advocate who used to represent the Students Islamic Movement of India has also worked with several youth who were implicated falsely in terror cases.

He explains to us the nightmare that these youth go through and how it has become so tough for them to cope up with life after spending months together in jail for no fault of theirs. In this interview with rediff.com, he says that most of the youth that he has dealt with have started carrying out a diary in which they make notes every minute about what they are doing only so that it could be used as an alibi.

The government is looking to re-impose the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India. How do you plan to fight this case?

It is a decision that will have to be taken by the national president.

Has the ban on SIMI helped in the war against terrorism?

I do not believe in bans. They just do not serve the purpose. If there are crimes go ahead and prosecute. But banning just does not help. Can you ban someone for their religious beliefs? This is a very large question of freedom of conscience.

How else do you deal with terrorism?

We have enough laws to deal with terrorism. We are unable to deal with the problem only because of poor investigation. The manner in which some cases are dealt with are sad. There is no proper investigation and a person is kept in jail denied bail until he gets so frustrated that he confesses to an offence he has not committed. This is not helping the cause. What we need is a political situation and the will to deal with the problem. Moreover the more important thing is to deal with the case in a proper manner. We need to solve these cases and not only extract confessions forcibly.

The government feels that a ban has helped solve the problem.

That is not the right way to address the problem. Let us not speak about the extra territorial organizations here. Those are not under out control. Out of the 15 organisations that are banned in India all have only been fighting for the local cause. They have a grievance and they tend to take to arms when the government is not listening to them. Those who have a difficulty with the Indian government cannot be banned as this is not feasible and does not lead us anywhere. Instead sit across the table and have a discussion and see how the problem can be resolved.

There are nearly 300 youth who have been falsely implicated in various cases of terror right from Malegaon to Mecca Masjid. Is there a danger of them taking the extremist path now?

They have come out of jail angry, but they are more paranoid. I have interacted with many of them and they are sad and dejected. There is fear in their minds and they have lost faith in the system which includes the judiciary. These youth may have come out, but their minds have been scarred forever. The fact of the matter is that they remain on the scanner for the rest of their lives.

How are they coping with it?

It is very sad to see the kind of fear that they live under. These boys carry a diary with them. Right from the time they wake up and until they go to sleep they make notes of everything they do during the day in their diary. In turn they tell me about these entries and say that this could be their alibi in court. They make it a point to keep everyone informed about what exactly they are doing so that when a police man tries to implicate them falsely they think this could be their alibi. Then there is this case in which one of the youth runs a website of his own in his own name. every minute he updates his status only with an intention of telling the rest of the world that he is not up to anything and even if the police were to think so the people would stand by him and inform about what exactly he has been doing. Their only motive has become self preservation. The way they live today is not normal. They are slow to make friends and anyone who is being generous to them they look at it with suspicion. Basically they have lost faith in the system. There is a fear to mix with the general population.

So are you saying that none of the extremists are taking advantage of this situation?

I would not say that this is not fuelling extremism. All I am saying is that the youth that I have dealt with have not gone to the other end. They may have turned to the support of their community even more today. But then that is only for shelter. But I can say with confidence that they have not turned to extremism. I have also dealt with cases in which some of them have stopped using smart phones and computers and even do not operate an email. They are so scared that this could be used to implicate them falsely. A client of mine who spent 30 months in jail on a wrong charge wont even use a computer. Even when he goes out of his house, he leaves his cell phone with his wife. He is so scared that the cell phone of his could become a headache for him.

Not a healthy trend for sure. But then we cannot sit without dealing with the problem right?

The solution lies with the manner in which the government acts. On a scale of proportionality it is the government which is more extremist and if they were not so anit Muslim this would not have happened. They should be educating the police on how to be secular in their approach.

Which party have you found to be more extremist by nature?

This problem is irrespective of the party in power. With a change in government the perception may change a bit, but the civil servants remain the same. They are the ones who need to be educated.

Any state in particular according to you which has dealt well with this situation?

It is nothing to do with the state. No state has come up with a fair manner to deal with minorities. However I would say that Tamil Nadu has done a fair job in this respect as there are no communal clashes over there. Karnataka and Maharashtra have however gone to the other extreme.

Another plea by Sadhvi to travel 1st class

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blasts case have moved the Bombay High Court challenging the order of the special court which rejected her application seeking to travel either first class or by air to face the investigation at Bhopal in connection with the Sunil Joshi murder case.
In her petition filed before the High Court she says that she filed an application on 16.01.2012, before the Special MCOC Court, seeking a directive permitting her to travel from the Byculla jail to Bhopal on 02.02.2012. She says. She also said she was ready to incur the cost of both rail and / or air fare if there is any technical or procedural hitch in the same, since her safety and security was her paramount
However, the said application was rejected by the on the ground that the Jail Manual does not provide so. The NIA had taken over the investigation of the Sunil Joshi Murder and that case had been transfered to a court in Bhopal.
The Sadhvi further submits that she is ready to bear the expenses by herself for the travel. She quotes the doctors advise and says that she can travel comfortably only if she travels by either road, first class AC or by air, otherwise.

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The Sunil Joshi mystery files

The National Investigating Agency which is probing the mysterious murder of Sunil Joshi have an uphill task ahead of them. They have taken over almost all cases in which Hindu extremists have been suspected and in the words of Home Minister P Chidambaram, the agency would take all these cases to its logical end.

The NIA has in its possession various details regarding this case and has also questioned accused no 5, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur at the Byculla jail on a couple of ocassions.

Although this is a case of murder, the NIA says it is extremely crucial for them to crack as it would help solve the various terror cases in which Hindu fanatics have been involved.

There is already a chargesheet which has been filed in this case prior to the NIA taking over. The NIA was specifically asked to take over this case as it was found to be directly linked with the various other incidents of terror ranging from Mecca Masjid to Samjautha Express which the NIA is probing. NIA sources say that it is tough to say at the moment whether they would go along with the existing chargesheet or would file an additional chargesheet in this case.

The 45 year old Sunil Joshi was found murdered under mysterious circumstances in the year 2007 at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh. The initial probe makes it clear that it was his close aides who murdered him and the reasons behind the same are extremely murky. It was a tussle between him and his close aides which led to his murder. There has also been an angle to this case in the past where it was said that he was closely associated with SIMI members and was trying to use them for his operations and this could have angered his aides which prompted them to undertake this operation.

The NIA says that the primary angle to this probe would commence with his falling out with the RSS who called him Guruji in their circles when he was alive. He was considered to be a dynamic person and was a blue eyed boy to them and hence the falling out is extremely strange and suspicious. Even after his murder the RSS made it a point to visit his home and garland his photo, but then that stopped the moment the RSS was being linked to his murder.

Joshi was part of the module that carried out the Samjautha, Mecca Masjid and Malegaon attacks since day one. In fact the confession which was made by Aseemanand and later withdrawn speaks about the role played by Joshi in all these case and hence that makes him an important fry in the probe.

The more important aspect for the NIA is to crack the exact reason for the murder of Joshi. Sources say that he was no ordinary man who they could have just murdered over a very trivial issue. There is much more to it and it was done at the behest of several very important people involved in this terror nexus.

Going by Joshi’s record it becomes clear that he was one of the most crucial persons in this terror rung and it was thanks to him that so many operations were carried out with such ease. He had roped in Kalasanghra who is currently on the run for all his operations and the final status of the investigation also points to the nexus between the two. They also managed to rope in Dange into their fold and right from the year 2001 they have been carrying out attacks together. They started off on a small scale and then moved on to the bigger operations investigators point out. The trio were also blamed for the murder of a Congress tribal leader, Pyare Singh in the year 2003.

NIA sources say that he probably is one of the most important persons in this entire network and it is unfortunate that he is dead as he would have had a lot of answers. Now this is what his killers were most worried about and that is he had too much information on him. Some even point out that he had started to become a bit arrogant and had often threatened to spill the beans on the operations. Although though the RSS formally expelled him investigations continued to show that he had been in contact with some of the members and this had started worrying a couple of members who were in touch with him.

What the NIA says is that those who were behind his murder were also in the know of his operations. Although investigations are being conducted into these cases, the NIA is yet to find out details about political backing, funding and also local modules which helped facilitate the various incidents of terror carried out by this module.

Currently the NIA has in its custody a long list of people, but then again the agency is well aware that these are nothing but puppets and the big wigs are still out in the open. None of these persons in custody have revealed the big names as yet and the agency feels that closing in on the accused in this case would force these persons to reveal the big names involved in this case.

It is once again not an easy case, the NIA says. There has been a lot of meddling that has taken place. Certain important documents such as call logs and sim cards have gone missing. There are some documents which the CBI was in possession of and this has been used to build up the case. There are some call logs and diary entries to show some of the persons Joshi called despite him being expelled. We would build on these leads and finally close the case, the NIA points out.