By Sajjad Shaukat
Without any doubt, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) is now convinced that besidesLt. Col. Srikant Purohit and other Indian army officials, Swami Aseemanand, a Hindu right-wing leader was directly involved in the Samjhota Express blast that had burnt alive 69 persons, mostly Pakistanis, in 2007.
In this connection, a court in Panchkula, Haryana has recorded Aseemanand’s statement in the blast case. The statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate. His earlier confession was recorded in the Mecca Masjid case, which is being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Sadhu Aseemanand stuck to his confession that Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) radicals were behind the bomb attack on the Samjhota Express. Aseemanand, Aka Naba and Kumar Sarkar, named absconding Hindutva militants—Ramji Kaisangra and Sandeep Dange as the key plotters in that terror attack.
Sources of the NIA also disclosed that the confession in connection with the Samjhota Express blastpractically rules out the involvement of other groups, while initial investigation into the attack had also looked into the possibility of involvement of Jehadi groups which both the UN and US had banned, even naming Arif Qasmani (a rich Pakistani), alleging him as the plotter, linking with terror groups.
However, Aseemanand was arrested for bomb attacks that Hindutva radicals carried out on mosques to retaliate against the spate of Jehadi terror strikes by Mujahideen and other Islamic groups as part of what he calls the “bomb-for-bomb” strategy.
In the Samjhota Blast case, the probe team has found that the bomb used in the train waskept in a suitcase that was bought from a shop of Indore’s Kothari Market. The suitcase had cloth covers stitched by an Indian local tailor. The NIA is now trying to get details of those who bought the suitcase and covers.
It is interestingly notable that Dr. J C Batra, who is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, was asked to give opinion on Aseemanand’s confession. He appeared very defensive and as usual started to accuse Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI—its so-called history for such activities, alleging that even this could be an ISI plot. He further said that Swami’s statement does not have much legal value as circumstantial evidence is also needed, while adding that RSS is being wrongly implicated and there could be others involved who are not being exposed. In this regard, a Pakistani parliamentarian, Mr. Mian Abdul Sattar, parliamentary secretary for planning and development, who was accompanying him, later said that that he was told by Mr JC Batra that the Indian Army was involved in this case and there “are efforts to shield it from getting exposed”.
In brief, Swami Aseemanand has clearly confessed that several RSS preachers and Sang activists were directly involved in planning, financing and executing Malegaon, Samjhauta Express, Ajmer and Makkah Masjid blasts. He told the court that leaders of different Hindu communal organizations including Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram were also involved in all these blasts.
It is mentionable that ideology of Hindu nationalism prevails in every field at the cost of other minorities groups. It is even supported by Indian defence forces clandestinely. This fact could be judged from the recent past, when on April 6, 2008 in the house of Bajrang Dal fundamentalists in Nanded, a bomb went off. The investigations proved that the militants belonging to the Bajrang Dal were found in the bomb-making and attack on a mosque in Parbhani in 2003. Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra had arrested a serving Lt. Col. Purohit and along with other army officials, indicating that they were helping in training the Hindu terrorists, providing them with the military-grade explosive RDX, used in the Malegaon bombings and terrorist attacks in other Indian cities. ATS had further disclosed that Lt. Col. Purohit confessed that in 2007, he was involved in bombing of Samjhota express. Col Prohit has also confessed that his main purpose in connection with Samjhota Express tragedy and training of Hindu terrorists was to cause an armed conflict between Pakistan and India. He has elaborated that his job required interacting with both Hindu and Muslim extremists.
Here, it is noteworthy that in the tapes, LT. Col Purohit says, “We are all on the same plane, Hindu Rashtra (Nation)”. He even claims that Gen. J J Singh is “with us”. (Singh was Army Chief till Sept. 2007). Significantly, Purohit mentions that “one of our own captain” had visited Israel for “training and meeting”, and demanded “four things from Israel”, i.e, continuous and uninterrupted supply of arms and training, an “office with a saffron flag “in Tel Aviv”, political asylum and “support for our cause of a Hindu Nation in the UN”. The Israelis, he adds, gave “a very positive response and promised “arms and asylum.”
According to ‘Tehelka’, “Indian army seemed to rally behind Col Prohit including all these incidents…infiltration of Hindutva forces into the Indian army and intelligence agency…is a serious development.”
It is notable that leaders of the Indian extremist parties, Shiv Sena, BJP, VHP and RSS are now pressurising the Congress regime to release all the culprits of Smjhota Express and of bomb blasts in other places of India.
Notably, while quoting a cable of the Wikileaks by U.S ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, The Times of India reported on December 17, 2010 that India’s renowned “political leader and Congress Party’s heir, Rahul Gandhi feels that the “the bigger threat (to India) may be the growth of radicalized Hindu groups which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community.”
In a separate cable, describing a meeting between India’s National Security Adviser M.K.Narayanan and FBI Director Robert Mueller, a US official reports the former as saying “India is also seeing the beginning of Hindu extremist groups that use violence.” The cable indicates that the Director Mueller points out, “terrorists come from more than just Muslim backgrounds.”
Nevertheless, while using delaying tactics, the Indian government on the other hand said that it would share information with Pakistan on the investigation regarding the Samjhota Express blast once the probe was completed. In this context, Indian Home Secretary G K Pillai stated that India understood the concerns of Pakistan as several Pakistani citizens were killed in the blast but the investigation was not yet over, explaining, “As and when the investigation is completed and the charge sheet is filed, we would definitely share the information with Pakistan.” He further explained, “Government was committed to bring to justice anyone who committed terror irrespective of religion or anything else as it considered such people as criminals…I think in one sense, it (the probe) shows that we are willing to be fair as far as possible. If somebody has done a crime, irrespective of who is he, what his religion is, we will go after him and make sure that he is punished. He said that he hoped the message would go across Pakistan which was yet to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to justice.
Nonetheless, finally, it is suggested to the honourable parliamentarians of Pakistan that the evidence of Samjhota Express blast needs to be discussed in the Parliament.At the moment, RSS and Indian Army are under the focus and we have the legitimate right to ask for information on investigation in relation to theSamjhota blast case. Pakistanmust initiate ground work in an endeavour to ask for compensation for poor victims of Pakistan in the light of Lockerbie case. Some ground work may be initiated to get access to the accused once the case proceeds in the Indian court.
Sajjad Shaukat is a regular writer for Opinion Maker. He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.