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Mainstream, Vol. XLVIII, No 34, August 14, 2010

Many Forks of The Devil’s Tongue: Whitewashing Crimes a la the Pracharak Way

Sunday 22 August 2010, by Subhash Gatade

“(Bajrang Dal) uses violence whereever necessary to protect the Hindu..if the snake bites, won’t we strike it down?”
—Subhash Chouhan, National Convenor of Bajrang Dal (Indian Express, July 22, 2010)

“I have known these organisations for a long time and they do not have criminal elements.”
—Union Home Minister, while giving a clean chit to Bajrang Dal in the Graham Steins murder case (January 1999)

I

Does sorrow come with any date? Perhaps no. Perhaps yes. For Kamal Khan (name changed) the date happened to be February 19, 2007 when there were explosions on the train called the Samjhauta Express near Panipat. And within a flash of a second he lost his only sister with her entire family who lived across the border. The middle-aged farmer from western UP still remembers the final moments of their journey when he had bid goodbye to all of them with a promise that once their ailing mother gets alright he would visit them.

Much water has flown down the Jamuna and the Jhelum and the Ravi all these years but the pain still lingers on. Who might have killed all of them alongwith sixtyfour others? Of course, he does not have many clues. What was their crime? With his moistened eyes he asks: how can killers of innocents claim divine sanction for their acts? The god-fearing farmer who regularly visits the mosque to offer prayers and also enthusiastically participates in festivals of others, cannot comprehend how God can ask His followers to eliminate others. They must be followers of Satan (demon), he mumbles.

One does not know whether he has learnt that the powers that be have suddenly woken up from the deep slumber they were in and announced that the unfinished investigations into the explosions would be taken up by a central agency called the NIA (National Investigating Agency). Quite some time back he had learned from a friend that the Haryana Police, in whose jurisdiction the explosions occured, had reached a dead-end in their investigations. The leads to the explosions had taken them to Indore, they had even identified the shop which had sold the suitcases which were used in the act but could not proceed further.

It is true that whatever the central agency concludes after its investigations, it is not going to create any difference to him. Neither is he going to get back his sister nor can he get over the loss of his mother, who had a massive heart attack when she heard that her daughter was no more and expired.

II

THE first indication that the probe into the Samjhauta Express blast would be ‘reorganised’ had come in June 2010 itself when investigators probing the blasts had discovered footprints of a similar Hindutva terrorist group which had carried out the Malegaon terror attack (September 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 207 Mecca mosque blast in Hyderabad had emerged. The similarity in the triggering mechanism for the Mecca mosque blast and the February 2007 Samjhauta Express blast was also found to be striking. The Union Home ministry deemed it necessary to closely monitor the probe against the real perpetrators which was the only way to unravel the “complex web”.

As is now history, the Haryana Police had then constituted a Special Investigating Team to look into the Samjhauta Expresss blast. It acted upon the inputs from various intelligence agencies, which pointed the finger of suspicion at the Lashkar as was the norm then to blame everything on the ‘Jihadi/Fassadi’ terrorists. Terrorism unleashed by RSS Pracharaks and members of other Hindutva organisations had still not received the attention they deserved. As expected, despite their best efforts they could not make any headway.

The first significant breakthrough came when the police could track down the place from where the two suitcases (which carried bombs but could not explode because of wrong time-setting) were purchased. It was quite significant to note that they were purchased from a shop in the Kothari Market in Indore.

Any close watcher of the Hindutva terror operations knows very well that Malwa in general and Indore in particular had of late emerged as a significant centre of its broad network. One could trace the roots of many of the Hindutva terrorist acts in the rest of the country from this city and its adjoining areas only. Ranging from the bomb blasts in an RSS office in Neemuch (1993), which saw the death of a leader of the VHP, who told the police that RSS workers use to gather in the office to assemble crude bombs, to the foiled attempt to bomb an Ijtema (a massive religious gathering of Muslims) in Bhopal (2003 December), the Mecca mosque, Hyderabad and Ajmer Sharief bomb blast, (2007), Malegaon bomb blast (September 2008), many such terrorist acts had their masterminds or actual planters belonging to this city only. In fact, a key figure in the whole terror network, RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi, who hailed from this place, was killed by still untraced assailants (December 2007). It need be emphasised here that Sunil Joshi was in close contact with Pragya Purohit who had even lent him her bike which was later used in the Malegaon bomb blast.

Things could not move ahead after the first breakthrough as (according to) the Haryana Police it did not get the necessary cooperation from their MP counterparts.

The Haryana Police decided to take the case further, but for some reason the probe never progressed. The allegation was that there was pressure from certain quarters not to probe further in the direction they were going. It is significant to note that the Haryana Police, which could have nailed the case, was told to go slow many times and when it wrote to the higher authorities to hand over the case to the CBI, then also the request was not considered.

When the ATS Maharashtra took up investigations in the Malegaon blast, then the leads became available—that the same group which carried out the Malegaon blast was also involved in the Samjhauta blast, Lt Col Purohit, one of the main accused in the Malegaon blast told the police that he had supplied the RDX to a person called Bhagwan and this was later used in the Samjhauta blast. Disturbingly the chargesheet filed against Purohit and the rest of his group did not make any mention of the Samjhauta blast case.

Perhaps the powers that be thought that indications of a Hindu extremist angle to this blast could weaken India’s struggle against ‘export of (Islamic) terror’ from across the border.

III

OF course mere handing over of the case to the NIA is no guarantee that the real perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express blast would be apprehended. There are examples to show that at times the central agencies have botched up the case whereas the state agencies have done a perfect job.

An important thing to remember in this connection is the following:
The general reluctance of the investigating agencies to name organisations—committed supposedly to further the cause of Hindu Rashtra—whose activists are found to be involved in terror acts.

Take the recent statement by the Director of the CBI, Ashwin Kumar, who ‘categorically denied that the CBI has interrogated any big leader of the RSS’. It was the same time when the CBI officials had filed a chargesheet against five RSS workers, namely, Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Ramji Kalasangra, Sandeep Dange and Sunil Joshi, for their involvement in the Mecca Masjid blasts. The CBI had even declared a reward of Rs 10 lakhs to anyone who gives a clue about the whereabouts of the two absconding terrorists, namely, Ramji Kalasangra and Sandeep Dange. There were reports in the mainstream media about the senior leaders of the RSS like Ashuthosh Varshney and Ashok Beri (RSS leaders from UP questioned in Mecca Masjid case, Smita Nair, Indian Express, Wednesday June 30, 2010, 03:32 hrs, Mumbai) being called to Hyderabad by the CBI officials to explore their links with the likes of Devender Gupta. But despite every news of such developments available in the public domain, Ashwini Kumar deemed it necessary to ‘officially’ deny this news. What must have prompted him to do this?

There were also reports that when civil liberty activists from Rajasthan went to meet the Rajasthan ATS people, who had meticulously cracked the Ajmer blast case, these officials also tried to individualise the crime. Despite having details of Devender Gupta’s background with them that he happened to be an RSS Pracharak in Jharkhand, they were not ready to acknowledge that he formed part of a terror module run by some RSS activists.

One witnessed a similar approach also in the case of the NIA, which has been specifically formed to look into terror related cases, when it recently filed a chargesheet in the bomb blast in Margaon and Sancole in October 2009. The bomb blast had witnessed deaths of two Sanatan Sanstha activists—Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik. The NIA filed a chargsheet against eleven members of the Sanatan Sanstha. It duly mentioned that the conspiracy to organise bomb blasts in different parts of Goa on the occasion of Narkasur festival was hatched in the Ashram of the Sanatan Sanstha itself but it refused to include the organisation as one of the accused.

M.K. Dhar, a senior intelligence official, has written a book called Open Secrets based on his experiences. In that he mentions that on many occasions one notices a concurrence of views between the ‘intelligence officials and the RSS’.

Should one say that the reluctance to name the organisations concerned reflects this concurrence?

Another important aspect worth emphasising in this case is that all those people, formations, parties who want that the investigating agency reach the kernel of truth and catch the real masterminds of these terror attacks will have to continuously remain vigilant. They will have to understand that there is a long chain involved in organising a terror attack, namely,

1. planters of the bomb/explosivies or executioners of the terror act;

2. masterminds of the terror act;

3. planners of the terror act who take care of the finances as well;

4. constant communalisation in the society creates a ‘conducive’ situation to make this happen.

One can compare this chain with the videos available that show suicide squads or fidayeen squads trained by the likes of Lashkar or Jaish. The likes of Kasab, who was the only terrorist caught live while being involved in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, can be considered the last of the chain. The actual planners of such attacks may be sitting far away in Karachi in some AC room.

Comparing this chain with the Hindutva terror outfits, we can see that most of those people who have been apprehended till date are basically planters or actual executioners of the terror act. The masterminds of the terror act or the actual planners of this terror strategy who might be some jet-setting Pracharaks or someone sitting in Parliament or some endocrinologist sitting in one of the top-notch hospitals in the Capital having the audacity to claim on tape that ‘he has finished 25 Muslims’. When the ATS, Maharashtra, under the leadership of Karkare, was investigating the Malegaon bomb blast, they had got reports that Lt Col Purohit had met Praveen Togadia and a few other senior leaders of the Hindutva brigade. Why has none of these leaders ever been questioned or called to the investigating office to explain their links (if any) with these terrorists?

Unless and untill attempts are done to reach the masterminds and the planners, the danger of a new round of terror attack would always remain.

IV

...our premier investigating agency is busy with tidbit cracker blasts in Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharief and Malegaon which on the face of it look minor.
(‘The Chimera of Hindu Terror’, The Organiser, Editorial)

It is for everyone to see that with the arrest of a few RSS activists and members of other Hindutva organisations in different terror acts in the country, the debate around the issue of terrorism has suddenly undergone a transforma-tion. As has been widely reported the investigating agencies have even declared monetary awards to catch those RSS activists involved in terror acts who are still absconding and had even summoned few of its senior leaders for questioning about their role (if any) in these acts.

With a renewed focus on its secretive functioning at the hands of the law and order machinery and with ordinary people questioning the methods of indoctrination going on in the shakhas—that has resulted in many of these activists gathering bombs and explosives and engaging themselves in terror acts—everyone can see that the RSS, which calls itself a ‘cultural organisation’, is now on the defensive. If one goes by the media reports, it is discovering to its dismay that the challenge before it is very much similar in intensity to what it had faced when it was banned after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.

Last month it had organised a five-day meeting in Jodhpur to discuss and deliberate on its predicament. The calibrated response after this meeting was that the RSS abhors violence of any sorts, it would support any such government initiative which tries to curb violence, it would not provide any type of support—material, legal —if any of its activists is found to be involved in such acts and lastly it has taken action on some of its own people who were involved in some way or the other with such ‘radical’ acts. It is a different matter that all these resolutions were merely for public consumption.

And it did not mind condoning the attack on a TV channel (involving 2000-3000 people) in the Capital itself for showing a tape of one of its senior leaders supposedly involved in planning a terror act.

Looking at some recent press clippings it seems to have devised another strategy to deflect the attention of the people. By conflating Hinduism (the religion) with Hindutva (the political project of the RSS) they have started saying that with these recent arrests attempts are being made to stigmatise the Hindus. It is a different matter that all those people who are engaged in exposing this majoritarian terror have categorically described it as ‘Hindutva terror’ and not Hindu terror.

The latest interview by Ram Madhav to Indian Express (‘RSS admits it’s worried, top brass in a huddle’, August 1, 2010) signifies its adoption of another strategy to save its image from being ‘sullied’ supposedly because of the ‘propaganda against it’. While admitting that ‘only Devendra Gupta was holding a position of responsibility in the RSS at the time of his arrest in April 2010’, it says that ‘no other person who is accused has had any active role in the RSS either at the time of his arrest or when the alleged acts were committed’.

Sangh watchers know that it is a very old strategy of the RSS to distance itself from the people, organisations whenever it finds it inconvenient to own them. There are a number of examples in the Sangh history where it has been engaged in distancing itself from its own activists. Imagine an organisation like the RSS, which does not have any membership list, can tomorrow claim that even Ram Madhav does not belong to it! Then do we have any proof to counter it. No.

This strategy on the part of the RSS can save its skin in the short term but it reflects poorly on the character of the organisation. This statement by Ram Madhav about distancing itself from the other Hindutva terrorists reminds one of the interview Gopal Godse, younger brother of Nathuram Godse, gave to Frontline a few years back. He duly mentioned that at the time of Gandhi’s assassination too Nathuram was a member of the RSS and he had never relinquished his membership. When the reporter asked him why he did not mention it during his interrogation, pat came the reply—that he wanted to protect the organisation.

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