Arif Qasmani was named by the United States of America as the man behind the Samjautha Express blast. His name cropped up on the basis of intelligence and investigations conducted by the US authorities.
The filing of the cases against Colonel Purohit or Sadhvi Pragya Singh was considered by many as a vendetta by the UPA government. Today with a new government in New Delhi, many feel that these cases would be re-looked. Colonel Purohit has even written to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention into the case and having him released from jail where he has been for a little over 5 years now pending trial.
The Home Ministry would however tread carefully on this matter and sources in the ministry tell rediff.com that the government would prefer not to interfere at this stage since the matter is pending before the court. It would be apt for the judiciary to take a call on this matter. What the government would ensure however is that these cases are investigated soon and the matters disposed off quickly. The same decision is also likely to be taken in the case of Sadhvi Pragya Singh too.
Swami 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 rediff.com 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.
It has been five years since the National Investigation Agency was set up. The premier investigation agency which was to probe terror cases in India would not be proud of itself considering the fact that it has cracked or brought just one case to its logical end.
Many cases including the 26/11 attacks case are dragging at a snail’s pace and at times it appears as though there is a clear lack of direction. While the experts point out that it is a bit harsh to say that the NIA is dragging its feet on the 26/11 case since most of the accused are out of the country, it would not be wrong to say that there is a clear lack of will in the rest of the cases.
The only case which has been taken to its logical end is the bomb blast case at Kozhikode. Two persons were recently sentenced to life by a court in Kerala. While the NIA can pat itself on the back for this case, it sure has a lot of introspection to do in the rest of the cases.
All cases pertaining to Hindu terror which included Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjautha were handed over to the NIA. When Swami Aseemanand made the confession statement in which he named several persons alleged to be involved in these cases, the NIA thought it had nailed it. However it was the same lacklustre approach that cost the NIA these cases and till date they are not able to put out a definitive chargesheet on these cases. They had taken the confessional statement for granted and did not expect him to retract. The moment the statement was retracted in court, it was back to basics for the NIA. Today they are unable to find proper evidence against Sadhvi Pragya Singh and more importantly have not been able to nab two other accused Ramji Kalasanghra and Sandeep Dange. Continue reading “NIA flop show”
Three years have gone by since the National Investigation Agency has been formed. The report card for India’s premier agency probing cases of terror does not look all that good, but the question that we must ask is whether the agency has been allowed to function in a manner that it ought to have.
In all the NIA is in charge of around 35 cases which also include the high profile David Headley probe. On paper if one looks at it the NIA has managed to solve just one case- the bomb explosion at a bus depot in Kozhikode, Kerala, in 2006. The other high profile cases that the NIA has on its hand are the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Delhi High Court blasts case among others.
When the NIA was formed after the horrific 26/11 attacks there was a great deal of hope and it was expected that it would solve each and every case pertaining to terrorism in no time. However that has not been the case and on many occasions it has been found that the NIA has been left clueless and not to mention the delay in cracking cases.
However it would be unfair to blame the NIA entirely for this slow progress rate. It has had its share of problems and more often than not it has found to be undoing a mess caused by shoddy investigators. The Mecca Masjid, Samjautha and Malegaon cases are a typical example of this. First the Muslims were arrested in these cases and now the investigations have taken a turn around. The NIA is too busy clearing this mess. When the NIA took over the files there was not an inkling as to who the real culprit was. First a process of discharging the innocent took place and only then did the real investigation begin. Any investigator worth his salt would point out that it is difficult to probe a case in which the accused has been given years together to flee. The main culprits in the above mentioned cases have had nearly 5 years to wipe out evidence, move out of the country and also mislead investigators thanks to the fact that the first investigators were too busy probing a completely wrong angle to the case.
Take the case of David Headley and also Tawwahur Rana. The NIA faced similar problems as they were at the mercy of the United States of America. All the information that could trickle by came out only when the US wanted it. Moreover the US had permitted Headley to enter into a plea bargain which was probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the NIA. Moreover after waiting for months they managed to get access and Headley refused to speak even a sentence more than what he had already told the FBI. Hence the entire case was built up based on what was already known.
Now coming to the fresh cases such as the 13/7 and also the Delhi High Court blasts. Not much progress was really made and even today the investigators remain clueless. At first the NIA was roped in to probe the 13/7 case. But then they ran into problems with the Maharashtra ATS as a result of which the NIA backed out. After all these tussles that took place almost three months had passed and investigators started from scratch and the worst part is that both agencies had different information which was never really shared thanks to this fight. Even in the Delhi High Court blasts despite the government stating that the NIA would probe this case, the Delhi police probed this case simultaneously. Once again the information was not shared and this led to a hazy probe.
Radha Vinod Raju who was the first chief of the NIA had said in an earlier interview with rediff.com that the cases taken by the NIA are tough to crack. The NIA needs to collect evidence before taking action and should not arrest suspects only to deflect pressure. The NIA comprises officers who have had exposure to terrorism and terror-related case. They are a committed lot and there is sincerity in their approach towards work. The output of their effort clearly reflects their enthusiasm. In this respect, it’s the best investigating agency that India has seen so far.
C D Sahay, former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing points out that the NIA is very essential to deal with crimes with ramifications all over the country.
For it to succeed it must be empowered and enabled not only through federal legislations, but by a change of heart amongst all investigating agencies across the country. In Delhi and also the 13/7 case there was an issue about dealing with cases. The NIA remained a spectator. This territorial approach will not allow any organisation to function properly.
We should try out the American experience where the agency is involved in every aspect of the investigation right from collection of evidence to prosecution. Sadly in India the bureaucracy gets involved in a turf war where none should exist. I really hope I am proven wrong for the betterment of the system.
While a lot has been written about the likes of Ramji or Ramchandra Kalasanghra and Sandeep Dange, the NIA list of wanted in the Samjautha express blasts takes another name called Ashok.
The NIA which announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for those who provide information on Kalasanghra and Dange also said that any person giving inputs about Ashok would be rewarded Rs 2 lakh. The case against Ashok who also goes by the alias Amith is being built up in the Samjautha blasts case.
According to the NIA, it was the trio of Kalasanghra, Dange and Ashok who executed the Samjautha blasts under the guidance of Sunil Joshi.
The blasts on the Samjautha express was probably the biggest operation carried out by this outfit and the NIA would be keen on solving this case at the earliest. The initial part of the investigations go on to show that Aseemanand did not have that big a role to play in the Samjautha case when compared to Joshi and his men. In fact Aseemanand goes on to state that when he had met with Joshi he was told that he had a surprise for him and had also asked him to keep a watch on the newspapers. A couple of days later he read in the news paper that a major blast had been carried out on the Samjautha express in which nearly 60 persons had been killed. This had happened in the month of February when Joshi along with Bharath Rateshwar had come on a motor cycle to meet with Aseemanand. The meeting took place at a temple in Balpur and there Aseemanand was told that there would be good news. Aseemanand then returned to the Shabari Dam Ashram and two days later read about the blasts.
The NIA probe in this case has shown so far that the operation was Joshi was the key man in this operation and he was the one who had arranged for the funds and logistics in this case. The NIA says that Joshi would have had all the answers to this case and he knew more than Aseemanand, but unfortunately he is dead. He then contacted Joshi and asked him how this attack had taken place and then Joshi told him that these blasts were carried out by his men. The men that Joshi refers to have not been mentioned by Aseemanand in his confession in connection with these attacks, but the NIA says that these are the three men directly involved in the blasts.
As the investigations unfold it comes to light that the entire operation was staged by Joshi and he had used Kalsanghra, Dange and Ashok to execute these blasts. Aseemanand’s confession however makes it clear that he was in the know of this attack and it was in a meeting with Joshi the latter had suggested that mostly Pakistanis travel by this train and it would be good to target this.
The probe based on these statements so far show that Dange had arranged for the explosives for this blast while Kalsanghra and Ashok went about planting the bombs apart from preparing the logistics.
With Joshi dead, it the arrest of three men who can help solve this case. Apart from this they would also like to find out who exactly had financed these blasts and whether there were more persons involved in this attack. The NIA would also probe to find out if Indresh Kumar had anything to do with the financing of this attack and also try and find out up to what extent he had gone to even arrange for the men who finally carried out this blast.
Kalsanghra, Dange and Amit have been part of the Joshi team since all these attacks were being planned. The trio along with another person Lokesh Sharma were part of a core team which always executed attacks with Joshi. Investigators say that their names figure in all these blasts and it becomes clear that they were these men took centre stage.
Aseemanand does make a reference to Ashok once during his confession. The first time that these persons met was at Bharath Rateshwar’s house in Valsad. During the meeting Sadhvi Pragya Singh was present. Joshi turned up later and along with him he brought Dange, Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Ashok alias Amit.. It was during this meeting that Aseemanand told them that the time for revenge had come. However he realised that Joshi and his four men were already planning something.
Aseemanand who also goes by the alias Jatin Chatterjee is in the
thick of action with the National Investigating Agency now saying
that they want to probe him in connection with the Samjautha
blasts. This is the second time around that investigators are
making an attempt to crack the Samjautha blasts case in which 68
persons a majority of whom were of Pakistani origin lost their
lives. The irony of this case is that when investigations first
commenced, the agencies had suspected that it was the
Lashkar-e-Tayiba that carried it out. However now with the NIA
stepping in the probe appears to have taken a different angle to it
and they suspect that it was the group that carried out the
Malegaon blasts which also carried out the Samjautha blasts.
Sources told rediff.com that the investigations
would rely heavily upon the statements of Swami Aseemanand whose
identity was revealed recently when the Central Bureau of
Investigation stepped up the heat on him in connection with the
Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts. Investigators say that they have
been on the trail of this group ever since Sadhvi Pragya Singh was
arrested in connection with the Malegaon case. Her arrest lead to
the arrests of Colonel Shrikanth Purohith and god man Dayanand
Pandey who also spoke vaguely about the Samjautha blasts, according
to investigators. However for the investigators, the clincher was
the statement of Dayanand Pandey who during his narco analysis test
in Bangalore had said that these blasts were planned by them and it
was the Sadhvi and Colonel Purohith who finally executed it. The
Mumbai ATS which was then probing the Malegaon case under Hemanth
Karkare also mentioned this briefly in the remand application of
Purohith. However the ATS was not able to find anything more on the
Samjautha case and went ahead and filed a specific chargesheet in
the Malegaon case. When one of the investigators in this case was
asked as to why there was a lull regarding this case for so long,
he draws attention to the fact that Pandey had spoken about another
man who was above all of them while these blasts were being
executed or even planned. They say that they had got details
regarding this man, but did not want to reveal it at that time
since they had to launch a man hunt for him before collecting more
details. Today investigators believe that this man who Pandey had
spoken about was Aseemanand. He will be crucial to the
investigation since we need to take it forward from where Pandey
had left it. Investigators so far have found that there was a
meeting of many persons including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Sunil
Joshi and few others in the year 2006 at Gujarat. During the
meeting they had decided to avenge the blasts at Sankat Mochan in
Varanasi. Investigators point out that to avenge this blast and a
few others these persons decided that they would carry out attacks
at Mecca Masjid, the Samjautha Express and also at Ajmer. Following
this meeting there was another one in Indore in which it was
allegedly decided that they would go ahead with the attack. The
investigating agency say that the material was procured from
Indore. This was in fact a break made by the Haryana police who had
tracked that material procured for these blasts were from the
Kothari market in Indore. The NIA now has its task cut out and will
probe Aseemanand to get a final clarity on this case. An
application was submitted before the Panchkula court which is
seized off the Samjautha matter seeking custody of Aseemanand to
probe him in connection with this case. The application was
submitted attached with material which had they had against the God
man in this particular case.