A family of terror?

With the Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts under the scanner, Hindutva groups and the terror trial are getting decisively linked

Akash Bisht Delhi

The arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, alias Amritanand, and others has brought forward the new face of terror being propagated by the ultra-Rightwing organisations all across the country. The arrest of former and serving army officials and the dubious role of Bhonsala Millitary School in Nashik have proved how professional training is being imparted to the youth brigade of various Rightwing Hindutva outfits. Various bomb blasts at several Muslim dominated localities in the past have also raised suspicions on these saffron outfits and their modus operandi behind such blasts. The government's and security agencies response to nab these Hindutva terrorists has been tepid as they had vital clues of their involvement in Nanded blasts in 2006, bomb blasts in mosques at Parbhani, Jalna and Purna in 2003 and 2004, and the blasts in Kanpur where Bajrang Dal was involved. Indeed, pointers are being made at the Samjhauta Express blasts (with linkages to Indore's Hindutva terrorists) (read Hardnews (October 2008, page 20), and the Ajmer and Hyderabad blasts at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah and Mecca Masjid.

The September 29, 2008 Malegaon blasts that led to the arrest of several Hindutva functionaries and a possibility of some VVIP's involvement in funding of these terror modules has revealed how these modules have been operating in the country with precision, even while the police focus was inevitably on Muslims. The bomb that killed four people was placed outside a mosque and was intended to kill many more had it been parked at the desired location; this was revealed by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS). A taped telephonic conversation between Pragya and one of the accused, Ramji Kalsagre, had the sadhvi asking Ramji of why the bomb was not planted in a crowded area. The motorcycle used was in her name. According to the ATS, she said, "Meri gaadi se blast kiya to itne kam log kaise mare?" For this, Kalsagare, still absconding, said that he couldn't find a place for parking which reportedly infuriated the sadhvi.      

Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, a 37-year-old Hindu hardliner and preacher, has been a prominent name in the saffron circles since she joined ABVP in 1993 and was the state level secretary till 1997 in Madhya Pradesh's (MP's) Bhind district. She has allegedly links with top BJP leaders. Later she joined several Sangh Parivar groups including the Durga Vahini. Leaders of the parivar were quick to distance themselves from her despite her pictures with some top brass BJP leaders. She reportedly also campaigned for Narendra Modi in Gujarat and other BJP politicians. Two army men who were arrested with the sadhvi in connection with the Malegaon blasts were Major Ramesh Upadhyaya (retired), who allegedly helped in procuring RDX, and Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit. These armymen were supposedly members of Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu extremist group.

Founded by Veer Savarkar in 1904, the group was later wound up. However, Abhiav Bharat was resurrected a year ago by Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dhawade, Major Upadhayaya and Ajay Rahirkar who have all been arrested and accused for the Malegaon blasts. The group has been active in organising camps and opening branches in MP with massive funding from various Rightwing groups. The sadhvi was supposedly trained by Upadhayaya who was also associated with Bhonsala Military School. Young cadres were being trained. The name of this military school also came up during the narco test of Rahul Pande, accused in the 2006 Nanded blast probe. On April 6, 2006, a powerful bomb exploded at the residence of RSS worker Lakshman Rajkondwar. The bomb was meant to be placed in a mosque in Aurangabad after the Friday prayers as a reaction to the blasts in Delhi (2005) and Varanasi.

Rahul had confessed during the narco test that he was present when the explosion took place and saw that Naresh and Himanshu Vyankatesh Panse were dead. "Himanshu was working in a company and also was an active member of the Bajrang Dal, RSS and VHP," read the narco analysis report of the government of Karnataka (Forensic Science Laboratory, June 16, 2006). He confessed that Himanshu was the leader of the gang and made all the bombs. He was the mastermind of the blasts at Parbhani, Jalna and Purna. Himanshu got the material for bomb-making from Pune and was closely associated with the Rightwing politicians, VHP and RSS. He even revealed that once Pravin Togadia of VHP had come to Nanded to give a speech and Himanshu made all the arrangements as he was the leader of a Hindu outfit.

Another accused, Sanjay Chaudhari, in his narco test said that Himanshu had received training from a person known as Mithun Chakravarthy from Pune and was referred to as ‘sir' by Himanshu (government of Karnataka, Forensic Science Laboratory report, July 19, 2006). He also revealed that Himanshu had gone to Sinhagad in Pune where both of them received training in making three types of bombs and while returning from Pune Chakravarthy handed him a bag containing explosives. Police and ATS speculate that Purohit was actually Mithun and looks similar to the description given by Sanjay.

In a similar incident, a bomb explosion in Kanpur on August 24, 2008, killed two Bajrang Dal members, Bhupendra Chopra and Rajiv Mishra, and huge quantity of explosive material was recovered from the site. The duo has been suspected of making bombs that were allegedly meant to kill hundreds of Muslims. Two days after the blasts, police found a huge cache of arms abandoned near their house and a map of Firozabad in UP that had red dots on localities dominated by the minority community. The ATS suspects that these were the targets that the two were planning to bomb. Chopra was a fiery Bajrang Dal leader and was known to give firearms training to many saffron outfits including Durga Vahini and Bajrang Dal in different parts of the country. Chopra was also arrested in connection with the riots in Kanpur after the Babri Masjid demolition. Security agencies suspect that the duo could have been in touch with Kulkarni.


The Haryana railway police is planning to interrogate Lt Col Srikant Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh for their suspected role in the twin blasts in Samjhauta Express that killed 68 people (Feb 19, 2007). The briefcase that was used in these blasts was assembled in Indore where the sadhvi lived and had links with the radical Hindu outfit, Hindu Jagaran Manch. So the police are looking for a missing link that can connect these dots and the role of these outfits. Purohit has been accused by the ATS of supplying RDX for Samjhauta Express blasts. However, why did the Haryana police react so late and follow the leads? Did the Centre and various state governments play dirty, getting after ‘Muslim terrorists' and turning a blind to the ‘Hindutva terrorists'?

In a note issued at the press conference addressed by filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, Justice (Retd) BG Kolse Patil, former DGP of Gujarat RB Sreekumar and activist Teesta Setalvad in Delhi
on August 28, 2008, they raised questions regarding the Nanded bomb blasts of April 4-5, 2006. The joint statement stated: "The CBI chargesheet filed in March 2008 is nothing short of an Operation Cover up. The CBI waters down the entire terror trail and links to retired military schools located in Maharashtra where former military men are training Bajrang Dal cadres... How did the CBI allow Laxman Rajkondwar to go scot-free? Why did the ATS not apply the provisions of MCOCA (a law routinely applied in terror-related cases) to the accused when according to its own findings the accused were implicated in terrorist acts? Contrary to the findings of the ATS, the CBI does not utter a word about the links the accused persons had with the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP. Why? For reasons best known to itself the CBI has not followed up on the leads that the ATS investigation provided..."