A frantic effort was made to somehow divert attention from the facts. A large quantity of firecrackers, valued at Rs 1,20,000, was later found on the site of the explosion. These had obviously been brought in after the event; despite the occurrence of a high intensity blast the firecrackers remained intact! Where did this large stock of firecrackers come from? Why was it stored in a home illegally, without licence? The victims were now the accused.
In the first few days following the blasts the police arrested 16 persons who were then remanded to police custody. The remand application highlighted two points. One, the accused persons knowingly provided the police false information on the day of the crime, saying the blast was caused by firecrackers when in fact it was a bomb blast. Two, investigations had revealed that the accused persons possessed diagrams, maps and other documentary material related to the manufacture and storage of bombs and the identification of target areas for the purpose of creating terror in the country.
Further investigations revealed that the deceased and wounded persons were all active workers of the Bajrang Dal who had been assembling bombs to target Muslim places of worship, camouflaging their entire operation to resemble a terror operation run by Muslims
Named among the accused were a practising advocate at the Nanded district court, Milind Arvind Ektate, and a medical practitioner, Dr Umesh Dinkarrao Deshpande. One of the accused men, Rahul Manohar Pande, had sustained serious injuries in the blast but had escaped from the scene and sought surreptitious medical attention. Advocate Ektate was among those who helped Pande go into hiding while Dr Deshpande provided medical care without notifying the police. Curiously, neither of the two men had any difficulty in obtaining anticipatory bail from the district court. Ektate applied for and was granted anticipatory bail through an ad interim bail application on April 10 while Dr Umesh Dinkarrao Deshpande made a similar application on April 13. He was also granted ad interim bail the same day following an oral "no objection" from the assistant public prosecutor, AJ Kurtadikar.
As of today, all the accused, apart from the absconding Rahul Manohar Pande, are out on bail.
Heinous deeds by Hindu extremists
On May 4, 2006 the case was transferred to the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra police. By the time the ATS filed its first charge sheet on August 24, 2006, it had already amassed a mountain of damning evidence against a whole network of Bajrang Dal and other sangh parivar workers engaged in terrorist activities. Reproduced below are some highlights and excerpts from the ATS charge sheet:
The accused persons involved in assembling the bomb(s) at Nanded were also responsible for three earlier bomb blasts in neighbouring districts: at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November 2003), at the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and at the Meraj-ul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August 2004). (So far state police efforts to track down the perpetrators of these blasts had drawn a blank.)
Four of the six prime accused in the case under investigation – Sanjay Choudhary, Himanshu Panse, Maroti Keshav Wagh and Yogesh Ravindra Deshpande – had planted bombs at the Parbhani mosque on November 21, 2003.
Two of the six accused – Sanjay Choudhary and Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar – admitted to planting bombs at the Purna mosque on August 27, 2004.
One of the six accused – Maroti Keshav Wagh – was charged with planting bombs at the Quadriya Masjid, Jalna, also on August 27, 2004.
Five of the main accused in the Nanded blasts were involved in throwing acid on a Muslim teacher, Shaikh Yousuf Shaikh Gafoor Sahab, in Nanded on April 8, 2001.