Blast after Blast
Who is responsible?
The news in April 2006 that a bomb had accidentally exploded in the house
of an RSS man in Nanded in Maharashtra, killing two persons and injuring
four others – all Bajrang Dal activists – created a national sensation.
Initially, the first information report (FIR) on the incident registered
by a local police officer unquestioningly recorded the injured activists’
claim that the unfortunate incident was the result of an accidental
ignition of firecrackers stored at the site. But within days the police
investigation itself revealed that the incident was in fact the result of
an unintended explosion of bombs that were being assembled by Hindu
extremists with the clear intention of targeting mosques and terrorising
There have been past instances elsewhere in the country
also linking Hindu extremists to bombs. But in the numerous blasts that
have rocked city after city in India with frightening regularity in recent
years the intelligence agencies and the police have invariably pointed
their fingers at Muslim extremist outfits, either indigenous or from
across the border.
Indian Muslims have repeatedly complained that almost
immediately after every blast only Muslim names crop up among the accused
and only Muslim organisations are named as suspect but the charges are
rarely, if ever, proved in court. There is consequently a widespread
feeling that terrorist acts by unidentified individuals are being used to
demonise the entire Muslim community.
It is against this backdrop that the Nanded incident
attracted considerable attention from secular activists and Muslim
organisations. A close watch was kept on the investigating agencies to
ensure that in a case where Hindu extremists had clearly been caught
red-handed there would be proper investigation and prosecution. As a
result of this sustained public vigilance the case was handed over from
the police to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and then from the ATS to the
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Communalism Combat has been closely monitoring the Nanded case from the
start. CC’s sustained investigation unravels a story of police bias, half
measures by the ATS and, worst of all, an all too apparent bid, ‘Operation
Cover-up’, by the CBI. Much was expected from the CBI by way of a thorough
and non-partisan investigation but its conduct has been the most shocking.
This raises the obvious question: is the apex investigation agency in the
country communally tainted?
BY TEESTA SETALVAD
On the night of April 5-6, 2006 a bomb exploded in the
house of Laxman Gundayya Rajkondwar, a retired
executive engineer at the PWD, Nanded. Two persons – Naresh Rajkondwar and
Himanshu Panse – died on the spot while four of their accomplices – Maroti
Keshav Wagh, Yogesh Deshpande (alias Vidulkar), Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar
and Rahul Manohar Pande – were seriously injured.
On hearing of the incident, an assistant police inspector
(API) from the local Bhagyanagar police station, Ravindra Purushottam
Dahedkar, who was on patrol duty, registered the first complaint. On the
say-so of the surviving injured, he registered an FIR. The FIR said Naresh
Rajkondwar was running a firecracker business from his home. The blast
occurred because Rajkondwar and Wagh were smoking too close to where the
firecrackers were stored. In short, it was an unfortunate accident.
Was Dahedkar just lazy, naďve, or were his actions
influenced by the popular assumption that only people of a certain
community engaged in the creation of bombs and bomb blasts?
It must have been a matter of some embarrassment, in
retrospect, for the then district superintendent of police, Fatehsingh
Patil, and the district collector of Nanded, Radheshyam Mopalwar. Relying
presumably on Dahedkar’s FIR, both of them repeated the
firecrackers-did-it story to the media.
Within days however the inspector general of police,
Nanded range, Dr Suryaprakash Gupta, set the record straight, telling the
media that the incident involved a bomb blast. During examination the
police (Dahedkar himself) found "splinters" on the bodies of the deceased
and the injured. A live pipe bomb was also found at the explosion site. It
was thus obvious that the firecracker story was a deliberate fabrication
in order to mislead the police.
Further investigations revealed that the deceased and
wounded persons were all active workers of the Bajrang Dal who had been
assembling bombs to target Muslim places of worship, camouflaging their
entire operation to resemble a terror operation run by Muslims. Laxman
Gundayya Rajkondwar, in whose house the bombs were being manufactured and
whose son Naresh died in the explosion, is an RSS man. Diaries, important
documents, suspicious maps and mobile telephone numbers that were
unearthed from the houses of the accused incriminated them further. In a
manner of speaking, members of the sangh parivar were literally caught
red-handed with bombs in their basement.
A frantic effort was made to somehow divert attention from
the facts. A large quantity of firecrackers, valued at Rs 1,20,000, was
later found on the site of the explosion. These had obviously been brought
in after the event; despite the occurrence of a high intensity blast the
firecrackers remained intact! Where did this large stock of firecrackers
come from? Why was it stored in a home illegally, without licence? The
victims were now the accused.
In the first few days following the blasts the police
arrested 16 persons who were then remanded to police custody. The remand
application highlighted two points. One, the accused persons knowingly
provided the police false information on the day of the crime, saying the
blast was caused by firecrackers when in fact it was a bomb blast. Two,
investigations had revealed that the accused persons possessed diagrams,
maps and other documentary material related to the manufacture and storage
of bombs and the identification of target areas for the purpose of
creating terror in the country.
Named among the accused were a practising advocate at the
Nanded district court, Milind Arvind Ektate, and a medical practitioner,
Dr Umesh Dinkarrao Deshpande. One of the accused men, Rahul Manohar Pande,
had sustained serious injuries in the blast but had escaped from the scene
and sought surreptitious medical attention. Advocate Ektate was among
those who helped Pande go into hiding while Dr Deshpande provided medical
care without notifying the police. Curiously, neither of the two men had
any difficulty in obtaining anticipatory bail from the district court.
Ektate applied for and was granted anticipatory bail through an ad interim
bail application on April 10 while Dr Umesh Dinkarrao Deshpande made a
similar application on April 13. He was also granted ad interim bail the
same day following an oral "no objection" from the assistant public
prosecutor, AJ Kurtadikar.
As of today, all the accused, apart from the absconding
Rahul Manohar Pande, are out on bail.
Heinous deeds by Hindu extremists
On May 4, 2006 the case was transferred to the
Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra police. By the time the ATS
filed its first charge sheet on August 24, 2006, it had already amassed a
mountain of damning evidence against a whole network of Bajrang Dal and
other sangh parivar workers engaged in terrorist activities. Reproduced
below are some highlights and excerpts from the ATS charge sheet:
The accused persons involved in assembling the
bomb(s) at Nanded were also responsible for three earlier bomb blasts in
neighbouring districts: at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November
2003), at the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and at the
Meraj-ul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August
2004). (So far state police efforts to track down the perpetrators of
these blasts had drawn a blank.)
Four of the six
prime accused in the case under investigation – Sanjay Choudhary,
Himanshu Panse, Maroti Keshav Wagh and Yogesh Ravindra Deshpande – had
planted bombs at the Parbhani mosque on November 21, 2003.
Two of the six
accused – Sanjay Choudhary and Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar – admitted to
planting bombs at the Purna mosque on August 27, 2004.
One of the six
accused – Maroti Keshav Wagh – was charged with planting bombs at the
Quadriya Masjid, Jalna, also on August 27, 2004.
Five of the main
accused in the Nanded blasts were involved in throwing acid on a
Muslim teacher, Shaikh Yousuf Shaikh Gafoor Sahab, in Nanded on April 8,
The target of
the bombs which blew up in their faces on April 5-6, 2006 was a mosque
in Aurangabad. Both Himanshu Panse and Maroti Wagh had visited and taken
a close look at the Aurangabad mosque and its surroundings in May 2004.
Police raids on
the houses and other establishments of the accused persons and
subsequent search operations uncovered materials in the possession of
the accused which establish that they were all active members of outfits
like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
and the Bajrang Dal.
Maroti Wagh includes a register and an identity card that clearly links
him to the RSS. Papers linking him to the RSS were confiscated by the
A house search
of the accused, Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar, revealed that Himanshu
Venkatesh Panse, Naresh Laxman Rajkondwar, Maroti Keshav Wagh, Yogesh
Ravindra Vidulkar (Deshpande), Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar, Rahul Manohar
Pande, Sanjay Choudhary, Ramdas Ananda Mulange (an employee of one of
the accused) and Laxman Gundayya Rajkondwar were/are hardcore activists
of the RSS and the Bajrang Dal.
Ten live 7.65 mm
cartridges were found at the site during investigations and seized by
the police. Laxman Rajkondwar kept the live cartridges in his home
illegally. This was one reason why the ATS included Laxman Rajkondwar
among the prime accused in the crime.
these organisations made them propagate that innocent Hindus were being
attacked by the extremist Muslim organisations day in and day out and
hence the accused Himanshu Panse, Rahul Manohar Pande, started a
gymnasium to mobilise youth."
named Power Zone, was set up in order to unite youths and draw them
towards their version of Hinduism. Panse and Wagh started a branch of
Sangh at Nanded, Bajrang Nagar, opposite MGM College. Accused Yogesh
Vidulkar has also started (a) hostel for orphans at his residential
created an anti-Muslim atmosphere by organising seminars and giving
speeches aimed at emphasising how the Muslims commit injustice to Hindus
and motivating the Hindus for doing something for Hinduism; they have
organised religious ceremonies on the occasions of Hindu New Year Day,
the birth anniversary of Ram, Vijayadashmi, Ganesh festival, Durga
festival and various other Hindu festivals through the organisations RSS
and Bajrang Dal in Nanded city and Nanded district."
"In order that
the aim of revenge is effectively fulfilled, accused Wagh, Panse,
Choudhary and Vidulkar (injured) went to ‘Akanksha Resort’ at the foot
of the Fort Sinhgad near Pune in 2003 and got training (in) making pipe
bombs from a man named Mithun Chakraborty. They got themselves trained
for making three types of bombs, such as timer bombs (IEDs). After
demonstrating (to) them how to explode these bombs, the explosives were
handed over to Panse by Chakraborty. Panse (also) underwent training by
the VHP and Bajrang Dal at Goa for two years."
"Panse and Wagh
underwent 40 days’ training at Bhonsala Military School at Nagpur… After
returning from Pune in the year 2003 (they) exploded bombs at the
Gousiya Masjid, Parbhani, for which crime No. 61/03 has been registered
at the Nanal Peth police station."
Laxman Rajkondwar allowed his house to be used for the making of bombs
even though he was aware of the consequences of the bomb blasts and
possibility of damage to life and property.
"The said bombs
were to be used at some place for terrorist and anti-national activities
and they were well aware that these bombs could kill many persons and
they themselves could lose their life while handling the said bombs.
They (father and son) had purposefully kept (a) huge quantity of
firecrackers at their house with intentions to make people believe that
it was an accident involving firecrackers and not bomb blasts if any
such untoward incident took place. It has been informed, in writing, by
the honourable collector, Nanded, that there was no legal permission for
such accumulation of firecrackers."
"From the ‘Ramdas
Raznishi’ and pocket diary confiscated during the house search of
Wagh, and the map found in the pocket diary, it is revealed that while
he was staying at Aurangabad for (a) BPEd diploma along with his friend
in the year 2004 Panse visited the place in May 2004 and at that time
witness Shrikar Shivsamb Sonawale and three others went round Aurangabad
city and Panse inspected the masjid carefully."
"From the false
beard and moustache confiscated during the house search of Himanshu
Venkatesh Panse and the conversation on mobile No. 9822297494 of witness
Atul Vinod Kamtikar, it was revealed that Wagh was to visit Aurangabad
on April 5, 2006… and hence (a) motorcycle was kept ready on April 4,
2004 at Dhoot Motors, of Sachin Suresh Kadam, for carrying out some work
"All these facts
reveal that these accused had preplanned a bomb explosion at some mosque
for the purpose of creating unrest among Hindus and Muslims."
Based on its
findings, the ATS included Sanatkumar Ragvithal Bhate, a Pune resident,
in the list of witnesses. In his statements given to the ATS on April 20
and May 18, 2006 Bhate revealed that he had been with the RSS since 1996
and was formerly a member of the Indian navy. Bhate confessed that in
March or April 2000 he received a telephone call from the office of the
Bajrang Dal situated behind the Saraswati Mandir School, Pune. Dal
leader Milind Parade requested Bhate to train his activists, due to
arrive in Pune for a camp, in the use of "short sticks" (gelatine
sticks). He admitted to attending the camp to carry out the requested
training. Around 40-50 state-level activists attended the camp at which
one of the accused, Himanshu Panse, was the group leader. Bhate said he
met Panse at the camp. Parade then requested Bhate to also participate
in an upcoming national-level camp of activists at the Bhonsala Military
School, Nagpur. Parade and three of his disciples from Pune carried 300
sticks with them for this camp, said Bhate. Why was Bhate not named
among the accused by the investigating agencies, not even by the ATS?
that on arriving at the Bhonsala Military School he learnt that the camp
had been organised by the RSS to give karate, ground obstacles and
revolver firing training to participants. Two retired ex-servicemen who
were present at the camp trained participants in revolver handling. Also
attending was a senior retired officer from the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
In all there were 115 participants from all over India at the camp.
Nagacharya Puranik, a BSNL employee at the Nanded telephone exchange,
also played a key role in the nefarious activities. A member of the
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh trade union affiliated to the RSS, Puranik
revealed in his recorded statements to the police and the ATS between
April and June 2006 that he had been attending RSS camps since 2000.
Puranik, a well-educated man, was fully aware of the terrorist designs
of Himanshu Panse, Naresh Rajkondwar, Rahul Pande and others. He
nonetheless provided logistical support for their criminal activities
for a number of years. He financed and helped the accused persons both
before and after the Nanded incident. Fearing an arrest, Puranik filed
an anticipatory bail application before the sessions court, Nanded. The
court readily granted him anticipatory bail!
by the ATS was Shrikar Shivsambh Sonwale, a Nanded resident. In a
recorded statement to the ATS in May 2006 Sonwale admitted to a close
friendship with several of the main accused in the Nanded incident. He
stated that while they were drinking together one evening Maroti Wagh
had told him in great detail how Himanshu Panse and he had detonated a
bomb in a Parbhani mosque (November 2003). This showed that Sonwale knew
about Wagh and Panse’s involvement in a terrorist act. But he withheld
this vital information from the police. Had he informed the police at
that point in time Panse and gang could have been apprehended and the
explosions that followed at other places could have been prevented.
operation at Panse’s house unearthed items of disguise – an artificial
beard, shervani, etc – used in order to assume the appearance of
a Muslim. The police and the ATS collected sufficient evidence against
all the accused to establish that they were perpetrators and masterminds
of the blasts carried out at regular intervals in different districts of
Maharashtra. The obvious conclusion drawn was that it was the intention
of Bajrang Dal activists and their sangh parivar affiliates to target
Muslims with terrorist acts and make it appear that Muslim extremists
were involved in targeting fellow Muslims. This would help advance the
sangh parivar’s agenda of spreading hatred against Indian Muslims,
projecting them as the perpetrators of every blast in city after city in
The first charge sheet filed by the ATS on August 24, 2006
named seven accused – Rahul Pande, Laxman G. Rajkondwar, Sanjay Choudhary,
Ramdas Mulange, Dr Umesh Deshpande, Himanshu Panse (deceased) and Naresh
Rajkondwar (deceased). (Maroti Wagh, Yogesh D. Vidulkar and Gururaj Jairam
Tuptewar, who were all present at the bomb-making site, were absent from
the first list of accused).
They were charged under Sections 304 (culpable homicide
not amounting to murder), 286 (negligent conduct), 338 (grievous hurt),
201(destroying evidence), 202 (withholding information on a crime), 203
(providing false information), 212 (harbouring an offender), 120B
(criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intent) and 109 (abetment) of the Indian
Penal Code (IPC); along with Sections 3 (causing an explosion likely to
endanger life, person or property), 4 (attempting to cause or making or
keeping explosives likely to endanger life or damage property), 5 (making
explosives under suspicious circumstances) and 6 (abetment) of the
Explosive Substances Act 1908; Sections 3, 25 and 35 (unlawful possession
of arms) of the Arms Act 1959; and Sections 18 (attempting to commit or
abetting a terrorist act) and 23 (unauthorised possession of bombs, etc
with intent to aid terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention)
Act 1967 (as amended in 2004).
The most serious charges against the accused, and for
which the most stringent punishments are provided, are the ones that fall
within the purview of the Unlawful Activities Act and Section 304 of the
IPC. (See box for punishments provided under the former.)
After conducting further investigations the ATS filed a
supplementary charge sheet on November 11, 2006 naming four more accused –
Maroti Wagh, Yogesh D. Vidulkar, Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar and Milind Ektate.
They too were slapped with identical charges. However, none of the
abetters or masterminds behind the conspiracy, Mithun Chakraborty or
Bajrang Dal leaders, were incriminated.
To its credit, the ATS did a reasonable job at the level
of investigation, uncovering a hitherto unknown terrorist network in
Maharashtra of Hindu extremists linked to the sangh parivar. Given the
seriousness of the case, evident through its own findings, one would have
expected the ATS to proceed with both promptitude and determination to
ensure that all those who were guilty were brought to book and the
terrorist network was exposed. The two charge sheets filed by the ATS do
not however reflect the very gravity of its findings. It appears from what
follows that at some point in the course of proceedings the ATS took a
sudden U-turn. A public outcry then forced the government to transfer the
case from the ATS to the CBI. But the CBI’s conduct was questionable in
the extreme; doing little to follow up on the many leads provided by the
ATS, it only served to weaken the case.
The investigating agencies themselves warrant
investigation and this is CC’s "charge sheet" against them.
State police: inefficient or
What is the explanation for the Maharashtra police’s
earlier failure in identifying and booking the real perpetrators of the
bomb blasts at the Parbhani, Jalna and Purna mosques which took place in
2003 and 2004, two years before the blasts in Nanded? A lack of
professionalism in intelligence-gathering and in conducting
investigations? A sanghi mind-set that believes only members of a certain
community would commit terrorist acts? Or intentionally shielding the
guilty, acting either of its own volition or under political pressure?
ATS: Half measures?
On July 29, 2006 the ATS sought permission from the
district collector, Nanded, to file its charge sheet against 21 accused
persons. To make such a plea the ATS must have been confident that it
had sufficient evidence to prove that all 21 persons were party to the
crime. But inexplicably, barely three weeks later it wrote to the
additional chief secretary of Maharashtra, seeking sanction for the
prosecution of only seven persons from its own list of 21 accused,
dropping all charges against 11 others and seeking permission to bring
forth evidence against the remaining two – Advocate Milind Ektate and
the elusive Mithun Chakraborty – only one of whom was ultimately
charged. (As mentioned earlier, a supplementary charge sheet added four
more persons, including Ektate but not Chakraborty, to the list of
accused.) Mithun Chakraborty was mysteriously excluded from the scope of
further investigation even after the CBI took over the case. In fact,
the CBI has not explored any leads on the training and finance provided
to the terrorist network, leaving gaping holes in the bureau’s charge
The ATS, despite evidence gathered through investigations
and supplemented by narco analysis test reports, was similarly reluctant
to probe the role of institutions like the Bhonsala Military School in
Nagpur or the Akanksha Resort in Sinhgad, Pune, in the possible training
of terror groups.
"During the course of investigation, no sufficient
evidence is found against the below-mentioned arrested accused persons
hence they are discharged from the case vide Section 169 CrPC," said the
ATS missive addressed to the additional chief secretary. The ATS then
proceeded to file its charge sheet on August 24, 2006 along with a request
to discharge 11 accused, absolving them of any links to the crime.
The accused persons whom the ATS wanted to discharge were:
Vinod Venkatrao Mahalkar, Santosh Prakash Parlikar, Nimesh Sudhakar Limaye,
Janardhan Yashwantrao Wakodikar, Santosh Keshavrao Wagh, Keshavrao P. Wagh,
Jairam D. Tuptewar, Deviprasad Jairam Tuptewar, Raju Vithalrao Choudhary,
Ravindra Ramrao Vidulkar and Mukul Ramesh Pande. From their names it
appears that some of these men are relatives of some of the accused.
Was the ATS acting under political pressure, prompting it
to make a U-turn at the last minute only to shield many of the accused?
The ATS had earlier charged all 21 accused with seven
crimes, three of which related to the bomb blasts at Parbhani, Purna and
Jalna. What stopped the ATS from booking them under the draconian
Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) which the ATS freely
applied in the 7/11 blasts, the Malegaon blasts and the Aurangabad RDX
(CC agrees with other human rights activists and
groups who argue that given the right professional orientation and
training, the existing laws of the land are more than adequate for the
police to deal with even the worst kinds of crime. Conferring greater
powers on an inept, unprofessional and highly politicised police force
through draconian laws like MCOCA will only result in the misuse of these
powers even against innocent citizens. But given that an act like MCOCA
does exist, why is it being selectively used? Do our investigating
agencies also discriminate between "good terrorists" and "bad
CBI: Operation Cover-up?
Considering the circumstances in which the CBI was brought
into the picture, one would have expected the country’s premier
investigating agency to conduct nothing less than a thorough, free, fair
and transparent investigation so that the real culprits and masterminds of
the crime could be identified, caught and punished. Instead, the CBI chose
to function behind a veil of secrecy, refusing to brief the public at all
about the investigations and thus raising suspicions about its
Although the CBI submitted its charge sheet in the case
more than five months ago, CC had to make repeated applications
under the Right to Information Act before we were allowed to access
the charge sheet and the accompanying records. And the reason why the
authorities were so reluctant to part with these documents becomes evident
from a perusal of the charge sheet. Far from rising to the occasion, the
CBI has proved unwilling or incapable of pursuing the leads provided to it
by the ATS investigations. Far worse, it has ended up diluting the ATS
case. Presented below are some of the obvious lacunae in the CBI’s charge
sheet, examples of the bureau’s acts of commission and omission:
Acts of commission
The two ATS charge sheets accuse 11 persons of being part
of a criminal conspiracy involving terrorist acts: a very serious charge
against all of them. But the CBI did not even consider the possibility of
such a conspiracy. In glaring contrast to the ATS approach, it simply
refused to explore the forward or backward linkages to the accidental
explosion at Laxman Rajkondwar’s house in April 2006 except to the very
limited extent of naming those who sheltered the injured fugitive, Rahul
Pande, from the police or gave him surreptitious medical help. The CBI
divided the 11 accused into three categories and then proceeded to
completely dilute the charges against 10 of them. The one remaining
accused was absolved of all charges.
The CBI holds the six accused who were present at the
explosion spot (and who died or were seriously injured in the incident) as
collectively responsible only for the following offences: for causing the
explosion with the full knowledge that such an explosion can claim lives
(Sec. 304, IPC: culpable homicide not amounting to murder), for negligent
conduct (Sec. 286, IPC), for causing grievous injury (Sec. 338, IPC), for
possession and control of explosive substances (Sec. 4b and 5, Explosives
Substances Act) and for unauthorised possession of 10 live cartridges
(Sec. 25 of the Arms Act).
As for the other four co-accused – Sanjay Choudhary,
Ramdas Mulange, Dr Umesh Deshpande and Milind Arvind Ektate – the charges
against them are limited to: culpable homicide not amounting to murder
(Sec. 304, IPC), negligent conduct with respect to explosives (Sec. 286,
IPC), grievous hurt to others (Sec. 338, IPC), intentional omission to
give information of an offence (Sec. 202, IPC), harbouring an offender
(Sec. 212, IPC), and abetment of an assault (Sec. 134, IPC).
Laxman G. Rajkondwar, the owner of house where the
explosion took place, who, according to the ATS charge sheet, was as
involved in the crime as his deceased son, has been let off the hook.
In short, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967
(as amended in 2004) was conspicuously not applied against any of the
accused. Similarly, Section 120B of the IPC, for criminal conspiracy, has
not been applied against anyone.
Acts of omission
The CBI’s acts of omission are as serious, if not more so,
than its acts of commission:
For the ATS the
accidental explosion in Nanded turns out to be only one episode in a
diabolical terrorist plot involving a nefarious network of Bajrang Dal
activists functioning with covert support from other wings of the sangh
parivar. But for the CBI the sole concern appears to be to treat the
Nanded incident as an isolated case so that the trial, which is
conducted on the basis of the charge sheet, does not even examine the
possible existence of a terrorist network in Maharashtra. A network that
is engaged in hate-mongering, is linked to institutions where former
intelligence officials and army men train cadres in the handling of arms
and explosives, and which collects funds and provides other logistical
Why did the ATS
not apply the provisions of MCOCA to the accused when according to its
own findings the accused were implicated in terrorist acts? This is a
question that the CBI should have probed. But it did not even raise the
subject. Why not?
Contrary to the
findings of the ATS, the CBI does not utter a word about the links that
the accused persons had with the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP. Why?
investigation clearly establishes the existence of a terrorist nexus
operating under the wider sangh parivar umbrella. The CBI should have
followed this up after it took charge of the case. What is the real
agenda of the Bhonsala Military School in Nagpur? Who owns and runs the
Akanksha Resort in Pune? Is it linked in some way with the Bajrang Dal/VHP/RSS?
Who among the RSS/VHP were involved and where in Goa were the Bajrang
Dal activists trained? Who are the financiers, trainers (Mithun
Chakraborty and Sanatkumar Ragvithal Bhate) and other individuals who
actively participated, either directly or indirectly, in perpetrating
terror attacks? Who are the retired officers of the military and
intelligence services who provided martial arts and military training to
Bajrang Dal activists? Why have officers who during their professional
careers swore to serve secular-democratic India now chosen to place
themselves at the service of Hindu extremists? For reasons best known to
itself the CBI has not followed up on the leads that the ATS
The ATS named
Laxman Rajkondwar, the owner of the house in which the blast occurred,
among the prime accused. But the CBI charge sheet absolves him of all
charges. Investigators found that firecrackers worth Rs 1,20,000 had
been illegally stored at the site. Such a large quantity of highly
combustible material would undoubtedly have blown up in the blast. Thus
the only inference one can make is that the stock of fireworks was put
in place after the blasts, as a subterfuge. From where was such a large
stock of firecrackers procured at such short notice? This is a question
that does not seem to concern the CBI. How did the CBI allow Laxman
Rajkondwar to go scot-free?
The CBI not only
chose to completely disregard the information gathered by the ATS
through narco tests conducted on four of the accused (see box),
but also gave little credence to the incriminating material seized
during house searches and the admissions of some of the accused during
interrogation. If the CBI had acted as it should, it would have applied
for the earlier cases of bomb blasts by several of those accused in the
Nanded blasts (in mosques in Parbhani, Jalna and Purna in 2003 and 2004)
to be clubbed together and prosecuted as part of a wider conspiracy. Had
it done so it could also have set into motion the many stringent
provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act: Section 16
(committing a terrorist act), Section 17 (punishment for funding a
terrorist act), Section 18 (being part of a terrorist conspiracy),
Section 19 (punishment for harbouring a terrorist) and most importantly,
Section 20 (punishment for being a member of a terrorist gang). The
findings of the ATS leave little room for doubt that the Bajrang Dal
falls well within the act’s definition of a "terrorist gang". To pursue
this line of investigation the CBI would no doubt have needed to follow
up on the leads provided by the ATS. But, as mentioned earlier, it was
disinclined to even consider the option.
Through its creditworthy investigation of the accidental
blast in Nanded, the ATS uncovered a dangerous terrorist network. Its
investigations revealed that the bomb blasts at Parbhani, Jalna, Purna and
Nanded were no ordinary crimes with simple motives. Involved in each of
them were activists of the Bajrang Dal who had sought and received
systematic training from experts in bomb-making and bomb explosion. Their
insidious acts of terror at mosques include not just planting the bombs
but also disguising themselves as Muslims while committing the crimes.
The ATS investigations further revealed that it was not
just a handful but as many as three dozen Bajrang Dalis from all over
Maharashtra who received training in Pune where more than a hundred of
them from all over India were similarly trained at the Bhonsala Military
School in Nagpur. While the Pune camp was organised by the Bajrang Dal,
the Nagpur one was organised by its parent body, the RSS. And while those
directly involved in lobbing the bombs were Bajrang Dal members, there are
clear indications that the RSS and the VHP also form part of the nexus.
The men who imparted this training to the Dal’s cadres included retired
officers of the country’s military and intelligence services.
According to the admissions of several of the accused,
their agenda was to challenge what they regarded as "Muslim bombs" with
"Hindu bombs". At the same time it was clearly part of the Hindu extremist
strategy to make their malevolent actions appear as if they were the work
of Muslim extremists.
All of this is truly sinister and raises several very
terrorism" now an integral part of the sangh parivar’s "Hate Muslims"
agenda, at least for the Bajrang Dal, acting with the covert blessing of
and logistical support from sections within the VHP and even the RSS?
How do we know
that the Bajrang Dal and others have not been conducting similar bomb
training camps in states other than Maharashtra? (After all, but for the
bomb blowing up accidentally in Nanded the Maharashtra police might
still be clueless about the people involved in the local terror plot.
The way investigations have been conducted into the second accidental
blast in Nanded in 2007 – see accompanying story – raises other
violence now donned a terrorist garb on both sides of the communal
If as part of
their strategy Hindu extremists disguise themselves as Muslims and then
engage in terrorist activity, could they also be responsible for sending
out emails claiming responsibility for blasts under assumed Muslim names
and using an Islamic vocabulary?
How then can we
know who is responsible for the series of blasts that have ripped
through a succession of Indian cities?
What then of
national security, public peace and communal harmony?
investigating and intelligence agencies also handicapped by their
ideological blinkers insomuch as they are blind to or soft on acts of
The spate of blasts in Panvel and Thane in May-June 2008
where once again some Hindu extremist outfits have been implicated lends
an added urgency to these questions. Given the CBI’s miserable failure in
taking the ATS investigations forward, only an open and in depth inquiry
carried out by a high court judge will help trace the tentacles of this
hitherto unsuspected monster that threatens national security, public
peace and harmony.