Blast after Blast

Written by Teesta Setalvad | Published on: August 1, 2008

 

Who is responsible?

The news in April 2006 that a bomb had accidentally exploded in the house of an RSS man in Nanded in Maharashtra, killing two persons and injuring four others – all Bajrang Dal activists – created a national sensation. Initially, the first information report (FIR) on the incident registered by a local police officer unquestioningly recorded the injured activists’ claim that the unfortunate incident was the result of an accidental ignition of firecrackers stored at the site. But within days the police investigation itself revealed that the incident was in fact the result of an unintended explosion of bombs that were being assembled by Hindu extremists with the clear intention of targeting mosques and terrorising Muslims.

There have been past instances elsewhere in the country also linking Hindu extremists to bombs. But in the numerous blasts that have rocked city after city in India with frightening regularity in recent years the intelligence agencies and the police have invariably pointed their fingers at Muslim extremist outfits, either indigenous or from across the border.

Indian Muslims have repeatedly complained that almost immediately after every blast only Muslim names crop up among the accused and only Muslim organisations are named as suspect but the charges are rarely, if ever, proved in court. There is consequently a widespread feeling that terrorist acts by unidentified individuals are being used to demonise the entire Muslim community.

It is against this backdrop that the Nanded incident attracted considerable attention from secular activists and Muslim organisations. A close watch was kept on the investigating agencies to ensure that in a case where Hindu extremists had clearly been caught red-handed there would be proper investigation and prosecution. As a result of this sustained public vigilance the case was handed over from the police to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and then from the ATS to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Communalism Combat has been closely monitoring the Nanded case from the start. CC’s sustained investigation unravels a story of police bias, half measures by the ATS and, worst of all, an all too apparent bid, ‘Operation Cover-up’, by the CBI. Much was expected from the CBI by way of a thorough and non-partisan investigation but its conduct has been the most shocking. This raises the obvious question: is the apex investigation agency in the country communally tainted?

 

On the night of April 5-6, 2006 a bomb exploded in the house of Laxman Gundayya Rajkondwar, a retired executive engineer at the PWD, Nanded. Two persons – Naresh Rajkondwar and Himanshu Panse – died on the spot while four of their accomplices – Maroti Keshav Wagh, Yogesh Deshpande (alias Vidulkar), Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar and Rahul Manohar Pande – were seriously injured.

On hearing of the incident, an assistant police inspector (API) from the local Bhagyanagar police station, Ravindra Purushottam Dahedkar, who was on patrol duty, registered the first complaint. On the say-so of the surviving injured, he registered an FIR. The FIR said Naresh Rajkondwar was running a firecracker business from his home. The blast occurred because Rajkondwar and Wagh were smoking too close to where the firecrackers were stored. In short, it was an unfortunate accident.

Was Dahedkar just lazy, naïve, or were his actions influenced by the popular assumption that only people of a certain community engaged in the creation of bombs and bomb blasts?

It must have been a matter of some embarrassment, in retrospect, for the then district superintendent of police, Fatehsingh Patil, and the district collector of Nanded, Radheshyam Mopalwar. Relying presumably on Dahedkar’s FIR, both of them repeated the firecrackers-did-it story to the media.

Within days however the inspector general of police, Nanded range, Dr Suryaprakash Gupta, set the record straight, telling the media that the incident involved a bomb blast. During examination the police (Dahedkar himself) found "splinters" on the bodies of the deceased and the injured. A live pipe bomb was also found at the explosion site. It was thus obvious that the firecracker story was a deliberate fabrication in order to mislead the police.

Further investigations revealed that the deceased and wounded persons were all active workers of the Bajrang Dal who had