Thursday, November 20, 2008 (Pioneer)
A Hindu Dreyfus Affair?
Has a rogue operation by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad ended up undermining a Military Intelligence network and thus severely discomfited the Army? The implications of the 'Hindu terror' fiasco could be far-reaching
Depending on political positions, the so-called 'Hindu terrorism' issue has divided the political class and analysts into two. One section believes this is a concocted case, and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad is simply arresting people on the basis of the fact that they socially knew or called the mobile number of the previous suspect. The other argues that this is final and incontrovertible proof that a secret army of 'Hindu fascists' is bent upon destroying India.
Indeed, as one writer put it in a formerly mainstream newspaper this past week, the episode is evidence of the BJP's "specious sophistry" and inability to face up to the radicals in the Hindu Right. He gushingly contrasted this with the response of others, such as "the Deobandis -- who had earlier issued a fatwa against terror -- the Muslim clergy congregated in Hyderabad for a conference to deprive terror of religious sanction".
Truth may not be quite as neat. There is a third possibility that the whole business was an intelligence operation that went horribly wrong -- or, for some people, just perfectly right. As is now coming to be believed, did a section of the intelligence agencies, working on behalf of the Congress, seek to infiltrate the broader Hindu socio-religious leadership, exploit the anger against the Government's inability to counterjihadi terror and then comfortably frame them?
There are many gaps in the story that need to be filled. For instance, it is clear that Lt Col SP Purohit -- whom the Maharashtra ATS has accused of being the 'Hindu terror' mastermind -- was politically supportive of Right-wing political philosophy. Perhaps he knew similarly aligned and active people. There is nothing startling about this. Maharashtra's political tradition since Tilak and Ranade -- if not earlier -- has been alive to such ideas.
However, to see Lt Col Purohit's political views as disagreeable is one thing, to label him a terrorist is another. As a Military Intelligence officer, he was professionally bound to be in touch with a range of people, reputable, dubious or otherwise. Among his 'registered sources' -- sources he was in contact with, and whose identities were reported by him to his superiors in the Army -- were at least two people who have now been called 'Hindu terrorists' by the Maharashtra ATS.
When Lt Col Purohit was transferred from Deolali (a town in Nashik district), he passed on his 'registered contacts' to his successor. As such, two so-called 'Hindu terrorists' were paid informants working on behalf of the Indian Army, introduced by one officer -- who may have shared their electoral preferences -- to another -- who may not have been a political sympathiser.
Intelligence sources don't emerge from thin air. A source and an intelligence gatherer have to share social and other affinities. That is how they learn to trust each other. That is why Muslim police officers and intelligence operatives hold the key to winning the war against jihad .
As such, it was only to be expected that Lt Col Purohit would be asked to use his personal capacities to keep abreast with Hindu social currents. It is understood that he was also in contact with senior officers of the (then) Royal Nepal Army, officers who were Generals and seriously outranked him. Here again, he was using personal contacts for a professional, national purpose.
If his interaction with the Nepal Army was, however, unauthorised, it would be a serious indiscretion. That is for the Indian Army to clarify.
Here one begins treading on dangerous ground. At some point, from being the channel to Hindu activists, Lt Col Purohit became the target of a rogue intelligence operation, with the Maharashtra ATS and the Army working at cross-purposes, probably unknown to each other.
As long as the Maharashtra Police was targeting unknown civilians and little-known religious figures, and alleging they were behind small, localised bombings, the issue was serious in its ramifications but also limited in its context.
Having named Lt Col Purohit as the possible initiator of the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack in early-2007, the Maharashtra police -- despite its subsequent, ham-handed backtracking -- has taken things a trifle too far. What was a standard dirty tricks operation by a politicised police unit has now threatened to become something far, far bigger.
What the ATS has so far implied is this: Lt Col Purohit travelled across the country planning terrorist bombings, from Malegaon to Nanded, Samjhauta Express to Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid. He allegedly stole 60 kg of RDX from the Army and handed it over to a Hindu militia. While he was doing all this, his superiors noticed nothing. They did not find his behaviour out of character; most important, the Army did not miss 60 kg of RDX -- enough to blow up Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhawan, South and North Blocks and still have ammunition to spare.
If this is true, and if the Indian Army is so casual and delinquent, then far from being a stable state, India is the mother of all banana republics. If this is true, India cannot be trusted with nuclear bombs, with sophisticated weapons, perhaps even with a standing Army. It is a rogue state masquerading as a democracy. That is the upshot of the accusation being made by the Maharashtra ATS.
The next time there is a terrorist attack in India, and the Home Ministry points fingers at Pakistani or Bangladeshi involvement, Islamabad and Dhaka could retort that New Delhi had better question the Indian Army first. They could cite the expansive Press briefings of the Maharashtra ATS as corroborative material.
In the 1890s, a Jewish officer serving in the French Army was convicted of spying for Germany and sent to prison. Years later, it was revealed that he had actually been framed, that the documents used to implicate him were fabricated. The real culprit was another officer. In 1906, Alfred Dreyfus, the officer who was a victim of anti-Semitism, was exonerated and went on to serve his country in World War I.
Has modern-day India created a 'Hindu' Dreyfus?
Thursday, November 20, 2008 (Pioneer)
ATS runs out of ammo
TN Raghunatha | Mumbai
But needs 3 cases to book Purohit under MCOCA
Shrikant Shivde, defence counsel for key Malegaon blast accused Lt Col Prasad Purohit, on Wednesday alleged that by seeking custody in different cases, the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) was desperately trying to invoke the provisions of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against his client.
On a day when First Class Judicial magistrate (JFMC) GG Itkalkar remanded Purohit to police custody in a forgery and cheating case till November 21, Purohit's counsel charged that by demanding his client's police custody repeatedly, the ATS wanted to show Purohit had committed more than three offences so that it could project him as a member of an organised crime syndicate, a pre-requisite for booking a person under MCOCA.
Purohit's counsel also charged that the ATS was drumming up charges against his client. Given his exceptional credentials as a serving Army officer who had participated in many military operations, including operation Vijay and Operation Rakshak, and had killed many terrorists during his career, it was sad that the ATS was terming Purohit as an anti-national, defence counsel said.
Purohit's counsel also produced a set of commendations and a document showing that he had been invited by the ATS to deliver a lecture on terror combat techniques.
Alluding to a complaint filed by a Pune resident against Purohit that the latter had produced fake documents to help the former obtain an arms licence, Shivde said that Pune resident Shirish Date had with the help of Purohit got an arms licence way back in 2005, why did not the ATS not take action against the complainant assuming that he did not possess a valid arms licence.
Dwelling on the manner in which his client was being harassed by the investigating agencies, Shivde told mediapersons that the CBI and Haryana police had at one stage handed out deaths to Purohit.
Ahead of the production of Purohit before Pune's Shivajinagar court, there were hundreds of activists belonging to various Hindu organisations raising slogans expressing their solidarity with him.
As he was being escorted back to the ATS van after the court remanded him to police custody for two days in forgery and cheating case, the Hindu activists showered rose petals on the officer and raised slogans of ''Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji'' and "Purohit Tum Aage Bado Hum Saath Hain". Giving a new twist to the Malegaon blast case, Purohit on Wednesday alleged in a Pune court that he was being victimised for "political reasons" as he was in possession of information pertaining to SIMI and ISI that could embarrass some quarters.
Purohit's counsel Srikant Shivde alleged that the officer was in possession of intelligence data of a "sensitive nature" regarding SIMI and ISI operations and could even be eliminated.
Meanwhile, a Pune court remanded Abhinav Bharat activist Sameer Kulkarni, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, to police custody for a day in a case involving the alleged attack on a Christian leader in 2007.
The remand felicitated the Khadki police to question Kulkarni for a day in question with in connection with a case lodged against him in 2007 for allegedly being a part of the group that assaulted Pastor Peter David Silway of Vineyard Workers' Church.
Like in the case of Purohit, hundreds of activists belonging to Hindu organisations had turned out in a large numbers to express their solidarity with him. They raised vociferous slogans for Kulkarni.
Meanwhile, the probe into how Hindu outfits accused of terrorism had links with some Armymen brought a few business houses under the scanner of Maharashtra's ATS and Central Security agencies investigating the finances of the group allegedly responsible for Malegaon blast. Sources attached with the probe said that a religious leader from Southern Gujarat was one of those who collected funds from the business houses.
Working on the chain of events about finances of the Abhinav Bharat, a little known saffron outfit allegedly involved in the September 29 Malegaon blast that left six people dead, sources said names of some of the business houses in Maharashtra as well as Gujarat cropped up. A check was being done whether the business houses were aware about the end use of funds. "We have questioned some of them and we are working to ascertain as to how much of money had been handed over to the saffron outfit," a senior probe official said on the condition of anonymity. The names of the business houses were not divulged for security reasons, reports PTI.
ATS may arrest Abhinav Bharat leader today
20 Nov 2008, 0354 hrs IST, Mateen Hafeez, TNN
MUMBAI: Sudhakar Chaturvedi, the national coordinator for the Abhinav Bharat organisation, who the police claim has admitted to his role in planning the Malegaon blast, is likely to be arrested by the Anti-Terror squad on Thursday.
Chaturvedi (37) was arrested by Matunga police on November 4 on charges of carrying a revolver without licence and possessing a fake ID of Deolali military cantonment. During narco-analysis on Tuesday in Bangalore, he told forensic experts that he had arranged several meetings of Abhinav Bharat members in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Haryana. The ATS, probing the September 29 Malegaon blast, suspects the blast was planned in these meetings.
Lt-Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit, the alleged mastermind, was on Wednesday subjected to brain mapping and polygraph test at the forensic laboratory in Kalina, Mumbai. The ATS have so far arrested 10 people including Purohit, retired Major Ramesh Upadhay, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Mahant Dayanand Pandey for their alleged role in the Malegaon blast that killed six. The ATS has claimed that Purohit masterminded the blast and procured RDX to assemble the bomb.
"Chaturvedi has admitted that Purohit had given him the revolver and also prepared a fake ID for his entry into the Deolali military cantonment. The ATS submitted an application in Kurla court on Saturday seeking his custody in the blast case,'' said senior inspector Sunil Deshmukh of Matunga police station. Deshmukh said Chaturvedi worked for Abhinav Bharat on a monthly salary of Rs 5,000.
"Chaturvedi's basic job was to arrange meetings and inform all the members about the meeting. He used to raise funds for the organisation too,'' said Deshmukh. Police sources said Chaturvedi had visited the restricted military area in Deolali camp near Nashik several times and was in constant touch with Purohit. It is also learned that Purohit had prepared the fake ID for Chaturvedi in 2005, when he was posted at Deolali as a liaison officer.
Chaturvedi hails from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh and migrated to Maharashtra 10 years ago. He had been staying in a rented room in a chawl at Deolali. Police said he was aware of the blast conspiracy and his arrest would lead to details of the case. Chaturvedi had also visited the Bhonsale military school in Nashik to attend a personal development camp. It was there Purohit introduced him to Major Upadhay, now retired. The Matunga police may also booked Purohit in its case of keeping illegal firearms and helping Chaturvedi in preparing the fake military ID.
Purohit is currently in the custody of ATS (Pune unit), in a case of forgery. The Sarkar Wada police station in Nashik had registered a case of forgery and cheating against Purohit last Saturday. Yeshwant Date, who lodged the complaint of forgery, told police that Purohit had submitted fake documents to get an arm license for him. Date said he didn't know then that Purohit was cheating him.
'Purohit oversaw bomb-making'
20 Nov 2008, 0132 hrs IST, Pranati Mehra & Mateen Hafeez, TNN
MUMBAI: Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Abhinav Bharat national coordinator who allegedly participated in the Malegaon blast conspiracy, revealed during a narco-analysis on Tuesday that some Muslim boys had assembled the bomb that was planted in Malegaon on September 29. The blast killed six people.
Lt-Col Shrikant Purohit, Major (Retd) Ramesh Upadhyay and one Sudhakar Dange "inspected" the assembling of the bomb by the Muslim boys, Chaturvedi said during the test in Bangalore, probe officials told TOI on Wednesday.
Purohit and Upadhyay are in ATS custody and Chaturvedi is likely to be in ATS custody by Thursday. The Muslim boys took the bomb to Malegaon along with Ramji — an accused the ATS is yet to find — and planted it near the SIMI office with Ramji’s help, Chaturvedi is learnt to have said. Officials said he also said Ramji had brought the LML Freedom two-wheeler to Malegaon.
The two-wheeler was owned by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and led the ATS to the sadhvi. The sadhvi claimed in her affidavit before the Nashik court on Monday that she sold it in 2004 to a man named Sunil Joshi for Rs 24,000. So, if the narco tests claims are to be believed, the ATS now has to establish the link between Joshi and Ramji. Purohit had said in his test on November 12 that some Malegaon Muslims had prepared the bomb and that the RDX was sourced from some Kashmiri Muslims in Pune. Chaturvedi was arrested by the Matunga police on November 4 on charges of carrying an illegal revolver and possessing a fake Deolali military cantonment identity card.
He was subjected to narco-analysis on Tuesday in Bangalore and, during the test, told forensic experts that he had arranged several meetings of Abhinav Bharat members at Indore, Panchmarhi and Jabalpur (MP), Faridabad and other places in Haryana and Gujarat as well as Deolali. The ATS, however, suspects that the blast conspiracy was hatched in these meetings.
Chaturvedi has reportedly revealed that some businessmen in Maharashtra were funding Abhinav Bharat. ‘‘But they may not have known what the money was being spent for,’’ Chaturvedi is learnt to have said. Purohit, too, was on Wednesday subjected to brain-mapping and polygraph tests at the Kalina forensic laboratory.
The ATS has so far arrested 10 persons, including Purohit, Major (Retd) Ramesh Upadhay, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Mahant Dayanand Pandey, for their alleged role in the blast that killed six persons. The ATS has claimed that Purohit masterminded the Malegaon blast.
Satyajit Joshi , Hindustan Times
Pune, November 20, 2008
First Published: 01:43 IST(20/11/2008)
Last Updated: 02:07 IST(20/11/2008)
CBI threatened to kill me: Purohit
Lt Col Srikant Prasad Purohit, one of the prime accused in the Malegaon blast case, told a Pune court on Wednesday that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Haryana police had threatened to kill him in an encounter.
Purohit was produced before Judicial Magistrate (First Class) G.G. Itkalkar here for allegedly procuring an arms licence for Pune-based Shirish Date by using fake documents. Purohit has been granted two days police custody by the court.
Contesting the forgery case, Purohit also claimed that he was falsely implicated in the Malegaon case, and anti-national elements, like the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), were pleased with his arrest.
In Delhi, a Union home ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, negated a public prosecutor’s charge in a Mumbai court that Purohit was involved in the Samjhauta Express blast. He said, “Investigations are on to gather evidence although news reports are making definitive statements on his involvement.”
Earlier, Purohit’s lawyer Srikant Shivde pointed out that Maharashtra anti-terrorists-squad (ATS) had not followed the Supreme Court guidelines while arresting him. Purohit’s family members, lawyer, friends or relatives were not informed about his arrest, his medical examination was not done and there was no entry of his arrest in any police station.
Shivde also alleged that the forgery case was fabricated as the ATS wanted more time to prepare a charge sheet under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
Earlier, Shirish Date alleged that he had paid Purohit Rs 20,000 to obtain a licence for his revolver. But after learning of Purohit’s involvement in the Malegaon blast case, he decided to check the authenticity of his licence and discovered that fake documents had been submitted. He then voluntarily came forward to file the complaint.
(With inputs from Political Bureau)
Malegaon probe: ‘Purohit could even be eliminated by ATS’
AgenciesPosted online: Nov 19, 2008 at 2048 hrs
Pune, November 19: : Malegaon blast accused Lt Col S P Purohit was on Wednesday remanded in two days of police custody by a magisterial court in Pune in connection with a case of alleged forgery in procuring a gun from the military.
Purohit, who was escorted to Pune from Nashik by the ATS squad, has been charged under various sections of IPC for committing forgery in procuring a gun from Jammu and Kashmir for one Milind Date in 2003.
Opposing the prosecutions' plea for a seven-day remand for further investigations into the case, Srikant Shivde, appearing for the accused told the judge that the ATS was trying to implicate him in a false case by threatening Date.
The counsel alleged that Purohit, who had a distinguished service record in the army, was being victimised for political reasons and he could even be eliminated by ATS because he was in possession of Intelligence data of a sensitive nature pertaining to the SIMI and ISI operations, which could embarrass some quarters.
Public Prosecutor A V Ausekar, appearing on behalf of ATS, argued that police custody for the accused was required to trace his connections in Jammu and Kashmir from where he managed to procure the gun for complainant Date from the military quota under the fake designation of Major Date and for giving bogus address in the application form for securing the weapon.
Purohit alleges victimisation due to 'political reasons'
Pune/Mumbai (PTI): Giving a new twist to the Malegaon blast case, prime accused Lt Col S P Purohit on Wednesday alleged in a Pune court that he was being victimised for "political reasons" as he was in possession of information pertaining to SIMI and ISI that could embarrass some quarters.
Purohit's counsel Srikant Shivde alleged that the officer was in possession of Intelligence data of a "sensitive nature" regarding SIMI and ISI operations and could even be eliminated.
A military intelligence officer, Purohit, 36, who was arrested on November 3 and is one of the 10 accused including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, was today sent to two days of police remand by a magisterial court in connection with a case of alleged forgery in procuring a gun.
Purohit, who was escorted to Pune from Nashik by the ATS squad, has been charged under various sections of IPC for committing forgery in procuring the gun from Jammu and Kashmir for one Milind Date in 2003.
Opposing the prosecutions' plea for a seven-day remand for further investigations into the case, Shivde told the judge that the ATS was trying to implicate him in a false case by threatening Date.
Public Prosecutor A V Ausekar, appearing on behalf of ATS, argued that police custody for the accused was required to trace his connections in Jammu and Kashmir from where he managed to procure the gun for Date from the military quota under the fake designation of Major Date and for giving bogus address in the application form for securing the weapon.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | Email | Print |
ATS charge backfires
The Pioneer Edit Desk
‘Investigation’ descends into witch-hunt
The Anti-Terrorism Squad of Mumbai Police has virtually ended up with egg on its face. After planting stories in those sections of the media which are only too happy to publish and broadcast any cockamamie tale that portrays Hindu spiritual leaders as ogres, denigrates Hindu society and defames Hindu organisations, and claiming in a Nashik court that Lt Col Srikant Prasad Purohit had used RDX stolen from the Army for the terrorist attack on Samjhauta Express in February 2007, it has had to eat humble crow and do an about-turn. What the too-clever-by-half ATS personnel, who have eagerly offered their services to launch what increasingly appears to be a witch-hunt and be party to a political conspiracy of calumny and worse, thus raising questions about their integrity, forgot while hurling their latest startling allegation against Lt Col Purohit is that public memory may be short, but it is not short enough to fail to recall the nature of the terrorist strike on Samjhauta Express. The explosives use on that occasion were improvised incendiary devices and the Forensic Laboratory in Chandigarh had not found any traces of RDX in the debris — for that matter, nor were any traces of RDX found at the site of the Malegaon explosion. These details are on record, as are the findings of the subsequent investigation. No less stunningly crude is the ATS’s allegation that Lt Col Purohit misappropriated 60 kg of RDX from the Army: The charge could have been brushed aside as ridiculous had it not been for the sinister implications of what has been alleged. Sixty kilograms of RDX is not a small amount of explosive material; nobody can just walk away with it from an ammunitions store of the Army. That apart, what the ATS has shockingly alleged is that the Army as an institution is so callous that an officer can pilfer a huge amount of explosive material without the theft being noticed. This is outright slanderous and the ATS must be held accountable for portraying the Army as a rogue institution; to let the calumniators go scote-free would be tantamount to whitewashing their misdeed. This paper has in the past raised the question whether the ATS sees itself as being above the law of the land and answerable to none. Since it is neither, it must be brought to heel right now before its recklessness causes irreparable damage to reputations.
It is by now obvious that the ATS is dancing to the tune of its political masters who are unmoved by the enormity of the damage that is being inflicted by the spit-and-scoot tactics which have been the mainstay of the so-called ‘investigation’ into the explosion at Malegaon that killed six Muslims in September. The feverish pace at which the ATS is pursuing this case, spinning bizarre stories by the minute and planting them by the dozen in the media, is in sharp contrast to the non-response of Maharashtra’s Congress-NCP Government, endorsed by the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre, to the mass slaughter by jihadis who bombed commuter trains in Mumbai on July 11, 2006. The perpetrators of that crime are sitting pretty, possibly laughing themselves silly over the manner in which the ATS is making a mockery of what it claims is an ‘investigation’ into a ‘terrorist attack’. This paper believes that the law must take its own course and anybody found guilty of indulging in violence should be punished. But what is being witnessed is blatant abuse of law.