A New Colour
- The NIA’s latest chargesheet in the Samjhauta Express blasts rules out a jehadi angle, confirms the Hindutva terror angle
- The bombers and conspirators are ex-RSS activists. One accused, Sanjay Joshi, was murdered.
- The suspects in jail are Kamal Chauhan and Lokesh Sharma. The rest are absconding.
- Jama Masjid was recced, but the train was seen as an easier target
For more than one and a half years after they occurred, the blasts on the Delhi-Lahore Samjhauta Express, which claimed 68 lives, were believed to be the handiwork of Islamist terrorist groups. The attack happened on February 18, 2007, the day before Pakistan’s then foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, was arriving to resume peace talks. So sleuths suspected the hand of Islamist groups intent on derailing the Indo-Pak initiative.
Now, the NIA has confirmed that the terror attack was actually the work of Hindutva outfits. The agency’s latest chargesheet, filed before additional sessions judge Kanchan Mahi and accessed by Outlook, puts their involvement on record; it also rules out the involvement of jehadi groups. The perpetrators were seeking revenge for a spate of attacks “on Hindu temples and Hindus”.
It was in November 2008 that the railway police and an SIT of Haryana police, the agencies that first took up the case, got a whiff of the blasts being linked to Hindu terror groups. The name they turned up was Prasad Shrikant Purohit, a colonel in Military Intelligence, who was linked to the Hindutva group Abhinav Bharat. (He’s now in jail, as investigations of Hindutva terror plots widen.)
But definitive progress on that angle came since the NIA took up the case in July 2010. The chargesheet identifies the bomb-planters—Kamal Chauhan, Lokesh Sharma, Rajender Chaudhary, Amit Hakla and Sunil Joshi—as having had RSS links. In fact, Joshi, who was murdered in Dewas in December 2007, was an RSS pracharak. The chargesheet says the “blasts in Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif were carried out by the accused in pursuance of a criminal conspiracy”. The suitcases used in the Samjhauta blasts were bought on February 14, 2007, from Kothari market in Indore and packed with explosive chemicals, fuel oil and digital timers.
A steady build-up of the case began since December 2010, when the NIA claimed evidence of Swami Aseemanand, who was formerly with the RSS, being one of the masterminds. He confessed before a magistrate, but later retracted. In February this year, the NIA arrested Kamal Chauhan, a former RSS worker, in Indore. He is believed to be an associate of Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, two absconding accused in the same case on whom the agency has announced a Rs 10 lakh reward.
Chauhan apparently took part in a training session in the Bagli forest of Dewas district, Madhya Pradesh. Joshi, Kalsangra, Sharma, Hakla and one Rajender Chaudhary attended the session. Call records confirm that they were all in touch. Arriving in Delhi by the Indore Intercity on fake names some time in November-December 2006, Chauhan and Chaudhary conducted recces of Jama Masjid and the Old Delhi railway station. Their assessment was that security at the mosque was tight, while it was lax at the railway station, so the Samjhauta Express was an easier target. The bomb-planters then took a Delhi train from Indore the day before the blasts. Arriving in the capital, they took a local train from Nizamuddin station to Old Delhi, stayed in dormitory, and reached the platform from which the targeted train was scheduled to depart at 11:05 pm. Job done, they went to Jaipur and took a bus to Indore.
Chauhan and Sharma are at the Central Jail in Ambala, awaiting trial. The rest of the accused are absconding, and Joshi, one of the key persons involved, is dead. Still, the agency hopes to be able to build a solid case. It’s awaiting comparative reports of the bombs used to see if links can be established to the blasts in Malegaon in Maharashtra and Modasa in Gujarat. That would complete the picture of the Hindutva terror story.