Aseemanand and the money trail

The National Investigating Agency which is investigating the Mecca Masjid blasts of Hyderabad is currently on the money trail that led up to the execution of these attacks. Although the National Investigating Agency has found that it was Swami Aseemanand who handed over the money to execute the blasts, it is clear that he was not the man who was primarily responsible for raising those funds.

Although investigators have been looking into the flow of funds into the Ashram that he ran, they however add that he was entrusted with the task of stocking the funds and not raising them. The conspirators felt that it was best to stock the money in the ashram since they are exempted from any normal inspection. Moreover it was felt that the money which would be stocked in the ashram could be passed off as a donation and there would be no real suspicion on the same.

Today the NIA says that they have found evidence to show that Aseemanand had handed over Rs 25000 to Sunil Joshi to carry out the Mecca Masjid blasts. Similar transactions had been made during the Malegaon and also the Samjautha Express blasts, the investigators also pointed out.

The money trail into these incidents have not been nailed as yet by investigators. Probe agencies have been back and forth on this aspect and no real break through has been found where the money trail is concerned. It has been established that it was the ashram being run at the Dangs in Gujarat was the point where all the money landed. There were several like minded operatives who were part of this operation and each one had a small role to play in raising the funds. However they all wanted Aseemanand to handle the money as they felt that the trail would never lead up to him. There is a lot of money that has come into his ashram through donations as he was undertaking some work for the tribals. It is pretty hard to find out what money was finally used to execute these blasts.

Probe agencies prior to the NIA had claimed when asked that the most of the money for these operations came through donations. Moreover these persons ran odd businesses through which they raised money. In the Nanded blasts case it was found that the accused persons were running a gym and the money that was made through that was finally used for the flop Nanded operation. The police have however not found any similar modus operandi in the Mecca Masjid or Samjautha blasts case.

The police are also looking to see if the money which legitimately came into these places was diverted for such terror operations. This would be part of our investigation the NIA says as nothing very concrete regarding the trail has come up as yet. All Aseemanand’s probe has revealed is that he had paid Rs 25000 to Sunil Joshi in the presence of a businessman by the name Bharath Bhai at a place called Valsad in Gujarat.

The primary focus of the NIA at the moment is on the Mecca Masjid blasts case. They are trying to find if there is some local help that helped arrange the money and also the logistics. There has been allegations by Muslim organisations in Hyderabad that there are some Hindu groups which have taken a violent turn and have helped in organising these attacks. The police which has taken into account these allegations have however not found a dedicated module in Hyderabad which could have helped carry out this blast. There may be one or two persons who were in the know of this operation, but it was largely staged and planned by the Sunil Joshi gang which operated mainly out of Northern India, the police also claim.

The NIA claims that the Ajmer/Malegaon/Samjautha express attacks were all part of the same module. In the days to come a couple more arrests could be expected and this we hope would lead us up to the money trail, investigators also point out.

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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.

Samjautha & ors-NIA has much to do and undo

Samjautha Express- pic, dailybhaskar
There was one thing common where the Samjautha Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts are concerned. All these three cases today as per the investigations are inter-linked and it is only a matter of time before the National Investigating Agency closes these cases.
The NIA has a dual job in all these cases now. Apart from having a lot to do they also have a lot to undo in all these cases. When one takes into account all these cases, at least 110 members from the Muslim community were arrested after being blamed for these attacks. While many of the accused in the Mecca Masjid blasts were let off by the court after investigations took a different turn, the same exercise will have to be conducted in the other cases as well.

Slow on Ajmer and Hyderabad:
The NIA will however be bundled with problems before all these cases come to a close. They have managed to file the chargesheet in the Samjautha case and sources say that this was done first only because of the international ramifications it has. Moreover it was also a means of putting pressure on Pakistan to act in the 26/11 case.
Activists from Hyderabad and Ajmer however say that they wished the same speed was applied in these two cases as well. Lateef Mohammad Khan from Hyderabad says that the situation is the same in Ajmer and Hyderabad and there are a lot of people awaiting justice. Only once the NIA files its chargesheet in both these cases will the innocent youth be able to rest in peace. These activists say that the accused persons in all these cases are more or less the same. However they are hoping that the probe would pick up since at the moment it appears as though these two cases have come to a stand still.

Arif Qasmani:
While this is one part of the case the other question that is being asked by several persons is the UN report relating to the Samjautha case. The UN report dated 2009 still shows Arif Qasmani, a close Dawood Aide as the key plotters of the Samjautha express blasts. Qasmani a resident of Karachi who today facilitates the movement of Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan is shown as one of the main accused in this case. It is said that he had raised funds through Dawood to fund this attack.
The Samjautha chargesheet however does make any mention of this which would mean that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba angle is not being looked into. So far as the UN report goes that would be changed once the trial is complete and the information sent across. However what investigators say is that Qasmani continues to be a major threat to India and what they have been able to ascertain is that he was the major player in the 2006 train blasts.

The Confession:
While the NIA was never easy thanks to the multiple angles in all these case, the job was made slightly easier with the confession of Swami Aseemanand. However today he has decided to withdraw the confession stating that it was done under duress. The NIA however points out that confessions are never the sole aspect of a chargesheet. The leads are picked up from the confession and independent investigations are conducted based on those leads. The withdrawal of the confession would not have any impact on the case. The links and the roles of these persons have been ascertained and now the battle is before the court. His confession also covered both the. Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts and this withdrawal will not have any impact on any of these cases, investigators also pointed out.

Indresh Kumar: This was one of the names that did the rounds all through the past few months. However Kumar has not been shown as an accused in the Samjautha chargesheet. No doubt that the NIA dug very deep into this particular angle of this case, but the fact was that the material which was found on him was not convincing enough to name him as an accused in the case. The investigators however point out that this is no indication that a clean chit has been given. It is just that more evidence needs to be brought forward in order to even name him in the case.
Moreover the case relating to Kumar is not a simple one. Considering the position that he holds any wrong move could have horrible political ramifications and hence the NIA would want to tread carefully on this aspect.
Indresh Kumar was once questioned by the CBI and is likely to be questioned by the NIA too. They would also be exploring the alleged rivalry between Colonel Purohith and Indresh Kumar in order to get further leads on this angle to the case.

The absconders:
While it is believed that the Ajmer, Samjautha and Mecca Masjid blasts were carried out by one module while the Malegaon blasts were staged by another, investigators would continue to see if the two are linked. Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange are the common persons in all these attacks. Swami Aseemanand too had spoken about Kalsanghra and Dange stating that they had bombed Malegaon.
While investigators feel that the big fish have been netted in all these cases, there are many aspects that remain incomplete thanks to the fact that two very crucial operatives are still missing. Dange and Kalsanghra are very crucial not only to the case but also to the busting of these modules. Take all the blasts mentioned above. These two were part of each and every meeting. They have taken part in meetings convened by Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Sunil Joshi and also Aseemanand. Moreover these were not ordinary foot soldiers and had ample information on the functioning of the entire module. The duo were extremely close to Sunil Joshi (now dead) who is considered to be the big boss of all these operations. In fact it was Joshi who wanted the Samjautha express blasts to be carried out as he wanted to eliminate the Pakistanis on the train. Not only will the duo provide information on all the operations and the manner in which the modules have been functioning, but they will also be able to help investigators find more clues on the Joshi murder, which again is suspected to be an insider job.

what led to the murder of Joshi?

Photo courtesy: http://www.theindiadaily.com/
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.

The confusing case of Mecca Masjid

The Swami Aseemanand confession may have brought about a certain amount of clarity in respect to several cases. However doubts continue to linger on in respect of the Mecca Masjid case of Hyderabad which has a long way to go before it is solved completely.

For starters the Mecca Masjid case for some strange reason continues to be divided into two- the case of the exploded bomb and the case of the unexploded bomb.

Speaking to both the Hyderabad police as well as investigators in the CBI who are probing the Mecca Masjid case one gets the impression that there is a long way to go before this case is even cracked.

After the incident took place almost four years back, the Hyderabad police had started investigating the case. However the Muslims felt that they were getting a raw deal out of this since their community was being targeted and there was no way that they could have attacked their religious place of worship. After much pressure the case was handed over to the CBI which has been investigating this case since the past two years now. However this case was split up into two. The CBI commenced investigations of the case pertaining to the exploded bomb. However the police had found a bomb at the Mecca Masjid which did not explode and this case remained with the Hyderabad police.

Today there is pressure building up on the Hyderabad police to give up the case and hand it over to the CBI. Rights activists who have been espousing the cause of the Muslim accused who were booked in this case say that there is no reason why one case should be in the possession of the CBI. The bombs were planted with the same intention and hence it should be under one investigating agency.

The Hyderabad police however say that the very reason why they had retained that particular case was because they were digging more into it. However investigations today show that there is not much progress in that case and the police wants to give it a quietus. An officer in the Hyderabad police however pointed out that most of the officers who were part of the investigation have been transferred and they are now looking into why this case was retained in the first place. They are now waiting for a formal request from the CBI to hand over this part of the case.

The CBI however points out that the primary focus now is on the main portion of the case. The Aseemanand confession has helped the investigating agency a lot and there seems to be a direction they can head in now. The points and angles that the CBI are now looking into are- who planted the bombs at Mecca Masjid and who formed part of the logistic and local help in this case?

While Aseemanand had given bits and pieces of information relating to the Mecca Masjid blasts, the problem before the CBI is to join the dots between Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalsanghra, Dange with Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma. Gupta and Sharma are part of the chargesheet filed by the CBI. The chargesheet also names Joshi ( now dead), Kalsanghra and Dange as the primary accused both of who are absconding. The CBI says that the dots need to be joined since all these men are not originally from Hyderabad and they could not have carried out such an operation unless they had the support of local forces. The interrogation of Gupta who has been in the custody of the CBI for quite sometime now has not revealed much regarding the local support. The Hyderabad police too have not been able to give much information regarding this aspect. Moreover they have also been questioning Sharma regarding this angle and have not been able to get too much information on the same. However what the CBI has managed to establish is that it is the same set of people who had carried out both the Mecca Masjid as well as the Ajmer blasts. The CBI says that nabbing of Kalsanghra and Dange will give them all the answers and there is already a reward on their heads put out both by the CBI as well as the National Investigating Agency which is probing the Samjautha Blasts.

The Aseemanand confession is just a tip off and there is a lot of ground work that remains to be done in order to bring about a clarity in this case. We need to ascertain for sure who planted the bombs and also find out who was the local help who provided the logistics in this case.

The Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee of India which has been fighting this case since day one says that they did not find the Aseemanand confession one bit surprising since they had been saying the same thing to the police since day one. The fact finding commission relating to the Mecca Masjid case had pointed out that the Hyderabad police were misguiding the investigation and were shielding the accused. The committee says that the confession of Aseemanand is selective in nature since at no point of time does he mention who had supported the group locally.

The CBI however says that such investigations take sometime and the case has not been exactly easy since this is the second time around that the investigation is taking place. The real picture has just started to unfurl and it may be a couple of months more before a final clarity is there in this case and moreover cracking this case also means solving the Ajmer case since both are directly connected.

Diggy has gone berserk

Photo courtesy: NY times
Congress leader, Digvijay Singh made yet another controversial remark when he alleged that the Madhya Pradesh leaders from the BJP had shielded the accused in the Samjautha Blasts which eventually helped them get away. He further went on to allege that the trio, Sunil Joshi (now deceased), Ramji Kalasanghra and Dange had the blessings of the BJP leaders and also the government in that state.

The Madhya Pradesh government has however not taken these reactions lightly and say that Singh is at it again and these statements by him will only ensure that the Congress gets wiped out even as an opposition party in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Advisor to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, G V L Narasimha Rao rubbishes these allegations and says that the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had no role to play in this and had never shielded any of the accused. In this interview with rediff.com he goes on to say that the government of MP has and will only be fair when such things are concerned and whoever the culprits are they have to be brought to book.

How has the BJP in Madhya Pradesh reacted to the latest Diggy leak on the Samjautha blasts case?

He is being reckless in his words and the latest statement by him has made him a laughing stock in Madhya Pradesh. Earlier this man used to be a label of credibility but today the general impression in the state is that he is a man who has gone berserk.

It is a fact that the three persons he refers to are from Indore and they managed to get away.

We are all here framing and passing judgments on the basis of a confessional statement. Let me assure you that if there are some people alleged to be involved in this case then rest assured they will be brought to book.

But has the government opened its eyes to this new concept called as terror by Saffron elements?

For me it seems like mindless politics. The likes of Rahul Gandhi says that Lashkar-e-Tayiba is less dangerous compared to Hindu terror. What ever happened to the claim by the American investigators who too had pointed out that the Samjautha blasts were the handiwork of the Lashkar. It is mindless politics according to me.

Coming back to Digvijay Singh, have his statements caused a dent in the image of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh?

Not at all. I do not understand why he is making such baseless statements. If he continues to do so then Congress will also lose its opposition status in Madhya Pradesh. Personally Digvijay has lost all his credibility and if he thinks he will return to power by making such statements then he is mistaken.

Are all of you in denial regarding this new phenomenon in the world of terrorism?

A statement by Aseemanand is not enough to substantiate things. Just because Rahul Gandhi says that Hindu terror is more dangerous, that does not become the truth. These persons have gone public with their mindless statements without understanding the repercussions of passing such remarks.

Has the Madhya Pradesh government been cooperative with the probe on Samjautha?

Yes why not? The investigations are not happening within the state. There are links to the state which have been spoken about. Aseemanand’s claims are yet to be substantiated and Sunil Joshi is dead. The MP government has nothing to do with the probe into this case. The investigation is being carried out by the NIA. Let them do their job. I do not think it is fair for a Digvijay to make statements at such a juncture and trust me if he continues to do so it will only help the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

Will the Madhya Pradesh government cooperate in this case?

If a formal request is made then it sure will cooperate. Any state government is obligated to extend support in such matters. The government will be fair in this case.

The connection is Indore since these men according to investigations were from this place. Is the government aware that there are fringe elements who can carry out terror activities?

The chief of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat already said that none of them belong to the organization. If they have had something to do with the organization in the past then it is only unfair to blame the RSS now. These persons do not have any links to the RSS. If they are fringe elements and they are found in this state then the government will only deal with them in the manner in which they are to be dealt with. The government will clean the mess and as I said earlier the culprits will be brought to book.

Is Madhya Pradesh the hub for such elements?

No that is not correct. All these people say a lot about this case. I would like to pose a counter question to all these people including you. You need to understand that this is something that has been beaten to death to serve political ends and trust me it will boomerang. Have all the rest of the cases been solved. Barring the 26/11 case no other case has been taken to its logical end. Why is there no word on the Jaipur blasts? Why are people not talking about the twin blasts in Hyderabad and also what about the train bombings of 2006? There seems to be no progress in the Delhi blasts. On the contrary the Congress leaders go to Azamgarh and convince the people there that they have nothing to do with all these blasts. What sort of a precedent are these people setting? All this looks very political to me.

A crime is a crime and each case needs to be dealt with individually.

I agree, but I also must add that there should be no over enthusiasm in such cases so as to create a hype to serve political ends. All this will harm them and also security. At no point of time am I even suggesting that the real culprits should not be brought to book.

1 crime and 2 confessions

Swami Aseemanand and Safdar Nagori
October 2008- The Samjautha blasts were carried out with the help of activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India with the help of Pakistani nationals who had come from across the border- Safdar Nagori, chief of Nagori SIMI faction.

January 2011- I met with Sunil Joshi and Bharat Rateshwar at Balpur and I was told that there would be good news. I then returned to the Shabari Dam ashram and two days later read about the Samjautha blasts. I asked Sunil Joshi about the same and he said that his men had carried out the blasts- Swami Aseemanand in his confession statement before a Delhi court.

This is a very interesting tale of two confessions made by two persons from diagonally opposite factions in connection with the same case.

Safdar Nagori who had broken away from the mainstream SIMI since he wanted the faction to become more aggressive following the ban on the organization was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police two years back. He was subjected to thorough interrogation and also a narco analysis test in which the police claim he sang about both the Mumbai train bombings and also the Samjautha blasts in which 68 persons were killed. During his interrogation he goes on to speak about the manner in which this deadly blast was carried out. He says that activists of the SIMI had carried out these blasts with the help of some Pakistan nationals who had come into India. The primary idea was that the Pakistan based terror groups were opposed to the idea of Indo-Pak peace talks and wanted to derail the same by targeting the tran and the people in it.

Swami Aseemanand on the other hand who was arrested only recently goes on to make a confession statement before the Magistrate in Delhi. During the confession he does not mention anywhere that he was kept in the loop about these blasts, but during a meeting with Sunil Joshi (now dead) in which he was told to expect some good news. Two days later he read about the blasts and Joshi told him that his men had carried it out.

Both the police and the National Investigating Agency have probed this case for quite some time. It was only a year back did the Aseemanand angle to the blasts come to the fore. Prior to that it was said that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had used the support of the SIMI to carry out this attack.

The question now is which of these reports will be taken before the court. Legal experts say that when an investigation has dealt with two outfits in the past few years in connection with the same case, they will need to present both the cases before a court of law. The fact that Aseemanand’s is a more recent confession does not mean that the Nagori report can be shunted out.

The investigating agency has a very big task ahead of them and since this case involves two sets of contrary statements they will need to probe harder and build up a case.

Justice N Satosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court of India explains that a lot would depend on the judge since he will have before him both versions of this case. The investigating agency will have to place both the cases before him and convince the judge as to which version has more weight and why they have investigated the case in a particular direction. The judge in turn will have to evaluate the case and pass orders accordingly.

However in the legal scenario it appears that the Aseemanand confession will have a bit more weight when compared to the one made by Nagori. However the game for the NIA could change since it is possible that Aseemanand may retract his statement claiming that he had done so under duress. There is no laid down law which states that an accused cannot retract a confessional statement before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. There are arguments galore across various courts in the country where the prosecution has been advancing arguments stating that an accused should not be allowed to retract a 164 statement.

The Nagori statement on the other hand will have less weight before the court since it was a statement made before the police and also during a narco analysis test which does not have much evidentiary value before the court as per orders of the Supreme Court.

Coming back to the instant case on hand, legal experts say that the onus is on the judge to evaluate the two statements. The fact is that both the statements per se have no evidentiary value before a court of law. There is a direct contradiction and both these statements have been made when the accused persons were under police custody.

Although it may be argued that Aseemanand statement will have more weight as it was made before a Magistrate, the law clearly states that this will not have evidentiary value and it is not sufficient to gurantee a conviction. The most such a statement could do is give supportive evidentiary value to the investigating agency.

The court will have to look into the other evidences supplied by the investigating agency to finally come to a conclusion. A lot would however depend on what the two accused persons- Nagori and Aseemanand finally say before the court. In addition to this if the NIA decides to go ahead with the Aseemanand angle to the case then it will need to explain why it is doing so.

Currently the NIA is completely focused on the Aseemanand angle and feel that there is more meat in this version of the case. However for that to happen they will need to take into custody the likes of Ramji Kalasanghra, Ashol alias Amith and Dange. Both versions will be probed thoroughly and it is not as though the Nagori version will be completely discarded. Investigations cannot be merely on the basis of statements and independent investigations are needed, a source in the investigating agency said.

And the hunt continues…..

Photo courtesy: Outlook
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.

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.