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Some Bombs Get Defused

By Smita Gupta

29 September, 2008
Outlook India

Explosive Acts

> Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) investigation revealed that Bajrang Dal activists made bombs in Nanded in 2006.

> Their target was mosques. They were also involved in planting bombs in three mosques since 2003.

> But ATS & CBI watered down charges.

> In August 2008 two Dal men were killed while making bombs in Kanpur. Huge cache of explosives seized.


" of the two who signed the (Indian) Mujahideen e-mail signed himself as Al-Arabi; but Arabi was the name of a bridge-builder to other communities, unlike others who were aggressors. Would a terrorist have used such a ‘peace-loving’ pseudonym? Was this a mistake made by a non-Muslim mastermind?"

—from ‘Tentacles of Dread and the Terror Gameplan’, by M.J. Akbar

It is no one’s case that there are no Muslim extremist groups operating in the country, merely because the recent spate of terror attacks across the country—Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi—benefited the BJP. Equally, given how tricky investigations into terror attacks are, all terror organisations, regardless of affiliation and denomination, must be put under the scanner. After all, Muslim and Hindu terror organisations do coexist. Indeed, police investigations have revealed that members of organisations such as the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), don’t just get military training, they are also keen followers of the methods of Islamist terror groups.

Take, for instance, the Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) investigation of a bomb explosion in the home of L.G. Rajkondwar, a retired PWD executive engineer and RSS member, in Nanded, Maharashtra, in April 2006. The explosion killed N. Rajkondwar and H. Panse and injured M.K. Wagh, Y. Deshpande, G.J. Tuptewar and R.M. Pande. They were all Bajrang Dal activists.

The FIR recorded the injured activists’ claim that stored firecrackers had gone off inadvertently. But the investigation nailed this lie, revealing that bombs being assembled by the Bajrang Dal activists had exploded accidentally before they could be used to damage mosques. Moreover, the entire operation was being styled in a camouflage so as to resemble a Muslim terror operation. Soon, the police arrested 16 persons. The remand application said the accused had diagrams, maps and material related to the manufacture/storage of bombs. It said they had also identified terror targets across the country.

On May 4, 2006, the case was transferred to the ATS. The ATS’s first chargesheet, filed on August 24, 2006, established a Bajrang Dal-Sangh parivar terror network. It says:

> The Nanded accused were also responsible for blasts at the Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani (November 2003), the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna (August 2004) and the Meraj-ul-Uloom Madrassa/Masjid in Purna in Parbhani district (August 2004).

> The target of the bombs which killed the Bajrang Dal activists was actually a mosque in Aurangabad. Both H. Panse and M. Wagh had conducted a recce of the Aurangabad mosque in May 2004.

> Panse and Pande had started a gymnasium to attract Hindu youth and organised seminars. They also gave speeches to create an anti-Muslim atmosphere, alleging acts of injustice by Muslims against Hindus, inciting the latter to do "something for Hinduism." They were also trained in bomb-making near Pune, Goa and at the Bhosla Military School at Nagpur. An RSS camp at the school trained 115 participants in karate, obstacle courses, and shooting. The trainers included two ex-servicemen and an ex-IB operative.

> Police discovered a false beard, moustache and shervani during a search of the house of H.V.Panse; a cellphone intercept revealed that Wagh was to visit Aurangabad on April 5, 2006.

The ATS established that the accused had carried out bomb blasts across Maharashtra, and concluded that the Bajrang Dal and other Sangh activists wanted to target Muslims while creating a smokescreen to make it look as though Muslim extremists themselves were targeting fellow Muslims. This would help advance the Sangh parivar’s agenda of spreading hatred for the Muslim community by projecting Muslims as perpetrators of every bomb explosion taking place in India.

Activist Teesta Setalvad, who has provided a meticulous account of the ATS investigations and what followed thereafter in a recent issue of Communalism Combat, writes, "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, one would have expected the ATS to ensure that the guilty were brought to book and the terrorist network exposed. The two chargesheets filed by the ATS do not however reflect the gravity of its own findings. At some point 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; it only served to weaken the case."

The CBI chargesheet, which Setalvad procured on an RTI application, reveals that the agency simply diluted the ATS’s charges of criminal conspiracy involving terrorist acts. If the ATS investigation concluded that the accidental explosion in Nanded was only one episode in a terrorist plot involving the Bajrang Dal, supported by a network of the Sangh parivar, the CBI chargesheet treated the Nanded incident as an isolated case so that the trial does not even examine the possible existence of a terrorist network in Maharashtra.

It also delinked the case from the Bajrang Dal or any other Sangh outfit.

If that was Maharashtra, in Uttar Pradesh, the original home of the Bajrang Dal, an incident uncannily similar to the one in Nanded took place. On August 24 this year, two Bajrang Dal activists, Rajeev Mishra and Bhupinder Singh, died while making explosive devices. Kanpur zone IGP S.N. Singh told journalists that the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force’s investigations had revealed "plans for a massive explosion". Among the material seized were countrymade hand grenades similar to those used by the defence forces.

In police raids on Bhupinder Singh’s Lajpat Nagar studio and his residence, the police found a diary and a hand-drawn map of Muslim-dominated Ferozabad. The police is also exploring the possibility that the grenades and other explosives were intended for use during the month of Ramzan, as the map has markings of at least five spots, which could be of possible targets.

If in 1984 the VHP created the Bajrang Dal to protect the Ram Janaki Yatras, in 1993 it moved out of Uttar Pradesh, became a nationwide organisation and was officially designated the VHP’s youth wing. Over the years, it has shifted focus from mobilising support for the Ram temple to what its current chief Prakash Sharma describes as "problem-solving". The problems include terrorism both in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere in the country, the influx of refugees from Bangladesh, referred to as "infiltration’’, and conversions to Christianity. "If government agencies don’t act against those whom the Bajrang Dal has identified as an isi agent (any Muslim) or involved in the slaughter of cows, then we just uproot them from society ourselves," said Rukun Singh Payal, a VHP functionary from Uttar Pradesh.So even as the Kanpur case is being investigated, and Bajrang Dal activists continue their rampage against Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and north Kerala, clearly there is a need to study the stormtroopers of the saffron brotherhood.

© Outlook Publishing (India) Private Limited

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