The Network of ‘Hindutva’ Terror

Manisha Sethi

Almost a year and a half after the Maharashtra ATS arrested Sadhvi Pragya and a serving officer in the Indian Army, Lt. col. Purohit, for their alleged involvement in the Malegaon bomb blasts of 2008, the Rajasthan ATS arrested Devendra Gupta and Chandrashekhar Barod, men with close links to the RSS and its assorted organizations, as key suspects in the Ajmer Sharif blasts of 2007. The CBI has now revealed that in fact Hindutva groups may have been behind all the blasts that rocked the country that year—from the Samjhauta Express (February 2007) to Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad (May 2007) to the Sufi shrine in Ajmer (October 2007). The CBI joined the dots between the three blasts on the basis that all bombs had the same arming devices, which were procured from Indore; further the nature of phone timer devices, kinds of explosives used, common identity proofs used to obtain sim cards point to the links between these blasts.
These ‘unusual’ suspects in the form of serving and retired army officers, sadhus and sanyasin, and members of groups that go by the names of Hindu Sansathan, Jai Vande Matram Kalyani Samiti and Abhinav Bharat could not be farther removed from the Bashars and Falahis who are routinely rounded up by various anti-terror agencies, to be paraded as prize catches and ‘masterminds’. Unusual the CBI’s revelations may look initially, but really, civil rights groups have been arguing for a while now that the Pavlovian response of the police and security agencies – of declaring the culpability of a ‘Jihadi’ organization followed by rampant detention and torture of Muslim youth after every bomb blast – reeks of rank communal profiling. There has been a consistent refusal to acknowledge the presence, extent and scale of Hindutva terror outfits. (And one is talking here of just the plain, mainstream definition of the term terrorism – as in bomb blasts – discounting Hindutva’s indulgences in cleansing minority populations, bringing down mosques, burning down churches, forcibly breaking inter community marriages, and attacking women in pubs etcetera).
Our political discourse, in a desperate imitation of the US’ ‘war on terror’, normalizes the use of ‘Islamic’ in conjunction with ‘terrorism’, and legitimates witch hunt as an act of national security. No wonder, Raj Kumar Pandiyan, the IPS officer accused of killing Sohrabuddin in cold blood and passing it off as an ‘encounter’ of a terrorist on his way to 'eliminate' Narendra Modi, lamented after his arrest that he should have been honoured, not hounded. Seeking bail from the Supreme Court, Pandiyan’s counsel argued on his behalf that “I am supposed to have killed the most notorious criminal…Maybe he [Sohrabuddin] is killed in a fake encounter, but for that the process of law cannot be subverted” [i.e., his bail application ought not to be rejected on the mere ground that Sohrabuddin was killed by him in a fake encounter]. No wonder too, that the Congress and BJP wish to outdo each other in demonstrating their iron will to combat ‘terror’: the Congress scored a Batla House against Modi’s harvest of encounters; not wanting to sound partisan when it came to matters of national security, the Union Home Ministry’s affidavit seconded the Gujarat government’s claim that the teenaged college girl Ishrat Jehan was a Lashkar e Tayyiba operative. But what can be surprising is how supposedly secular and respectable media houses such as the Hindu can become willing partners in this propaganda (just google for all the Hindu columns that were written in the aftermath of the Mecca Masjid and dargah blasts, which screamed HUJI and Lashkar connections).
But to return to the recent revelations, this is not the first time that such a link between the three blasts has been suggested. In November 2008 itself, soon after Hemant Karkare’s ATS made these daring arrests, Mahant Amritanand alias Dayanand Pande, an aide of Pragya and Purohit, had been questioned in connection with the Samjhauta Express blasts by the Haryana ATS. There were other clues too: the suitcase in the Samjhauta Express was traced to Indore—the epicenter of Hindutva activities (along with Dangs); in 2008 itself the Maharashtra ATS had communicated to the Hyderabad police the sensational claim by Purohit that he had provided the RDX used in Mecca Masjid blast (Times of India, May 06, 2010). Purohit had been chargesheeted for procuring the RDX from the army inventory when he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir in 2006. However, there was no willingness to question and disturb the neat and easy connections between ‘terrorism’ and ‘Jihadist’ groups.
The Hyderabad police, already having arrested, illegally detained and tortured scores of Muslim men at private farm houses was in no mood to investigate the Purohit angle. It refused even to take custody of the man for questioning (contrast this with the manner in which various blasts accused linked to a shadowy organization called Indian Mujahideen were made to shuttle between states, as various state police vied to question them). The blame for the Mecca Masjid blasts was conveniently laid at the doors of Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI). Indeed, the Maharashtra ATS was asked not to make this public. Similarly, the attack on the dargah in Ajmer was shown to be the handiwork of hardline jihadists waging war against popular Islam. This is likely where the Pune blasts investigations are headed. After pursuing the Hindutva angle for a month, facing heat from an angry opposition, the Maharshtra Home Minister dropped Raghuvanshi as the ATS chief in favour of Rakesh Maria, who since has faithfully deflected the investigation back to the usual track of Indian Mujahideen. Maria, it will be recalled is the man accused by Vinita Kamte, widow of the slain ATS officer Ashok Kamte, of ignoring the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare’s calls for reinforcement on the night of 26/11. The trumpeting of the IM angle in Pune is all the more suspect given that the recent chargesheets filed by the NIA in the Goa blast case of 2009 lead to the radical saffron outfit Sanatan Sansthan in Pune.
As the details of the extensive network of Hindutva terror emerge as also the reality that there has been willful suppression of their activities by the investigating agencies – helped along no doubt by the prevailing political climate – all previous investigations need to be revisited. In particular the Malegaon blasts of 2006, where all contrary evidence such as the recovery of fake beard by a local tailor from the dead bodies, were ignored; the ATS’ claim at that time that “RDX is only available to Islamic terrorist outfits” was also belied by Purohit’s access to RDX. In a severe and damaging rebuff to the prosecution in the Jaipur blasts case of 2008, as many as eleven witnesses have turned hostile, accusing the Rajasthan police of pressuring them to sign statements under duress.
What is required urgently is a thoroughgoing enquiry into all the bomb blasts that have taken place in the last few years: from the blasts in UP, Mumbai train blasts, Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad as well as Modasa and Nanded, and a strict scrutiny of the Hindutva organizations and their links to the RSS. But above all, there must be an end to impunity. All those who have falsely framed innocents in terror cases, inflicted torture, forged evidence, bullied witnesses, and misrepresented facts in chargesheets ought to be prosecuted. The Special Cells, the ATS, STFs and police departments must be made to realize – through punishments and convictions – that they simply have not been handed a blank cheque, which they can encash every time they spot a Muslim after a bomb blast.