Blast after Blast

Written by Teesta Setalvad | Published on: August 1, 2008
that they were perpetrators and masterminds of the blasts carried out at regular intervals in different districts of Maharashtra. The obvious conclusion drawn was that it was the intention of Bajrang Dal activists and their sangh parivar affiliates to target Muslims with terrorist acts and make it appear that Muslim extremists were involved in targeting fellow Muslims. This would help advance the sangh parivar’s agenda of spreading hatred against Indian Muslims, projecting them as the perpetrators of every blast in city after city in India.

The first charge sheet filed by the ATS on August 24, 2006 named seven accused – Rahul Pande, Laxman G. Rajkondwar, Sanjay Choudhary, Ramdas Mulange, Dr Umesh Deshpande, Himanshu Panse (deceased) and Naresh Rajkondwar (deceased). (Maroti Wagh, Yogesh D. Vidulkar and Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar, who were all present at the bomb-making site, were absent from the first list of accused).

To its credit, the ATS did a reasonable job at the level of investigation. It appears from what follows that at some point in the course of proceedings the ATS took a sudden U-turn. A public outcry then forced the government to transfer the case from the ATS to the CBI. But the CBI’s conduct was questionable in the extreme; doing little to follow up on the many leads provided by the ATS, it only served to weaken the case.

They were charged under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 286 (negligent conduct), 338 (grievous hurt), 201(destroying evidence), 202 (withholding information on a crime), 203 (providing false information), 212 (harbouring an offender), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intent) and 109 (abetment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); along with Sections 3 (causing an explosion likely to endanger life, person or property), 4 (attempting to cause or making or keeping explosives likely to endanger life or damage property), 5 (making explosives under suspicious circumstances) and 6 (abetment) of the Explosive Substances Act 1908; Sections 3, 25 and 35 (unlawful possession of arms) of the Arms Act 1959; and Sections 18 (attempting to commit or abetting a terrorist act) and 23 (unauthorised possession of bombs, etc with intent to aid terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (as amended in 2004).

The most serious charges against the accused, and for which the most stringent punishments are provided, are the ones that fall within the purview of the Unlawful Activities Act and Section 304 of the IPC. (See box for punishments provided under the former.)

After conducting further investigations the ATS filed a supplementary charge sheet on November 11, 2006 naming four more accused – Maroti Wagh, Yogesh D. Vidulkar, Gururaj Jairam Tuptewar and Milind Ektate. They too were slapped with identical charges. However, none of the abetters or masterminds behind the conspiracy, Mithun Chakraborty or Bajrang Dal leaders, were incriminated.

To its credit, the ATS did a reasonable job at the level of investigation, uncovering a hitherto unknown terrorist network in Maharashtra of Hindu extremists linked to the sangh parivar. Given the seriousness of the case, evident through its own findings, one would have expected the ATS to proceed with both promptitude and determination to ensure that all those who were guilty were brought to book and the terrorist network was exposed. The two charge sheets filed by the ATS do not however reflect the very gravity of its findings. It appears from what follows that at some point in the course of proceedings the ATS took a sudden U-turn. A public outcry then forced the government to transfer the case from the ATS to the CBI. But the CBI’s conduct was questionable in the extreme; doing little to follow up on the many leads provided by the ATS, it only served to weaken the case.

The investigating agencies themselves warrant investigation and this is CC’s "charge sheet" against them.

State police: inefficient or biased?

What is the explanation for the Maharashtra police’s earlier failure in identifying and booking the real perpetrators of the bomb blasts at the Parbhani, Jalna and Purna mosques which took place in 2003 and 2004, two years before the blasts in Nanded? A lack of professionalism in intelligence-gathering and in conducting investigations? A sanghi mind-set that believes only members of a certain community