Investigative Agencies Must Drop Double Standards
Swami Aseemanand, a key accused in five terror attack cases, has revealed in his interview with Caravan magazine that these terrorist acts were sanctioned by the RSS and its chief Mohan Bhagwat. He states that Bhagwat gave his blessings for the terror attacks, but warned him not to “link it to the Sangh.” He makes it clear that he is being represented by a battery of lawyers provided by the RSS.
The response by investigative agencies and the Government to this revelation underlines the double standards inherent in handling terror investigations. It is routine for investigative agencies to declare people to be ‘masterminds’ in many terror cases – although in most such cases, the charges prove false. In the process, innocent people spend time in jail and face custodial torture. In this case, when a key accused names a conspirator in a recorded interview, why do the investigative agencies not make an arrest and interrogate the alleged conspirator?
The NIA has said it cannot take Aseemanand’s interview into cognisance unless Aseemanand chooses to record a statement with a magistrate. Why can’t the NIA encourage Aseemanand to record his statement before a magistrate?
In the Ishrat Jehan case as well, the CBI has charge-sheeted an IB officer but avoided pursing the case against Amit Shah, the former Home Minister of Gujarat, in spite of the evidence of that the killings happened with the latter’s full knowledge and approval.
In the past too, many indications of the Sangh’s involvement in terrorist attacks have not been probed by the investigative agencies.
How can the linkages of the Sangh with terrorism, and the involvement of top BJP leaders with politically motivated fake encounters, ever be unravelled when key functionaries of the investigative agencies have a pronounced bias towards the BJP and the Sangh? There is already evidence of Army officers with affiliations to the Hindutva Brigade, like Lt Col Purohit. Recently, serving Mumbai Police Commissioner Satya Pal Singh has joined BJP at Modi’s Meerut rally. Not long ago, former Home Secretary R.K. Singh (right hand man to the Home Minister of the country) joined the BJP on 13 December immediately after his retirement.
When men with such deep political and ideological links with BJP and the Sangh occupy senior positions in the police and investigative agencies, how can we possibly expect an impartial investigation of the Sangh’s terror links?
Aseemanand, in his interview, is quite candid about the fact that the Sangh and its activists like himself, use violence routinely in the Dangs, Chhattisgarih, and other adivasi areas to spread Hindutva. He states quite clearly that he himself, like other members of the Sangh, instigated adivasis in Gujarat to ‘cleanse’ the area of Muslims in 2002. There, too, the same modus operandi was followed as in the blasts – i.e the violence was done by others while the Sangh masterminds went free: “the cleansing of Muslims from the adivasi areas, I was very active in that. I didn’t reveal myself at the time, so I went free. The work done in adivasi areas was done directly by the adivasis. I did not come forward. And no Muslim has returned there so far.”
His words to describe BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi are quite telling: “Main bhi karyakarta, woh bhi karyakarta. Woh bhi pracharak thhe. Ek hi kaam karna hain. (In the sense I am a worker, so is he. We do the same work.) A key accused in terror cases, is able to describe a candidate for India’s PM, as a man who does “the same work” as himself.
What, in fact, is Modi’s relationship to the violent ‘Hindu Nation’ agenda of the RSS? It should be noted that in June 2013, when Modi was in Goa at the BJP’s National Executive meeting where he was appointed Chairman of the party’s election management committee, he sent a message to the All India Hindu Convention organised by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti at the same time. The Convention’s organisers (including the HJS which is implicated in Dabholkar’s murder) openly described it as “a step towards setting up a Hindu nation.” Modi’s congratulatory message to the Convention said, “Only by protecting our culture, the flag of dharma and unity can be kept intact. Organisations inspired by nationalism, patriotism and devotion for the nation are true manifestations of people’s power...Even though every Hindu conducts himself with love, compassion and intimacy with god, giving precedence to non-violence, truth and ‘sattvikta’, repelling demoniacal tendencies is in our destiny.” The Convention included organisations like the HJS and Pramod Muthalik of the Sri Ram Sene, implicated in violent acts against progressive individuals and women. Muthalik actually gave a speech at the Convention on how to prevent the culture of celebrating ‘Days’ like ‘Valentine’s Day’. Another session at the Convention was titled, “Uniting the Police and soldiers essential for the purpose of the establishment of the Hindu Nation”; an ominous subject, in the light of the involvement of Army officers in the terrorist blasts and the number of Sangh-minded cops ‘embedded’ in senior positions in the police.
Modi’s message makes it clear that he promotes outfits that commit violence in the name of ‘protecting culture’ and promoting ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ Further, Modi is a loyal leader of the same RSS, which Aseemanand reveals to be the mastermind behind terrorist blasts and the successful ‘cleansing of Muslims’ in Gujarat’s adivasi areas.
India’s first terrorist killing - the murder of MK Gandhi by Godse - was also similarly done by a man from the Sangh stable, who had however taken care to “not link it to the Sangh.” The ideological descendants of Godse continue to spread terror in the land. The struggle to bring the Sangh terrorists to book and lay bare the full web of the Sangh’s terror linkages will continue.
Summary of Aseemanand’s Interview
(Based on a Press Release issued by The Caravan magazine, February 5, 2014)
Swami Aseemanand Says the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Sanctioned Terrorist Attacks
Swami Aseemanand, incarcerated in Ambala Central Jail for abetting terrorist attacks on various targets between 2006 and 2008—Samjhauta Express (February 2007), Hyderabad Mecca Masjid (May 2007), Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) and two attacks in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008)—which together took the lives of 119 people, has made a revelation to The Caravan which has been published in the latest issue of the magazine. In the course of over two years, Aseemanand granted four exclusive interviews to The Caravan journalist Leena Gita Reghunath inside Ambala jail, the total duration of which ran into 09 hours and 26 minutes. In the last two interviews, Aseemanand repeated that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time.
Aseemanand told The Caravan that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”
Extract from the 11,200-word-long The Caravan article:
Over the course of our conversations, Aseemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”
Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation’s powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living—a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”
Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.’”
Chargesheets filed by the investigative agencies allege that Kumar provided moral and material support to the conspirators, but they don’t implicate anyone as senior as Bhagwat. Although Kumar was interrogated once by the CBI, the case was later taken over by the NIA, which has not pursued the conspiracy past the level of Aseemanand and Pragya Singh. (Joshi, who was allegedly the connecting thread between several different parts of the conspiracy—including those who assembled and those who planted the bombs—was killed under mysterious circumstances in December 2007.)
Sixty-three-year-old Aseemanand dedicated almost his entire adult life to the tribal arm of the RSS, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA). At the time he planned the terrorist attacks, he had been the national head of the VKA’s religious wing, the Shraddha Jagran Vibhag—a position created especially for him—for a decade. In honour of Aseemanand’s service to the Sangh, in December 2005, he was awarded a special Guruji Samman on the occasion of the birth centenary of MS Golwalkar. The award came with a one-lakh-rupee cash prize and the veteran BJP leader and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi gave the ceremony’s keynote address. Not only have the RSS and the BJP never disowned Aseemanand for his roles in the terrorist attacks, or taken back the awards, Aseemanand confessed to The Caravan that RSS-affiliated lawyers are providing his legal aid.
Knowing the national relevance of the sensitive information that Aseemanand revealed to The Caravan journalist, in an interview which was conducted with the full consent of Aseemanand, we place these facts in front of the public, along with a tape recording and transcript of parts of the conversation that mention Mohan Bhagwat. The full story is at caravanmagazine.in/reportage/believer - See more at: http://caravanmagazine.in/print/4150#sthash.Weap2Mpb.dpuf
Aseemanand also states that his confession to involvement in blasts, recorded in front of a magistrate, was not done under torture:
“They brought me to Delhi. Then the judge asked me “Kya bata rahein hain aap? Yeh sab sahi hain kya? Main likh ke rakh raha hun yahan — ki aapko phaansi ho sakta hain, yeh aap ko pata hain? Yeh main aapse pooch raha hoon, aap kya jawab denge? So I said, haan main taiyyar hoon. (What are you saying? Is this the truth? I am writing this down here – that I have asked you this, whether you understand that you could be hanged for this. What is your answer to that? I said, I am ready for the consequences.) Then the Sangh’s lawyers told me, aapko hum ab bacha nahin payenge. (We can’t save you now.) Then they said that I should give a statement that I was tortured. I said write whatever you want, and I will sign it. But sahi mein torture nahin hua hain. (But in truth they didn’t torture me.)”
Aseemanand’s words on his work in Gujarat during the 2002 genocide is also significant:
“I went to Gujarat for the work of Hindutva. Let me tell you this, in 2002, when Godhra happened, the cleansing of Muslims from the adivasi areas, I was very active in that. I didn’t reveal myself at the time, so I went free. The work done in adivasi areas was done directly by the adivasis. I did not come forward. And no one [no Muslim] has returned there so far. They’ve returned to all the other places. Here they cannot return. They weren’t in Dang, but from Panchmahal to the north.”. .