Probes not altered according to political weather-Radha Vinod Raju

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The National Investigating Agency was set up less than 3 years back with an intention of probing all terror related cases in India. The response to the NIA has been a mixed one and like usual results were expected in very quick time.

There is however a long way to go before matters are cleared out and the NIA becomes India’s premier investigating agency for cases of terrorism. Radha Vinod Raju, who headed the NIA when the agency was formed discusses at length the teething problems faced by the NIA and what needs to be done in future. In this interview with rediff.com, Raju makes a very interesting point when asked about probes being altered according to the political weather in the country. “No investigator worth his salt would ever do this, “ is what the former NIA chief has to say.

How do you rate the NIA on the basis of the work it has done so far?

The NIA consists of officers who have had exposure to terrorism and investigation of terrorist cases. They are a committed lot, and dedicated and sincere in their approach. There is experience mixed with enthusiasm in their work out-put. In this respect, they are the best in the country, and they have the requisite data-base and technology to support their work. They have established working relationship with officers of the state ATS units. While a lot more ground needs to be covered by all stake holders, the NIA can be said to be shaping well, professionally. Of the fairly good number of cases, especially old ones, that they were asked to investigate, they have done a decent job till date. They need the continued support of the centre and the states to grow to their full potential.
There is a lot of confusion that prevails during a probe thanks to the involvement of several agencies including the local police. There are also alleged ego clashes between the agencies which hampers a probe. Do you think no other agency should be allowed to handle terror cases other than the NIA?

These are teething problems, in the context of our federal set-up, and should be patiently and tactfully, handled. Cases will be, mostly, registered in the local police stations, and as per the scheme in the NIA act, first investigated by them. It will be only later that, if necessary, it will be transferred to the NIA. There is bound to be some confusion during this process. These initial problems will be, and can be, tackled professionally. NIA cannot be the only agency that can investigate terrorist cases. But a regimen will have to be worked out by which the NIA and the ATS units are able to work out all cases jointly, some led by the ATS units, some by the NIA.

How do you rate the quality of investigations done by the NIA so far?

The NIA has secured a conviction in the only case decided so far. The first two or three cases registered by the NIA had been completed before I handed over charge as their DG. The quality of these investigations was simply outstanding. They include the cases against the Black Widow gang of Assam and FICN case of Mumbai.
Do you feel the media is not giving the NIA enough time and always pressurizes it for quick results?

Cases taken up by the NIA are difficult ones. There will be a conspiracy angle, and investigations will be spread across the country and even outside. The boys have to get evidence before taking action, and should not go for arrests to please anyone or to deflect pressure. Officers of the NIA will never indulge in such tactics. Media has to be realistic.

There is a complaint of staff shortage in the NIA. Has the government done or funded it enough to ensure that it becomes India’s premier investigating agency to handle terror cases?

NIA was set up less than 3 years ago. It has strength of about 300 staff. It is learned that the government have sanctioned more posts and branches in Mumbai, Lucknow and Kochi. It is obvious that the government wants the NIA to become the premier agency to tackle terrorist cases.

Why is there such slow progress in the Headley and Rana case? Do you think we are relying too much on the US for information which eventually is leading to a delay in filing the charge-sheet?

In the Headley case, from media reports it appears that the NIA has sent letter rogatory to Pakistan to tie up loose ends there. In the case of Rana, they are waiting to interrogate Rana to complete the case against him. It is not depending on the US so much. We have no control over their systems of law. The US has given us unprecedented cooperation in the Headley case. We cannot set the time-table when investigations have to be carried out in foreign countries.

Cases such as the Mecca Masjid and Malegaon cases which the NIA is looking into have a long way to go since various things are being undone. Earlier it was blamed on Islamic organizations and today it is on Hindu outfits. What are your views about this sir?

NIA has to go by evidence and make all efforts to collect all available evidence before coming to any conclusion. In old cases, it is bound to be a time consuming process, especially because the accused would get time to destroy vital clues and leads. I am glad the agency is going about its tasks in a fair, professional and transparent manner.

Do you find probes being modified according to the political weather?

No investigator worth his salt would ever do this. I know each SP, DIG and IG in the NIA, and many of the junior officers. They are professionals, and would not deviate from the principles of rule of law.

Investigators today are in a hurry to file the charge-sheet, but more than often they do no stand the judicial test. Why do you think this is the case- is it due to hurry or lack of investigating skills?

This is a general statement, and does not apply to the NIA if you go by the only charge-sheeted case of the NIA in which there has been a positive judicial pronouncement. Professional investigation organizations have systems where the investigation is scrutinized by several levels of investigating superior officers and law officers. Chance of failure in these cases is less, as can be seen by the results of organizations like the CBI.

Post 26/11 how do you think India has managed to secure itself? What suggestions do you have sir to step up our security?

Since 26/11, many steps have been taken to strengthen investigating machinery as well as preventive mechanisms like augmenting coastal security, immigration points etc. But India is a huge country and unlike in the case of the US, we live in a highly unstable region, characterized as the epicenter of terror. We will therefore have to be more alert, and strengthen all our systems, preventive and detective, and the justice system for optimum results.

We have seen a spate of terror strikes like the one in Delhi and also at Varanasi. These are unsolved mysteries still. Do you see a new trend in terror operations by fringe elements?

NIA has worked out some clues and leads in the Delhi case and has made arrests. There are also media reports quoting NIA sources that there is a trend where fringe jihadi elements have started acting on their own. This is quite possible, and would make the job of the intelligence and investigating agencies more difficult. The best results would come if these cases are correctly solved and the perpetrators brought to book.

 Is the danger to national security today more from a country like Pakistan or is the enemy within?

Pakistan has been a constant source of trouble for us these sixty odd years. We also have fault lines in our polity which our enemy exploits. We should address our fault lines ourselves, and we can do this, certainly. A strong India cannot be troubled by anyone for long.

How strong do you think the Indian Mujahideen is today?

It is difficult to say. We will have to account for each of its members, and then, by our fair governance, ensure their ranks are not increased. That is the way forward.

Is our government serious about dealing with the problem of terror? Do you think it has been fair in dealing with both sorts of terror- both Islamic and Hindu?

The government, to the best of my knowledge, has never interfered in any investigation or prosecution, be it against the jihadi terror or right wing terror. It depends on the investigating and prosecution machinery to deliver on this, not the government.

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Jagan/Sriramulu-Bound by a fan?

There was a lot of talk about how the Reddy brothers in Karnataka are cozying up to Jagan Mohan Reddy and want to associate a new regional party of theirs’ with the YSR Congress party. There is outright denial by both camps alright, but if one looks at the symbol chosen by B Sriramulu for the forthcoming by-election then there appears to be a link.

Sriramulu had a choice of choosing a gas cylinder, a television or a celiing fan, but he took the last option. Now incidentally the ceiling fan happens to be the symbol of the YSR Congress party and this has made several in the political circles of both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka sit up and take notice.

A day before Janardhan Reddy was arrested, B Sriramulu had kicked up a storm in Karnataka when he resigned as the BJP MLA. Although he had not indicated that he would resign from the party, the message that he had sent out was very clear and that he wanted to be out of the party. He was completely backed by the Reddy brothers and insiders had informed that they planned on floating a regional party and at the time of the next elections, they planned a tie up with Jagan Mohan Reddy. However Janardhan Reddy was picked up and sent to jail and these plans were put on hold.

Sriramulu while speaking about choosing the same symbol only terms it as a coincidence. He says that there is a lot of logic behind choosing a ceiling fan. Bellary is a very hot place and he wants to play the role of a ceiling fan to cool the people and give them comfort. There is however no open talk of any Jagan related alliance from the Reddy camp. In fact the Reddy brothers have not been seen openly supporting Sriramulu during his campaign at Bellary for the by-election. Janardhan Reddy is in jail, but Sriramulu had met him before announcing his candidature as an independent. Karunakar Reddy the other brother has not come out in the open as yet during the campaign. Only Somashekara Reddy has been seen openly with Sriramulu. However the bigger fact is that none of the Reddys have resigned from the BJP like the way Sriramulu did.

The Jagan camp in Hyderabad is however keeping its cards close to its heart. A senior member of the camp said clearly, “ you take it in writing that there shall be no tie up with the Reddys. Why would our boss want such a tie up when all it does is spell trouble. We have no political or business links with the Reddys and would want no such links in future as well. Any tie up with the Reddy brothers would only make tongues wag and prove that the allegations that the two camps are close right. We would however not say that they do not want a tie up with Jagan. They may be desperate for a tie up as it helps their prospects due to Jagan’s image. However we are not keen.

The Reddy camp is however not as vocal as the Jagan faction.They want to take this issue slowly. They are focusing on winning this by election and also appear to be confident about a victory. We have a good start in this election and hope that the voters will not let us down. Once this election is won, then they propose on sending Sriramulu on a state wide tour to test the political waters. Their focus would be mainly on the bordering areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and if they feel that they can muster support then they would launch a regional party following which the Reddy brothers would come out of the BJP.

Currently on the election battle field at Bellary it appears to be a war  between Sriramulu and the BJP. The Congress candidate has been defeated in the past and the JD(S) has not fielded any candidate. Sriramulu has been veiled in his attack and has not been targetting the BJP directly. All he tells his voters is that he has been betrayed and quotes the Lokayukta report on illegal mining a thousand times in which his name is mentioned. I am hurt and will come out clean. I have come to the people seeking justice.

The BJP on the other hand has only been targeting Sriramulu. Although they do not take the name of the Reddy brothers in the open since they are still part of the party, they have been making indirect attacks. The BJP says that all these people had extracted the benefits from the party to the maximum and when the heat was high on them they have run away. At the end of the day for these people it is all about safeguarding their booty.

Yeddy gets anticipatory bail

The troubles for former Chief Minister of Karnataka, B S Yeddyurappa appear to be reducing with the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday granting him anticipatory bail in two cases. Justice Bilappa granted him bail in both the cases on the condition that he furnish a bond of Rs 2 lakh and two suerities of the like sum.

Immediately after he was sent to judicial custody in connection with a corruption case, he moved the High Court in the remaining four cases seeking anticipatory bail. All the cases against Yeddyurappa fall under the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act and each one of them alleges that he had de- notified land to favour friends and family.

Out of the five cases he has got regular bail in one case and anticipatory bail in two other cases today. His plea seeking bail in the remaining two cases are still pending before the court and are likely to be heard during the week. In addition to this Yeddyurappa will also face the Lokayukta police in connection with the illegal mining case in which his name has been taken by the Lokayukta while presenting the report on Illegal Mining three months back.

Try Google Guv. tells Kar. government

Karnataka Governor H R Bharadwaj has hit out at the Karnataka Government on the issue of the appointment of  new Lokyukta. “ If they cannot find a suitable Lokayukta then I guess they must search on Google,” is what Bharadwaj said in Bangalore today.

It is not a difficult job to find a Lokayukta. I guess they must try a google search in order to find a new Lokayukta, he also pointed out.

The Karnataka Government had recommended the name of Justice S R Bannur Math as the next Lokayukta of Karnataka. However the Governor had sent back the file stating that he required clarifications on the same. On this issue the Governor said that the file had come to him. However I sent the file back as I required some clarifications. There is already some controversy surrounding the name of Justice Bannur Math and hence I had sent the file back, he also added.

Further commenting on the sudden transfer of a senior official of the Lokayukta two days after B S Yeddyurappa came out of jail, Bharadwaj said that this is a bad precedent that is being set and it would be in the interest of Justice that such incidents do not take place as it sends out a wrong message.

The case against Chandrababu Naidu

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Chandrababu Naidu is a worried man today. As the Central Bureau of Investigation readies itself to start a probe against Naidu in connection with the disproportionate assets against him, the man himself is exploring legal options and plans on challenging the probe in the Supreme Court of India.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court had ordered a probe by the CBI against him yesterday based on a petition filed by wife of Late Dr Y S Rajasekara Reddy. Naidu however has a tough task ahead of him in case the CBI starts its questioning. More importantly this order has thrown the battle in the open between Jagan Mohan Reddy and Naidu who have been at logger heads trying to expose each other.

The petition against Naidu delves into various details regarding the manner in which he alleged made his money. It is alleged that he comes from a lower middle class family from Chittoor district and it is stated that he entered into politics immediately after he completed his college. Hence there is no real record to show the income he had earned as his only source of income was his political career.

Terming him as the biggest betrayer for overthrowing his father in law, N T Rama Rao out of power, the petition against him states that he went on to earn riches through illegal means.

As per his own declaration he has inherited 2 Acres of agricultural land from his ancestral property by virtue of family partition before 1986 situated in his native village of Naravaripalle in Chittoor District. In an affidavit that was filed by after his family partitioned the property in 1986, it is averred by him that he sold his share of the land and bought lands in Nindali and Vakhyam villages of Nellore, from which his income was declared by him to be Rs.36,000 per annum.

The spree of amassing property by him appears to have commenced in Nellore District. He purchased 65 acres of agricultural land through his family members at a low rate of about Rs.1000 per acre in 1985. Soon thereafter, a further 250 acres were purchased benami by him.

The sources of funds for the initial 65 acres, and the latter 250 acres are the same, The entire area of 315 acres, in a single stretch encircled by a single farm compound with a fence that runs 12 kilometers in one long stretch.

On 25.08.2001, 4 transactions of large lands in these tracts took place involving Naidu and his son Lokesh, of which were gifts, and 2 were sales. Such a large number of transactions to and fro are clearly suspicious and lend confirmation to the fact that benami transactions were abounding.

As Chief Minister of the State,.Naidu made the declaration of his assets in 1999, it showed the value of about Rs.7.83 crores, a massive and inexplicable leap, keeping in view that his agricultural income had been declared only 10 years earlier as being Rs.36,000 per annum, and his income as an MLA was Rs.650/- per month and as Director of Heritage Foods was Rs.20,000/- per month. The acquisitions in property, which is arithmetically a few times over and above the earlier possessions, in the shortest

possible span of business time and equal time spent in political pursuits by the family, clearly indicate that the sources of income which enabled such acquisition of assets are clearly illegitimate and defy an alibi of natural course of events. The possessions of the family continue earned and held during the period of time, continue the line adopted hitherto.

In addition to this the CBI would also probe the benami transaction which was allegedly undertaken in the name of his mother apart from the various properties that are found in the name of his wife.

Investigation also needs to be carried out as far as Naidu’s mother Ammanamma’s transactions are concerned. Admittedly, the only property that she inherited was 2 acres from Naidu’s maternal and parents in Kuppam village. However, in 2000, she purchased 5 acres of land in Sy. No. 59 of Madinaguda Village of Hyderabad, from one Jasti Panduranga Vittal near Hitec City for Rs.40 lakhs and also a plot of 1,135 sq.yds. in the upmarket Banjara Hills area ofHyderabadfor Rs. 35 lakhs.

Other investments and assets of. Naidu and his family

On 19-10-1994, at the time of publication of prospectus of Heritage Foods India Ltd., Naidu as Managing Director has declared that he is not associated with any industry or business activity. But at that time, Naidu promoted M/s. Bhuvaneswari Carbides and Chemicals Pvt. Ltd., and

Bhuvaneswari Carbides and Alloys Pvt. Ltd., Both these units have borrowed from the banks and financial institutions, this fact was concealed in the prospectus deliberately.

It is pertinent to note that the investment made by Bhuvaneswari (wife) and Lokesh in the year 1999-2000 continued ill today in M/s. A 2 Z E multisoft Pvt.Ltd later changed the name as M/s Bizpro Technologies Pvt.Ltd, has not been declared in statement of assets and liabilities submitted to the Election Commission of India and State Legislature of Andhra Pradesh, a perjury liable for prosecution.

It is a mystery as to how.Chandrababu Naidu could promote a posh Three Star hotel in the most expensive area of Tirupati immediately after joining TDP in 1983. Nobody knows how he could mobilize the equity. He later sold this property to another TDP functionary, who was later made Kadapa ZP Chairman.

Rama Agricultural Farms

In 1989, a family firm called Rama Agricultural Farms consisting of Naidu’s mother, wife, son and a relative of them named P.Dasaiah Naidu purchased 3.276 acres of land in Kondapur, at a distance of only half a kilometer from Hitec City, for Rs. 1,00,000 at a rate of Rs.30,487 per acre. The sources of these funds remain unknown.

In 1996, an announcement is made by the Government headed by Naidu that an Infotech park called Hitec Citywould be established in the area abutting Kondapur. With this announcement, the value of the land held by Rama Agricultural Farms multiplies, providing substantial pecuniary benefit to the holders of the land.

On 4.4.1998, a company named Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories gets a sales tax deferment of Rs.25 crores for 14 years from the State Government headed by Naidu. This itself is questionable as such exemption is given only to a new industry/Unit. Dr.Reddy’s was founded in 1984, and is an established, listed company on both the NSE and the NYSE with revenues of $1.67 billion.

Naidu who was the pivotal policy maker of the State when he was the Chief Minister selectively leaked the policy formulations of the State in advance for the benefit of individuals and private entities who are related to him. The site and location of infrastructural projects envisaged or potential sites for such development was leaked out to the firms and entities owned and promoted by Ramoji Rao, Maganti Murali Mohan of Jayabheri Properties and the location and the extents of lands owned by the above named individuals/entitites and several others are the direct evidences in this regard. All such favours need to be examined and misuse of power amounting to loss of hundreds of crores of rupees to the innocent farmers and land owners ought to be suitably redressed.

Krishna Godavari (KG)Basin

The Krishna-Godavari basin is home to one of the most lucrative gas deposits in the world, as was discovered in 2002, and estimated to be almost 40 times that of the Bombay High basin. While the basin is located in the State ofAndhra Pradesh, the Government under Naidu chose to turn an obliging blind eye to its rights to the discovery on its soil, while allowing Naidu’s close associate Ramoji Rao to be the vehicle of the quid pro quo. In fact, there was also a note/letter to Naidu by the senior officers of the Government cautioning him that the State ofAP should also bid for the gas by forming a company like Gujarat had done. This piece of advice was wholly ignored by Naidu. In the process of exploring gas reserves in KG basin, Reliance industries indulged in many violations by hindering fishermen and polluting large extent of waters which caused unaccountable damage to environment and marine life.

Ramoji Rao’s company Margadarsi Financiers had fallen on hard times in the year 2007 when its irregularities and violations became public. Subsequently a committee of enquiry was constituted by Govt. of AP which revealed that Rs.2,600 crores of money was collected from public by violating Reserve Bank of Indianorms and regulations and it was declared that it was impossible for the company to repay its several depositors.

Despite the fact that almost all of Rao’s companies were in severe financial difficulties, Rao surprisingly offered through the news media to repay the full amount of Rs.2600 crores due to the depositors. This was followed by an assurance by him to thisHon’ble Courtfollowing which the amount due was repaid. A large portion of amount of so called deposits accounting to nearly Rs.275 Cr was declared as unclaimed initially.

In consideration for the favour done by the Respondent No. 8 in allowing the State’s K.G.Basin claim to be brushed under the carpet, the Reliance group facilitated the payout of Ramoji Rao’s debts to his depositors. This was carried out through known associates and friends of Mukesh Ambani.

Two of these known associates of Ambani and the Reliance Group are Nimesh Kampani and Vinay Chajlani.

Kampani extended himself in ensuring that Ramoji Rao would be bailed out. Within a short span of 37 days between December 2007 and January 2008, six “shell companies” were floated on three addresses, which are shown as Sriram Mills Compound, Worli, which is the official address

of Reliance Industries Limited. Reliance diverted Rs.2604 crores of its shareholders money through the shell companies to Ms.Kampani’s Equator Trading India Limited and.Chajlani’s Anu Trading.

The Shamshabad Airport

Between 1997 to 2001, in Palmakole village just adjoining Shamshabad, Margadarsi Chit fund private limited (a company in which Ramoji Rao and his family members were partners), along with many of Ramoji Rao’s employees with as low income as Rs.10,000/- p.m. bought a huge extent of 360 acres of land, when the market value was just Rs.50,000/-. As agricultural land ceiling was in existence, it was not possible for a single individual to hold large tracts of this land. Rao bankrolled the transactions entered into by his employees in order to facilitate this single piece of land to be transferred.

The fact that this land was purchased at ten times its market price ought to have been enough to arouse the suspicion of the authorities. Shortly after the purchase, Naidu directed the Government to grant permissions to the benami holders to convert their land to non-agricultural purposes, thereby avoiding the application of the ceiling law in regard to agricultural holdings.

Immediate upon conversion, all the various pieces of land were sold to Ramoji Rao at almost the same price1. For example, there were as many as 10 transactions in the name of Kolli Bapineedu Choudhary (now Vice President of Ramoji Film City), but not a single land stands in his name now.

Hitech City

In 1996, one. Maganti Murali Mohan of Jayabheri Properties / MM Financiers purchased 2.34 acres in thevillageofGachchibowli. These purchases were made for a total consideration of Rs.10 lakh. Murali Mohan is a close friend and associate of Naidu, who was then the Chief Minister of the State. Shortly thereafter, Naidu announced the Hitec City Project, which was to be coincidentally located in the villages of Kondapur, Gachchibowli and Madhapur.

Immediately thereafter, the prices of the lands in those villages rose dramatically, which was taken advantage by Murali Mohan who entered into several Development Agreements (8 projects) between 1996 and 1997 aroundHitecCity. Naidu showcaused the internationally reputed IT/Software/ ITES companies by allotting approximately 1/3rd of 645 Acres in Sy.No.65 of Madhapur area fuelling escalation in real estate prices and grabbed the rest of 2/3rd land through a slew of fictitious / benami paper companies at his behest. The very fact that most of these companies were Non IT/ software objective based companies and very few of them just start up Software companies incorporated with the sole intention of getting the land and other tax benefits from Government of Andhra Pradesh lends credence to the fact that Naidu benefited from the same. In all these allotments, Naidu either received illegal gratification in the form of cash or end beneficiary through Maganti Murali Mohan and others. For instance, companies floated by one Sri.Valluripalli Nagarjun in several names like Valluripalli Agrotech and Arjun Computers and Software got the lands from the government agencies for throw away prices. After getting allotment, some of the said companies transferred the lands to Murali Mohan and his group companies.

Bhatkal was always a ‘chindi chor’

When one Karnataka police official who was serving in Bhatkal was asked about Riyaz Bhatkal he had this to say, “he was nothing but a chindi chor before he was roped in to become a big time terrorist.”

Investigators who have been probing the various Indian Mujahideen related cases in Karnataka today say that a large part of the outfit was angry with Riyaz since they felt that he had betrayed them when he scooted with cash meant for the outfit just when he realised that the heat had increased on him.

Riyaz Bhatkal who hails from the coastal town ofBhatkalwas in possession of Rs 38 lakh which was collected through hawala transactions and donations. All this money was supposed to be used for terror operations in and around the Karnataka circle. However going by the manner in which he carried out the stadium blasts inBangaloreit becomes clear that he did not spend more than Rs 10000 for the entire operation and it was classified as a flop.

An official part of the probe says that during the questioning of the various men from the IM, it became clear that Bhatkal had diverted off a lot of funds for his own personal gain. Moreover just before he fled the country, he took all the money kept aside for terror operations along with him, thus leaving the operatives over here with nothing.

The police say that the split within the IM began more to do with the fact that some of the operatives have diverted from their primary agenda and thought of making terrorism more of a money racket. This would ideally mean that they were diverting from the main idea of ideological terrorism and focusing more making it a money spinning business.

When the IM was launched it was specifically told to use all its funds into carrying out terror activities inIndia. The ISI was in fact very clear in its directive and had helped the IM raise funds through various channels. In terms of donations and hawala transactions, the IM had easily at its disposal over Rs 10 crore in the first year of it being launched. The money was supposed to be used to set up modules, camps and also procuring arms and ammunition. For the first part of the year the directive was being followed, but later on things did change when operatives such as Bhatkal decided to use the money for their own personal gain.

Bhatkal who has been largely credited with the setting up of the Karnataka-Maharashtra modules of the IM which is considered to be the strongest is today being seen as a traitor for siphoning funds belonging the outfit. The interrogation of the stadium blasts accused reveals that the organisation was hard pressed for money in the last two years especially when they needed it the most. They did not have the courage to question Bhatkal since he was too big in the organisation. They were given arms and ammunition of very poor quality and hardly any money was spent on the logistics. In fact the stadium blasts in particular was more of an operation to show the police that they were still alive. The original plan was not to carry out such a meek attack and considering the fact that they did manage to penetrate through the security at the stadium they should have carried out a more sophisticated attack.

Bhatkal according to some police officials who have interrogated him when he was in Bhatkal was always more interested in raising money for himself. He had no ideology of a terrorist and always made his money by passing on information to the two communities in Bhatkal who have always been at logger heads with each other. It was expected of him to do something of this sort even when he was part of a terror network since old habits do die hard.

The investigators looking into the IM operations in other parts of the country also point out that many of the operatives started using the money for their own personal benefits. Hence the exercise to rebuild the outfit had been taking this long. They have decided to operate in independent modules and have had a success rate, but they could never ready themselves for a bigger operation due to the lack of funds.

The ISI which controls this outfit directly is well in the know of this development and have deliberately kept the activities of this outfit low. The original idea was to use them completely for their much spoken about Karachiproject and for this they needed a very strong outfit. Today they are trying to restructure the entire leadership and ensurethat the IM is more ideologically driven like how it was during its inception four and half years back.

Will Karnataka Lokayukta survive?

The much hyped up Lokayukta office of Karnataka which created ripples with the report on illegal mining is in a mess one could say today. There is no clarity what so ever regarding the next Lokayukta of Karnataka after the post fell vacant following the resignation of Justice Shivraj Patil.

Will there be a new Lokayukta soon or will the office even survive are some of the key questions that are being asked today. The Karnataka Government states that it is serious about continuing with the office and has even made a recommendation for the next Lokayukta. While this is the official statement that has been given by the government there are many in both the BJP and the opposition who today are questioning the Lokayukta office itself.

A recent remark made by a very high ranking officer who was part of the Lokayukta’s office is what has brought about this debate. He had said that there is corruption even in the office of the Lokayukta. This in fact has raised a debate and some politicians feel that how can corrupt officials probe corrupt politicians. The most vocal is none other than the president of the State’s BJP unit, K S Eshwarappa. He says that the organisation itself is corrupt and biased. When this being the case we should debate whether such an office to probe corruption should exist in the first place.

Sadananda Gowda, Chief Minister of Karnataka however states that the delay in appointing a new Lokayukta should not be construed that the government is planning on scrapping the organisation. We have suggested the name of Justice S Bannur Math and it was even sent to the Governor for approval.

The Governor’s office has however referred the recommendation back to the government seeking certain clarifications. One of the clarifications that have been sought is whether the approval of the Chief Justice has been sought before the recommendation was made. The Governor had also sought some clarifications regarding the assets owned by the judge. The government of Karnataka will now have to reply to the governor before the appointment could be made.

In addition to all this there is also a huge confusion regarding an ADGP who was part of the Lokayukta. The first of the problems was when he was suddenly transferred out of the Lokayukta’s office two days after former Chief Minister of Karnataka, B S Yeddyurappa walked out of jail on bail. The next of the problems began when the ADGP alleged that he was threatened by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. The BJP says that the transfer has nothing to do with Yeddyurappa while Gowda says that there was never any threat that was made. Today the police are probing the Deve Gowda angle to the case and have even been studying the call records to ascertain whether there was a threat that was made.

The going appears to be tough for the Lokayukta’s office. The unfortunate thing is that the discretion to keep the Lokayukta’s office or not is entirely at the discretion of the government of the respective state. It happened in the state of Haryana when the government through an act repealed the office of the Lokayukta.

Justice Santhosh Hegde, former Lokayukta of Karnataka says that he would not be able to comment on whether the government would continue with this office or not. They very much have the power to close down the office, but whether they would do it or not would be a big question. In so far as keeping the post vacant there is no guideline or rule which says that the post has to be filled up in a particular amount of time. The only way out is to approach the High Court and seek a directive to appoint a Lokayukta.

However the indication is that the Government may not take a brash step to close down the office. They would want a thorough consensus on the issue before taking any such decision. A large majority of the cases in the Lokayukta’s office concern the BJP leadership and hence closing it down now would only send out a very wrong signal. The party has thrown open the debate and would want it to take its natural course before any such step is taken.

CBI probe against Naidu

In a major set back to Telegu Desam Party Chief Chandrababu Naidu, the Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday ordered a CBI inquiry against him. The court while disposing off a petition today ordered that the Central Bureau Investigation conduct a detailed probe into the assets owned by him.

The petition was filed by Vijayamma, wife of former Chief Minister, the Late Dr Y S Rajasekara Reddy. In the petition it was claimed that Naidu during his tenure as the CM of Andhra Pradesh had amassed wealth and also assets which were not known to his known source of income. Hence it was essential that the matter was brought to light and in this regard a CBI probe was essential.

The TDP has however not taken this news lightly and plans on acting against the same. Naidu who spoke with reporters said that no opportunity was given before such an order was passed. He said that he would await for the complete copy of the judgment and then hold consultations with his legal team before deciding on whether to appeal or not. The TDP has however decided to move the Supreme Court of India in appeal against this judgment and also seek an interim stay on the CBI probe against Naidu.

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.

Bring the real perpetrators to justice

Malegaon witnessed a change after the year 2006 when it was stung by bomb blasts which claimed many innocent lives. While the people were coping with the attack came another rude shock when scores of Muslim youth were picked up and charged for the very same case.

Today however there is a sense of relief that nine of these youth were having been languishing in jail for the past 5 years were granted bail by the court. As last minute preparations are on to complete the legal formalities to secure the release of the youth, there is also an increase in political activity to claim the credit for this development.

Maulana Abdul Hamid Azhari, President of Kul Jamaati Tanzeem who has been leading the fight to secure justice for these youth says that there is happiness but it all subdued and the primary focus is to get these boys on track so that they could lead their lives after having lost the most precious years of their lives. In this interview with rediff.com, he also goes on to say that the injustice that was meted out was unbearable and says that the real justice would be done once the real culprits are brought to justice.

How is the mood in Malegaon after this development?

It is one of happiness no doubt. But there is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that these boys are brought back on track. They have lost a lot of years unnecessarily in jail.

 What are your immediate demands now?

These boys will be released on bail for the moment. But the case still remains and hence our first demand would be to withdraw the cases against them.

 Do you think justice has been done?

Not as yet. There is a long way to go. It is not enough if these boys are released or the cases against them are dropped. One must not forget that many people lost their lives in the blasts. There needs to be justice meted out to them too. It is very important that the culprits who are at large are brought to book as soon as possible.

 What about the police officials?

Yes there are many of them who have filed many false cases as a result of which the families of these youth have undergone a lot of duress. Not to mention the duress the youth themselves underwent. I personally feel that these officers should be investigated and necessary action be taken against them.

Today looking at the probe it shows that some Hindu outfits were behind the Malegaon attacks. Who do you think the mastermind is?

Yes the probe has taken another angle. I would not want to name the organisation that is funding all such operations.

What do you think of the manner in which the government has dealt with the case?

I would say the people are happy today. However I just wished justice came earlier. We had expected that these boys would be released by January. But it dragged on. We had thought that the government machinery would protect our interests sooner.

 Is there hope in the National Investigating Agency?

We had hope in the ATS and also in the Central Bureau of Investigation. However the picture that we saw when the probe commenced was that of shock and disbelief. We saw a tiny ray of hope when the CBI took over, but then realised it did nothing different from what the ATS had done. I would however like to praise Hemanth Karkare for the work he had done, but sadly he was killed. Today we have hope in the NIA probe. We wish real justice comes out. We were in fact very overwhelmed when the NIA filed a No Objection Certificate when the bail plea of these youth came up.

Do you see an RSS hand in these attacks?

I would not want to come to any conclusion. But would like to say that the RSS ought to be banned. It had been banned before, but it was lifted. It is the duty of the government to provide proper proof and material before the court to ensure that it is banned. However I do notice that the RSS operates very smartly and does not leave any trail behind.

There is talk that Muslim youth were hired to plant the bombs.

I do not buy this version. It looks like some sort of ploy. In fact the persons who carried out the blasts were smart enough to disguise themselves so that the blame fell on the Muslim community.

Has the social fabric of Malegaon changed after the 2006 incident and the events that followed?

I would not say that. Since day one all of us have treated this case as an act of terror. There was never a Hindu or Muslim angle attached to it. All we wanted was for the real culprits to be brought to book in this case. Even today there is no anger between the communities. The situation is very peaceful and let me assure that the communal or social fabric has not changed even one bit. We believe in peace.

What sort of compensation do you plan on seeking for these youth?

I guess it should be Rs 5 lakh, A lakh for every year that they spent in jail. They need to start their live afresh and would need this money for the same. I know they will cope up, but the best years of lives have been taken away and that can never come back.

How have the families coped with this duress and stress?

They have coped with it very well. In fact the community was very united and since day one none of us even for a second looked at these youth with suspicion. We ensured that their families were always involved socially and not once did we give them the feeling that their children were terrorists. The confidence was always given to them as well as the youth which made this fight for justice possible in the first place.