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.

The Aseemanand trail

Swami Aseemanand- Photo- Twocircles.net
The confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand has created a stir and for the investigating agencies looking it appears to be a phillip and they claim that this will help the investigation.

Swami Aseemanand who hails from the Hooghly district in West Bengal originally goes by the name Jatin Chatterjee and was also known as Swami Onkarnath in his circles according to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI during their interrogation of Aseemanand found that he was always associated with Hindu outfits and his mindset changed as he felt that there were too many atrocities against Hindus being carried out by Pakistan based groups and it was necessary that there was retaliation.

What is important is that the CBI now links Aseemanand to the Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjautha blasts case. A confession of is recorded by the Magistrate is what the CBI has pinned its hope on where the God man explains in detail the modus operandi behind these operations. While a confession statement is admissible as evidence, the job of the investigating agency does not end there and they will still have to prove before court that he has actually been involved in these cases. In addition to this there is also an argument on in various courts whether an accused can retract a confessional statement given before a Magistrate.

Swami Aseemanand in his confession goes on to say that it was the attack at the Akshardham temple which made him change his mind and this was precisely the time when a lot of people came together and decided that the time had come to retaliate.

During my various meetings with people I expressed my anger against attacks on temples and it was in the year 2003 that for the first time I came in contact with Sunil Joshi and Pragya Singh Thakur. We discussed many times about the manner in which Islamic Terrorists carried out attacks on temples and people. It was only in the year 2006 when the Sankatmoc-han temple was attacked did Joshi decide that the time had come to hit back.

Investigations so far have shown that Joshi was given Rs 25000 by Aseemanand to carry out an attack. In the month of June 2006, Sadhvi, Joshi and I met at a house in Valsad and chalked out the plan. During the meeting four others, Dange, Lokesh, Kalsanghra and Amit came along with Joshi. During the meeting we decided on the targets and I had told all of them that a bombing should be retaliated with another bombing. We then decided to target Malegaon which had a strong Muslim population. In addition to this we also decided that we would carry out attacks at Mecca Masjid since many people in Hyderabad subscribed to the views of Pakistan. Then we also planned on the Ajmer blasts as we felt that many Hindus visited this place and a bombing would prevent them from going there in future.

While I suggested these targets, it was Joshi who came up with the plan of carrying out a blast on the Samjautha express. His view was that many Pakistanis travel by that train and it would be the best way to take revenge against Pakistan and hence an attack should be carried out. There was a consensus at that meeting and we decided to go ahead with the plan.

Following this meeting three teams were formed to execute these attacks. One of the teams would arrange finances while the other two would execute the attack and also make arrangements for the explosives. In so far as the Samjautha blasts were concerned it was Dange who made these arragements.

Investigating agencies say that the role played by these persons in the Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts is quite clear. However the details are not too forthcoming with the Samjautha case which is presently being investigated by the NIA.

It was God man Dayananand pandey who for the first time spilled the beans on this case and said that it was the same people who had carried out the Samjautha blasts. In addition to this the Maharashtra ATS too had claimed that Colonel Purohith had procured 60 kgs of RDX for these blasts, but until date no investigating agency has been able to prove this fact.

Aseemanand goes on to say in the month of February 2007 he met with Joshi at a temple in Balpur. At that meeting he told me that some important news would break out in the next couple of days. A few days later I read in the newspapers that the Samjautha blasts had taken place and later Joshi told me that it was his men who carried out the attack. Later on I gave Joshi some money for the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blasts and this too was executed as was planned.

The CBI investigation of Aseemanad may have revealed a lot of facts, but it continues to remain unclear as to how Colonel Purohith was involved in this case. It is now up to the NIA to investigate this aspect and they would question both Aseemanand and Purohith in this regard.

Aseemanand told the CBI that he first came in contact with Purohith four years back. Purohith was part of Abhinav Bharath and during the various meetings with him they discussed on carrying out terror strikes.

The NIA now has its task cut out. Sources say that apart from investigating the Aseemanand angle to the Samjautha blasts, they would also look into a possible role that he could have played in the Goa blasts as well.