Blasts on the Samjhauta Express

Why were investigations into the Samjhauta Express bomb blasts so hastily interrupted


On February 18-19, 2007, near Panipat in Haryana, 68 persons were killed as bombs exploded on the Samjhauta Express bound for Pakistan. Both India and Pakistan blamed each other for the tragedy. The Indian government hinted at the involvement of a Pakistan-backed terrorist outfit based across the border. However, at the first meeting of the Indo-Pak Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism held on March 6, 2007 it could only hand over a photograph of a suspected Pakistani national believed to be involved in the terror attack (one who had also lost family members in the tragedy!) and sought Pakistan’s cooperation in tracking him down.

In contrast, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Haryana police, which had been sent to Indore in Madhya Pradesh during the first week of March 2007 on the basis of investigative inputs, made a positive breakthrough in the investigations. This included the uncovering of evidence from shopkeepers who had sold the suitcases in which the RDX is said to have been carried (The Statesman, March 11, 2007, The Indian Express, March 13 and 19, 2007, The Hindu, March 14, 2007).

At this stage, when it appeared that the Haryana police had almost cracked the case, newspapers reported that further investigations had been abruptly stopped and nothing was heard about the progress of these investigations immediately thereafter.

Seven months later, while reporting that the investigations into the Ajmer blast case had also led the Rajasthan police to Madhya Pradesh, The Indian Express, Pune, in its edition dated October 10, 2007 reported that when the Haryana police had been on the verge of solving the Samjhauta case in March 2007, they got no cooperation from their colleagues in Madhya Pradesh and could thus proceed no further. What information the Haryana police had unearthed and why the Madhya Pradesh police were so reluctant to pursue it remains a mystery. The BJP was and is the party in power in Madhya Pradesh.


The Malegaon link

It was only after Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur, Lt Col Srikant Purohit and others were arrested in connection with the bomb blast in Malegaon that some information started trickling in. Following pertinent revelations by Purohit in the narco analysis test conducted on him at the Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore, on November 9, 2008, reports of the possible involvement of the Malegaon accused in the Samjhauta Express blasts began to appear in the media (Sakal, Pune, November 13, 2008, The Sunday Times (of India) and Sakal, November 16, 2008). The Pune Mirror dated November 19, 2008 also reported that "Purohit told the officials who conducted the narco analysis test that Praveen Togadia was responsible for the Samjhauta Express blasts".

Thereafter the ATS suddenly altered its stance. Briefing the press on November 17, 2008, ATS chief, Hemant Karkare said that the ATS public prosecutor, Ajay Misar, had been misquoted and that Misar had not in fact made a statement claiming that the RDX stolen by Purohit was used in the Samjhauta Express bombs (Pudhari and The Times of India, November 18, 2008). The Times of India further reported that "Soon after Misar made the sensational charge in Nashik the Intelligence Bureau, which is keeping a close tab on the probe, alerted the centre about the implication of Misar’s statement. When the train blast took place, the centre had blamed Pakistan’s ISI for the terror strike on the basis of the bureau’s finding."

Immediately after the blasts on the train India had been quick to assign responsibility for the attack to a Pakistani outfit. Was this hasty stand now constraining investigations despite evidence to the contrary? The Times of India has also quoted a senior bureau officer as saying "The ATS’s charge on Friday would have impaired the centre’s credibility internationally and that forensic examination of the blast site and two unexploded bombs had conclusively proved that RDX was not used" (The Times of India, November 18, 2008).

Against this background, the hasty interruption of the Samjhauta probe, after investigators had traced links to Madhya Pradesh, appears particularly suspicious.

Archived from Communalism Combat,  February 2009 Year 15    No.137, Cover Story 4



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