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A Swami With Terror Agenda

By M Shamsur Rabb Khan

23 November, 2010

On 19 November 2010, the CBI arrested “Swami Asimanand”, believed to be the mastermind of the Ajmer Dargah and Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad blasts -- both occurred on 11 October and 18 May 2007 respectively. In Mecca Masjid blast, 16 persons were killed and 100 injured, while at Ajmer Dargah three people were killed and 17 injured. The Swami was arrested from Haridwar, where he had been hiding with a fake name and fake identity documents such as passport, ration card and election card. Originally Jatin Chatterjee, Swami Asimanand, 59, has been known by various names like Naba Kumar Sarkar or Swami Onkaranand, is an ideologue of Abhinav Bharat, an organization believed to be behind the 2008 Malegaon blast in Maharashtra and a proponent of Hindutva terrorism. It should be noted that Bangladesh outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) was accused of orchestrating the Mecca Masjid blast due to which more than 100 Muslim youths of Hyderabad were picked up by the investigating agencies and some of them were falsely implicated. In Ajmer blast, about a dozen Muslims Imams, Maulanas, and Madrasa teachers were detained and tortured by the Rajasthan Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS).

Swami Asimanand’s name first came up during the Malegaon blast probe when the Maharashtra ATS recovered his driver, Sunil Dhwade's number from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, prime accused in the Malegaon case. During interrogation, as per the CBI, Swami’s name cropped up along with the other accused, Sandeep Darge, Ram Chadra Kalsangra alias Ramjee, both residents of Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Telephonic conversation between Swami and Sadhvi revealed that he had met with her and both planned retaliatory terror attacks on religious places of Muslim. The CBI arrested Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, both RSS activists, in June 2010 in connection with the Mecca Masjid blast case. As a result of searches carried out by the CBI and Maharashtra ATS in 2009-10 at various places in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat after receiving information about Swami Asimanand's presence but he managed to escape.

A post-graduate in Botany, Swami Asimanand is a native of Hooghly district of West Bengal, who, joined the Ramkrishna Mission in 1990s, but soon disillusioned with Left government, migrated to the tribal area of Dangs in Gujarat. In Dangs, Swami established Shabaridham Ashram in 2001 and started his missionary work focused on converting tribals from Christianity to Hinduism. However, his transition from a diehard Hindu preacher to terror plotter is the result of growing terror attacks on India by the pan-Islamic jihadi groups based in Pakistan. In May 2004, as per the ATS chargesheet, Swami held a meeting at the Kumbh in Ujjain and talked of avenging acts of “Islamic” terrorism in the country. It is in Ujjain he made a list of targets, which included Malegaon, Jama Masjid in New Delhi, Ajmer Dargah, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and the Samjautha Express. The chargesheet quoted him as saying, “There have been several attacks against us and nothing has been done. We have to respond as soon as possible.”

With large followers in Dangs, Swami planned and funded bomb blasts in Ajmer, Malegaon and Hyderabad, and as per the Rajasthan ATS, which recently filed a chargesheet in the Ajmer Dargah blast case, Swami Aseemanand was the man behind a wave of attacks on Muslims’ places of worship allegedly carried out by extremist Hindu outfits. In order to take his terror agenda forward, Swami chaired meetings in Ujjain, Indore, Sabridham in the Dangs and Mihijam in Jharkhand. Not only Swami funded these terror attacks, but had also been instrumental in bringing together a motley group of extremists Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Chandreshekhar who allegedly carried out blasts in Ajmer Dargah and at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Prasad Srikanth Purohit, prime suspects in the Malegaon blasts case. Acting as facilitator, Swami suggested that the two extremist organizations – Prasad Srikanth Purohit’s Abhinav Bharat and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s Jai Vande Mataram – must join together since their objectives were similar.

Swami Asimanand guided Sunil Joshi, a key suspect in Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blast cases who was killed in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007, how to plot these attacks under and who, along with four others, even lived in his Shabaridham Ashram in Dangs prior to the Ajmer blast and hid there after the attack. The ATS chargesheet records Asimanand speaking to Purohit on the phone just after Joshi’s murder and called him as “a very important and useful person to me”. Much sinister activities of Swami Asimanand will be revealed in days to come, one thing is clear terrorism has no religion and it is beyond boundaries, and quite contrary to the constant denial of the RSS and other Sangh Parivar organizations. Also, it is naïve, short-sighted and bias stand to associate terrorism with one community or class.

So, far response against Hinutva terror has been indifferent without realizing the fact that the Hindutva-inspired individuals like Swami Asimanand and Devender Gupta are equally dangerous and indefensible like terrorists inspired by jehadi Islam. Swaminathan S Anklesariya Aiyar once pointed out that "terrorism is a Muslim monopoly" that in terms of membership and area controlled, secular terrorists are far ahead of Muslim terrorists" (The Times of India, 23 July 2006). From the demographic spread and huge population point of view, Hinduta terrorism can be even more dangerous since it has a wider base, and it also enjoys official sanction, state patronage and political support, as has been the case that the BJP openly criticized CBI and ATS after Sadhvi was arrested, that Mohan Bhagwat denied any association of Hindu with terrorism. Even Hindutva terrorists got support, for example, moved by the alleged torture of Sadvhi Pragya Singh Thakur, BJP leaders called Hemant Karkare, deshdrohi, and even L K Advani went on to demand a change in the Maharashtra ATS. All the top leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena, who swore by the Indian Constitution, declared their full support to the perpetrators and even extended legal support for them.

The argument that Hindutva terror is inspired by nationalism is a big fallacy because it is no less threat to internal security. In August 2010, the Union Home Minister P. Chidmbaram stated that there has been “a recent uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts in the past.” A report (Holy cow!, the Hindu, 9 March 2003) states that “a new brand of Hinduism is nurturing Durga Vahinis in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, and West Bengal, insidiously working with young adolescents, training them in the Vedas and warfare. Bal Thackeray's idea of making our own suicide squads has been picked up by a Pune-based retired Colonel Jayant Chitale. His "Hindustan Atma Ghatki Pathak (Hindustan Suicide Squad") has 45 enthusiastic young men who have completed commando training and signed a bond that they are willing to die for the country. This is the Hindutva response to the Islamic madrassa and terrorist culture.”

Swami Asimanand is the product of this culture of countering terror with terror.