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19 July 2010 National EXCLUSIVE investigation: samjhauta blast

Dead In Its Tracks

The probe continued as long as Pakistan was seen as culprit. Enter Hindu angle, and...
AP

On February 18, 2007, a bomb exploded on the Samjhauta Express which runs between India and Pakistan when it was close to Panipat. Sixty-eight persons died, many of them Pakistani nationals, and several others injured. The very next day, the Haryana police constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and sent its men to different parts of the country to follow leads. The trail led to Indore where the SIT managed to locate the Abhinandan Bag Centre in Kothari market, from where the Kodak brand of suitcase containing the explosives was purchased, the tailor who stitched the covers of the suitcases located and other evidence. Although no terrorist outfit has claimed responsibility till date, the government’s first reaction was to blame Pakistan for it.

But within official circles, it’s widely known that investigations into the Samjhauta Express blast were discreetly stopped when the trail led to Hindu activists in Indore. Earlier, the Maharashtra ATS investigating the Malegaon blasts too had uncovered the Indore link.

Since the government had already accused Pakistan, a Hindu link would have led to loss of credibility for India.

Sources in the Haryana police told Outlook that all their leads pointed to the involvement of “Hindu fundamentalist” elements, and despite several arrests, they failed to find any evidence of the involvement of Islamic groups like Indian Mujahideen or SIMI. Why was the probe stalled then? The commonly given explanation is that when the government’s policy has been to blame Pakistan for every terrorist incident in India, it would have damaged the country’s credibility if, after blaming them for the blast, it was proved to be the work of Hindus.

Crucially, several senior police officials told Outlook that it was the office of the then National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan, which informally advised the police to go slow on the probe and not investigate the Hindu connection.

Interestingly, when the Maharashtra ATS did a narco test on Lt Col Srikant Purohit as part of its investigation into the Malegaon blast, it was revealed that though he wasn’t personally involved in the Samjhauta blast, he seemed to know something about those who were. In September 2007, the Haryana home department wrote to the central government, requesting the CBI to take over the investigation, but this was not done.

Later, the CBI helped the Haryana police with the investigations but as an officer connected with it points out, it amounted to very little. Officers say that the key persons who can shed some light on the matter are Sandeep Dange and Ramji, both RSS pracharaks. The two have eluded arrest so far.

There have been half-hearted attempts to restart the stalled investigation, but nothing much seems to have happened. In August 2009, a coordination meeting of the National Investigating Agency north zone was held at Panchkula, where all senior police officers of Haryana and other states participated. It was decided at this meeting that the SP/GRP will have a coordination meeting with the CBI and a meeting was fixed at the CBI headquarters in Delhi. This too was not held.

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OUTLOOK: 19 July, 2010
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