Exit Hindutva Terrorists, Enter Lashkar bombers – Towards Clean Chit to Samjhauta Bombers?

A policeman inspects a coach of Samjhauta Express at Deewana, near Panipat. File photo: PTI

Whether Indian Intelligence Agencies have decided to function as new ‘post offices’ of US intel agencies? Put it other ways whether US intel inputs have started overriding the meticulous investigations done by Indian intelligence agencies?

There are enough indications which seem to corroborate this observation.

And perhaps the latest in the series seems to be the Samjhauta Express bomb blast case, where NIA seems to be contemplating putting the blame on Lashkar terrorists and absolving the Hindutva terrorists involved in the case basing itself on some vague input from US supposedly involving Lashkar-e-Toiba operative. In fact, anyone who has closely followed functioning of NIA of late would have noticed that news had started trickling in since beginning of April 16 itself where the agency which was keen to “wrap up probe into the terror attack” had suddenly woken up to the role of the dreaded outfit. Reports suddenly started appearing in leading national dailies about NIA chief travelling to US “[t]o meet his US counterparts and get more details about the involvement of the LeT financier Arif Qasmani in the incident, government sources said.”

While one could hear voices of moderation where legal eagles did point out the difficulties in suddenly ‘shifting’ the blame from Hindutva terrorists to LeT, it was getting clear that the investigating agencies has made its mind to revise its earlier focus of investigation:

SK Handa, public prosecutor, NIA, told The Hindu on the phone from Panchkula in Haryana that it would be “difficult” to shift the blame from Aseemanand to the LeT at this point. “We have not been given any new information; but at this point of time, it would be difficult to wipe out the evidence on record. Only a few witnesses, who were close friends or relatives of the accused, have turned hostile, while much of the material evidence remains uncontested.”

Remember that the chargesheet filed by the NIA had already focussed on the role of RSS Pracharak Aseemanand who had propounded a ‘bomb ka badla bomb theory’ supposedly to give a fitting reply to the "perceived persecution of Hindus by the members of the Muslim community".

And by the end of May a media house even shared the news with its readers that,

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will quote US intel reports in court to prove the involvement of terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in the deadly 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, a media report said on Tuesday, US intel shows the handiwork of Pakistan-based Lashkar coordinator Arif Qasmani behind the Samjhauta terror attack, TOI reported. NIA will submit the assessment of US security agencies in Panchkula court, which is hearing the Samjhauta case, the report said. How “Hindu groups had alleged that Swami Aseemanand and some others were framed by the then UPA government in the case and that Pakistan’s role in the attack was not probed.”

Remember the case is under trial at a court in Panchkula, and 19 witnesses have turned hostile so far. The 68 people killed in the incident on February 18, 2007 near Panipat included both Indians and Pakistanis.

Perhaps an indication of this changed atmosphere can also be had from a recent interview by Vikash Narain Rai, who was former DG (Law and Order) Haryana and who had headed the SIT ( Special Investigation Team) which was constituted to investigate the Samjhauta Express explosion of February 2007 wherein he told Seema Mustafa that their team had  “[c]onfirmed the involvement of the Sunil Joshi group in the Samjhauta explosion and the fact that no one from SIMI was involved,” In this exclusive interview to The Citizen he details,

“the painstaking investigation, the non cooperation of agencies, and the fact that he and his team had zeroed in on Joshi and his group for planting the explosive that set the Samjhauta on fire. Joshi was a RSS pracharak and was killed in the winter of 2007 after the blasts by two men who are still absconding.”

This interview follows a Facebook post by him wherein he had shared the manner in which a news channel interviewed him about this investigation wherein he categorically told “…[N]ews X that the SIT had totally ruled out the involvement of any Pakistani hand or Simi group in the dastardly crime.” In fact he emphatically,

“[t]old them that our perception was pointing to involvement of Hindu elements, which was shared time and again by SIT in discussions at MHA. I also told about the emergence of names of Sunil Joshi and two others. I shared my conversation with late Mr Hemant Karkare of Maharashtra ATS, which confirmed our perception about Hindu elements invovlement. To my horror, in their ongoing TV debate, the News x have not only blocked my interview completely but the anchor is time and again building up a case that the Haryana SIT had unearthed connection of the crime with SIMI. It is nothing but a fabricated lie for which the TV channel and their anchor are squarely responsible.” (from ‘Facebook’ post)

According to him, “the explosives that had been put together to ensure that the fire would expand in a moving train, and not subside with the one burst, were planted in suitcases.” All of these had been destroyed but as Rai recalls, “we were very lucky to find one such suitcase intact.” 

The make of the suitcase took the investigators to Indore, to a Raghunandan attache shop which was owned by a Bora Muslim and had two young employees, a Hindu and a Muslim. On further questioning the two employees said that two men who appeared to be Hindus who spoke in a local Indori accent, and were clearly from the city itself had purchased the suitcase.

On further investigation the team ‘established two facts as Rai put it: one, the Samjhauta case involved Sunil Joshi and his men; and two, there was no SIMI or Pakistan hand in this. According to him the investigation could not move further because of “complete non-cooperation from Madhya Pradesh and more specifically from Indore.”

Rai said that in meetings held by the Ministry of Home Affairs at the time the Investigating Officers of Malegaon, Ajmer and other such terror attacks would exchange notes pointing towards the involvement of Hindu groups…
Interestingly Rai recalls a long conversation he had with the then Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare. He said that Karkare, investigating the Malegaon blasts, also said that he had considerable evidence that the Hindu extremists were involved in this case as well. He told Rai that he was putting the evidence together and would get back to him with more details as soon as he had stitched the loose ends. Rai said that this did not happen as Karkare was murdered soon after in the Mumbai terror attack.

Anyone who has followed the case knows that this particular case has seen many shifts and turns.

And when the NIA finally took up the case in 2010, it was expected that final word would be said in the case. In fact it was the same period when investigators probing the blasts had discovered footprints of similar Hindutva terrorist group which had carried out the Malegaon terror attack (Sep 2008) (The Telegraph, June 27, 2010). In fact it was the same time when few activists of the RSS had been apprehended by the Rajasthan ATS and more leads about the same outfit’s involvement in the May 2007 Mecca mosque blast in Hyderabad had emerged. The similarity in the triggering mechanism for the Mecca mosque blast and the Feb 2007 Samjhauta Express blast was also found to be striking. The home ministry had deemed it necessary to closely monitor the probe against the real perpetrators which was the only way to unravel the “complex web”.

Perhaps all of us were rather naive at that time.

Here is the same NIA supposedly getting ready to push under the carpet all the hard work done by its own officers and going full steam ahead on some vague input of US intel agencies, forgetting the fact that one of the biggest terror attack in India (26/11) was handiwork of one of their own agents (David Headley) who also worked for LeT.



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