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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 24, June 5, 2010

Silence of the Lambs?: Why The RSS Wants To Forget Pracharak Sunil Joshi’s Murder

Thursday 10 June 2010, by Subhash Gatade


It was a murder of an old activist, which the RSS would love to forget. It is a different matter that despite the innumerable ways in which it has tried to banish the memory of the whole incident it has found it very difficult to get away with it. And with the latest exposures in the Ajmer Dargah bomb blast case the whole issue has once again returned to haunt it.

A former RSS pracharak, who was an accused in the murder of a Congress leader and his son, was shot dead in Dewas town, about 35 kms from Indore, late on Saturday.

Sunil Joshi, 45, was strolling in Chuna Khadan locality when assailants, who used a Maruti van and a two-wheeler, shot him thrice. He was declared dead on arrival in the district hospital.

(Indian Express, Posted: Monday December 31, 2007,
00:00 hrs)

Yes, there was a time when the very name of this slain activist (a pracharak in the Sangh parlance) evoked awe in the Malwa region of MP—supposed to be a stronghold of the Hindutva brigade. No doubt this clout had endeared him to many top leaders of the RSS as well as the BJP. And he was privy to many of their secrets as well. But all that is passe. Mention his name today in any gathering of these top leaders and you will either witness silence or many of his close associates in the Parivar presenting convoluted explanations to show their distance from him.

Formally, at present he is a persona non grata in the Sangh Parivar.
It does not then appear surprising that although his murder occured more than two years ago, still officially nobody knows who planned it and then executed it. Despite the fact that the State Government where the said murder occurred is being ruled by the BJP, not much headway could be done. In fact, after its own failure in unearthing the case, it did not deem it necessary even to ask the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigations) to take up the case. As of now for the State Government in MP and its police force as well as his parivar people the preplanned murder of Sunil Joshi is a ‘closed file’.

The question naturally arises: after all, why did the RSS-BJP prefer to remain silent over the death of one of their pracharaks and did not try to find out the real culprits behind the murder? Of course, it did make routine noises like blaming ‘Islamic terrorists’ for the act. Activists of Hindu organisations did cause a ruckus in the hospital where Sunil Joshi’s body was taken after the bullets of the assasins hit him, they did block traffic on the Agra-Bombay highway for some time, and gave a bandh call next day in protest. There were also reports in a section of the media about the way in which they tried to avenge his death by attacking innocents unrelated to the whole case. For example, in Putarkheda village, 30 kilometres from Dewas, a family belonging to a minority community was attacked by miscreants on the day of the bandh. Abdul Rashid was shot dead while three of his family members were injured in the attack. One of them was shot at, one was stabbed and the third’s face was scalded when the assailants threw acid at him.

The last days of this pracharak are also shrouded in mystery.There were reports that at the time of his death Sunil Joshi was leading an underground type of life. Why was he compelled to do that despite the BJP being in power in the State? Did he have the premonition that someone was after him and he had to defend himself? Who wanted to kill/eliminate him? Whether a section of the Sangh/BJP Parivar itself had felt threatened by his activities and wanted him banished from the scene as he was privy to many of their secrets. Or did the Parivar itself, which demanded utmost secrecy, entrust him with some special mission?

As it always happens, the needle of suspicion in this case did move initially towards the ‘usual suspects’, that is, the omnipresent jihadi/fassadi terror groups; but looking back one finds that these allegations were for public consumption only. If that would have been really the case, the overactive Hindutva regime in the State could have arrested many innocents from the minority community and had seen to it that life is made miserable for their family members also. But that did not happen. A more plausible explanation behind this murder then seems to be the internecine differences within the larger parivar itself over matters other than politics. Were it over funds collected by these fanatics to further a more violent version of the Hindutva project. Later day developments seem to corroborate this explanation.

All these questions have become very relevant as with the latest exposures in the Ajmer dargah bomb blast case another RSS pracharak—a close friend/associate of Sunil Joshi—named Devender Gupta and Chandrasekhar Patidar have been arrested for their involvement in the execution of this datardly plot. And a close link between three bomb blasts—Malegoan blast (September 2008), Ajmer dargah bomb blast and Mecca Masjid bomb blast—and their perpetrators has emerged. Devender Gupta alias Ramesh Kumar is learnt to be the mastermind in training people in the use of explosives and (to quote Digvijay Singh further) “..used to train activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal in bomb making. He used to stay with RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi in Dewas and also happened to be one of the accused in the Mhow bomb blast, 2001, where six members of RSS and VHP were found to be involved.” (Jagran Rashtriya, May 15, 2010, translated from original Hindi)

In a report filed on CNN-IBN, Arunima provided details about the ‘RSS members behind Hyderabad, Ajmer blasts’ (posted on May 14, 2010 at 21:42)
New Delhi: Two members of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)—Devender Gupta and Chandrashekhar Barod—have emerged as the prime suspects in the Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts. As links between the two blasts become clearer the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is increasingly looking at involvement of Hindu terror groups...

“There is a link between the Ajmer Sharif blast and the Mecca Masjid Hyderabad blast,” CBI Director Ashwini Kumar says.

Both blasts took place on a Friday right after the namaz (prayers). Both used low intensity explosives, kept in tin boxes with iron pipes folded around them. Cellphones were used to trigger both explosions; using SIM cards bought with the same fake identity and Telugu newspapers were used in both cases to wrap the bombs.

The Rajasthan Home Minister, Shanti Dhariwal, confirmed the links to The Hindu newspaper saying, “Colonel Purohit, arrested for Malegaon blast, has confessed that Sunil Joshi had organised the Dargah operation with the help of Gupta.”


AS told earlier, the death of Sunil Joshi did evoke an immediate reaction from the Hindutva activists but with the passage of time and their leaders’ lack of initiative in the case, the news itself was largely forgotten. The Malegaon bomb blast and the subsequent investigation of the case undertaken by the Maharashtra ATS under the leadership of Hemant Karkare suddenly changed the situation. It is now history how this most significant counter-terrorism investigation since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi exposed the bitter truth that a Hindutva terrorist group was responsible for a series of unsolved bombings so far blamed on Islamists: the February 2007 firebombing of the Samjhauta Express; the attack on the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad that May; and the October 2007 attack on the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer.

Many facts linking Sunil Joshi, a hardcore RSS pracharak, and his group of people to the earlier bomb blasts in the country also came to the fore. It was revealed that the motorcycle used in the Malegaon bomb blast—which earlier belonged to ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya, had been loaned to Sunil Joshi. After his death, the vehicle had been passed on to the still-missing bombing suspect, Ramnarayan Kalsangram, who is alleged to be hiding out with the Hindutva supporters in Gujarat. Col Purohit, a key accused in the bomb blasts case, also told the investigators that it was Sunil Joshi only who had conceived and executed the bomb blast in Samjhauta express.

Skeletons started tumbling out of the closet and people discovered that this RSS pracharak was one of the key links in many terrorist attacks inside the country which were earlier blamed on ‘jihadi’ terrorists. In fact, Indore where this pracharak lived emerged as a key centre of many of these terrorist attacks. One could see that in the Malegaon blast, Mecca Masjid or Ajmer terror strike, the accused were being arrested from Indore only. The planning was done here. Even the investigation trail in the Samjhauta Express case had reached Indore but the Haryana Police returned empty-handed and said that police of MP had proved to be non-cooperative.

It would be foolhardy to think that the MP Police was not aware about Sunil Joshi’s shadowy organisation that was based in Indore. It must have been aware of Samir Kulkarni’s Abhinav Bharat that was functioning from MP. But it appears that, bowing to their political bosses, the State Police didn’t act then even though local Hindi papers printed tonnes of material about them.

It was during Digvijay Singh’s second tenure as the Chief Minister of MP that Sunil Joshi and his close associates had planted bombs at Bhopal’s major Islamic gathering of tablighi jamaat that attracts one million Muslims but due to the surveillance of the State Police then, the bombs could be detected in time and a major tragedy could be averted. The police under BJP rule had rather decided to turn a blind eye towards the activities of these Rightwing militant/terrorist groups. It is only when the CBI and Central investigative agencies reached Indore that the activity began.

A report ‘Dead Man’s Tale Holds Key To Hindutva Terror Secrets’, which appeared in a leading national daily (The Hindu, November 20, 2008, Praveen Swami), provided significant inputs to the Sunil Joshi ‘saga’.
...Maharashtra Police officials say the testimony of a witness — whose identity has been withheld for his protection —links Joshi to the Samjhauta Express attack.

Lt. Col. Purohit, the witness claimed, made the claim after a December 29, 2007, phone call, when he was informed of Joshi’s death. “After the phone call,” a senior Maharashtra Police official told The Hindu, “our witness says Lieutenant-Colonel Purohit credited Joshi with having executed the Samjhauta Express attack, and hailed him as a martyr.”

Maharashtra Police sources said that, according to the witness, Gujarat-based Hindu-nationalist leader Jatin Chatterjee made the call. Mr Chatterjee — widely known in southern Gujarat by his clerical alias, Swami Asimanand — runs the controversial Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which operates a Hindu-proselytisation programme targeting adivasis in southern Gujarat.

...Forensic experts note, though, that there is one significant structural similarity between the Samjhauta Express bomb, and those used in the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif attacks: a length of grooved metal piping, of the kind used in tube-wells, as a case for the explosives.

Police have also known, for long, that the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif attacks were linked. The SIM cards of the mobile phones used to activate the bombs used in both attacks were among a set of seven purchased by the perpetrators from West Bengal and Jharkhand in April 2007. In both the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer terror strikes, the bomb-maker who fabricated the explosive devices had the phone’s speaker connected to a detonator.


ONE could say that just when the involvement of Sunil Joshi in being a key operator of the Hindutva terror network came to the fore his other criminal activities also reached the headlines. His role in the murder of Pyar Singh Nenama, a Congress leader, also came under fresh scrutiny.
Indore, May 14: (Indian Express) One more person has been picked up in connection with the Ajmer dargah blast by Rajasthan ATS, police said on Friday.
Lokesh Sharma, 36, was picked up and detained by the Rajasthan Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) while he was along with his family members at Lasudia police station area of Chhindwara district late on Thursday night, they said. Sharma, a resident of Indore, is an accused in the murder of Congress leader Pyar Singh Nenama, who was killed at Manpur locality of the district in August 2003, police said. He was arrested in connection with Nenama murder case and is out on a bail, they added.

Sharma along with former RSS parcharak Sunil Joshi has been charged in Nenama murder case. Joshi, whose name has also figured in Ajmer dargah blast investigation, was shot dead in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas district in December 2007, police said.

Consequent to the detention of Lokesh Sharma the Rajasthan ATS has also detained an industrialist Rajesh Mishra from Pithampur in M.P. in connection with the Ajmer blast case. Both Mishra and Sharma were once accused in the 2003 Ninama double murder case. Discussing this detention Express reporter emphasises that the “RSS Pracharak Sunil Joshi, who the investigators believe was the brain behind some of the unsolved case of terror, was also an accused in the double murder case”. (Express, May 17, 2010, Industrialist detained in MP)

Would it be proper to believe that the parivar people were unaware of their fellow activists controversial actions? Or, was it part of their overall modus operandi where they have been found to be skillfully combining the parliamentary BJP with the extra-parliamentary Bajrang Dal to further the cause of Hindutva? Any layperson who is familiar with the hierarchial and disciplined nature of the parivar would find it hard to believe that Sunil Joshi acted on his own.

To be very frank Ajmer bomb blasts and the deeper involvement of RSS pracharaks in it just reiterates what has been whispered in secular circles but the mainstream media had never dared to acknowledge. It is not for nothing that a deeper and all round investigation into all such terror related cases has been a long running demand of secular forces/individuals which can clarify whether the RSS itself was involved in the Hindutva terrorist actions or it has deputed someone to organise it under its noble notion of ‘division of labour’ or there is another dimension to the whole phenomenon.

Mohan Bhagwat, the ‘young’ supremo of the RSS, has a lot of explaining to do about the sudden spurt in his pracharaks going wayward (as he would like us to believe). But the list is bit long. Perhaps he should just browse through a few of the bomb blasts in the country which were earlier blamed on ‘Islamic fanatics’ and later discovered to be the handiwork of people/formations floated by the RSS or one of its affiliated organistions or people fired with its ideology. Ajmer, Mecca Mosque, Malegaon, Kanpur, Tenkasi, Nanded I and II. And the list continues.

Or is there a ‘method in the madness’?

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