Mainstream, VOL LIII No 34 August 15, 2015
Modasa—It is Just a Beginning: How Hindutva Supremacists are rushing to give themselves Clean Chit in Terror-related Cases
Saturday 15 August 2015, by
Are investigations into the Hindutva terror-related cases changing course? A series of apparently unconnected developments definitely strengthen that belief.
Close on the heels of renowned public prosecutor Rohini Salian’s revelation that she is being pressurised to go slow on the Malegaon bomb blast case (2008), the news of a number of witnesses turning hostile in the Ajmer bomb blast case (2007) and the sudden decision of the NIA to shift the Sunil Joshi murder case back to MP, has come the news that the NIA has finally decided to close the Modasa bomb blast case citing ‘insufficient evidence’.
As is being rightly said, it is the first concrete indication that with the assumption of power by the BJP, a shift in emphasis is visible in the investigations into the Hindutva terror-related cases. Perhaps an indication of the changed times is the statement by a senior Minister that there is ‘nothing like Hindu terror in the country’ despite being aware of the fact that the NIA, the premier investigating agency formed after the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai to focus on terror-related cases, is handling at least sixteen high-profile cases supposedly involving Hindutva terrorists and many of their top bosses are still under the scanner.
The bomb blast at Modasa, a part of Sabarkantha district then and recently made into a separate district, which witnessed one death and injuries to many, is one of the least explored bomb blasts in the country. The following write-up tries to dissect the blast, discusses the prevalent ambience then when bombs were discovered at different places without anyone claiming responsibility for those, the interim findings of the NIA when it took over the particular case during the UPA-II regime and the announcement by the then Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, that the Central probe agency has achieved a ”breakthrough” in the 2008 Modasa (Gujarat) blast case.
The sudden turnaround by the NIA is baffling and incomprehensible, to say the least.
Ramzan, the period when Muslims observe fast for a month, proves especially painful for Abida Ghori and her husband, both from Modasa, a newly carved-out district in Gujarat. No, it is not that they are not able to withstand the strenuous routine which is expected of a religious person, the particular period brings back memories of their only son, Jamal Abdeen Ghori, hardly 15 years old then, who died in a bomb blast in Suka Bazar, seven years back just two days prior to Id when the people were about to begin their evening prayers on September 29, 2008.
Abida can recollect each moment of his last goodbye when he had rushed outside to buy a few things for the next day Sehri (eating something before dawn), when a low intensity bomb which was kept in a Hero Honda Passion motorcycle (GJ 9 R-2896) parked outside the Suka Bazar mosque exploded killing Jamal Abedeen on the spot and injuring 16 others. She later learnt that the motorcycle used in the blast was having a fake number plate. Jamal was a bright lad in studies and work and a darling of the whole neighbourhood; he had chalked out many plans for the coming days with his siblings. Little could he have the premonition that he would not be around to witness the celebrations, and would be buried deep in a graveyard in the town.
A few days back Abida has learned from a local reporter that the police had closed the investigations into the case and she would never be able to know who killed her only son for no fault of his. She was not surprised to hear this as she has seen the behaviour of the police and administration people who had never bothered to visit her once all these intervening years. In fact, from day one she was not hopeful about the police who had exhibited connivance with the communal elements during the 2002 riots and, in fact, the person who was handling the Modasa blast case was infamous for such behaviour.
From one of her relatives, who lived in Ahmedabad, she had learnt that this particular police officer was reported to have told victims seeking protection then: “Today your time has come. We have been told not to help. These are orders from the top.” She was also informed that one of the worst massacres of Muslims happened in an area called Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad which was then under the jurisdiction of this man only.
Not very many people even know or remember that Modasa was a copycat bombing.
It took place on the same day and at around the same time as the much-investigated Malegaon bomb blast (September 29, 2008), in a similar locality (Muslim-majority area) and in a similar manner (use of two-wheeler in putting explosives).
The only difference was that Malegaon lies in neighbouring Maharashtra, then ruled by the Congress, whereas Modasa, a tehsil in Gujarat then, was ruled by the BJP. There were eight casualties and injuries to more than 80 in the Malegaon case. There the explosive-laden motorcycle was parked before the closed office of SIMI whereas the bomb blast in Modasa, which occurred in the Suka bazaar area, was executed by using a Hero Honda motorcycle.
A lay person could see the obvious linkages between the two and would conclude that it must be the same terror group which executed both these operations. It is a different matter that whereas the investigations into the Malegaon bomb blast, undertaken by the legendary police officer Hemant Karkare, head of the ATS (anti-terrorist unit) team, helped unearth the widespread Hindutva terror network which involved members and leaders of various Hindutva organisations, here the probe into the Modasa blast is being abandoned midway.
As an aside it needs to be mentioned that the laptop recovered by the NIA from one of the terrorists, Shankaracharya Dayanand Pandey (in the Malegaon bombing case), which recorded meetings of the terror group, has enough information which can help nab many of the stalwarts of the Hindutva brigade and put them behind bars for the rest of their lives. It also contains explosive information about their attempts to contact Israel and Nepal for financial support and also for the training of their people. (For detailed treatment of the these see, Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India, 2nd Edition, 2013, Pharos Media) It revealed a few important facts in the public domain.
First, it made it crystal-clear that Hindutva terror, whose danger to our secular democratic polity has always been underestimated, has a pan-India presence and has been able to build international linkages as well.
Second, there was nothing spontaneous in acts of terror by the Hindutva supremacists, and top leaders of such formations have been involved—as planners, masterminds, financiers or ideologues in making it happen.
It is important to note that the Gujarat Police, which had always patted itself on the back for the speed and alacrity with which it could unearth many a terrorist incident in the State involving ‘Jihadi terrorists’, could neither demonstrate similar efficiency nor could come out with any concrete lead in the Modasa case. Despite its apparent inability to crack the case, it did not deem necessary to solicit help from the ATS Maharashtra which had successfully cracked the Malegaon bomb blast case. Perhaps the role of the media then, which always looked for a ‘Jihadi’ angle behind every terror act, also facilitated the absence of any concrete action on its part. One can recall how it was an anathema then to say that there could be extremist/fanatic youths in the majority community who wanted to wreak vengeance on the minorities.
Nobody can deny that there was no pressure on the Maharashtra ATS team to implicate the ‘usual suspects’ in this case also. A section of the media, which never tried to hide its sympathies towards the majoritarian viewpoint, had as usual started quoting unnamed sources to put the blame on the ‘Jihadi terrorists’. It is now history how the RSS-BJP-VHP alongwith Shiv Sena had called for a ‘Maharashtra Bandh’ to protest against the manner in which the investigations were going on under the able stewardship of Karkare and the Hindutva terror network was getting exposed. Activists of various Hindutva organi-sations had welcomed the Malegaon bombers with rose petals when they were presented in courts in Nashik and Pune.
Malegaon had passed through a similar tragedy merely two years ago on the Shab-e-Barat day which had witnessed more deaths. In that case also, despite enough indications that it was the handiwork of Hindutva terrorists, the investigating agencies had glossed over their machinations and had unashamedly tried to pass the blame on to differences between Islamic sects.
Looking back one feels that it is to the credit of the police officers, belonging to the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra, led by Hemant Karkare, and the professional attitude they adopted vis-à-vis the case that they declined to blame some or the other Islamic terrorist organisation for the Malegaon blast (September 2008) and were successful in unearthing the sprawling Hindutva terror network.
And thus while the Maharashtra Police caught the culprits behind the September 29 Malegaon blast, the Gujarat Police found itself lacking even in getting significant leads in the Modasa blast. It merely did two things: it sent the chassis of the two-wheeler to the Forensic Science Lab in Ahmedabad to uncover its number and it summoned active members of different community organisations to take their statements. Despite the fact that the ATS Maharashtra had cracked the Malegaon case and were ready to share intelligence inputs with their Gujarat counterparts, the latter did not show any inclination to interact with them.
Madhsudan Mistry, the then Congress MP of Sabarkantha, had made a submission during the ongoing investigation by pointing out that he had forwarded names of three suspects in the blast to the Sabarkantha Police but they remained completely indifferent. Questioning the credibility of the police when it comes to Hindutva terror, he wanted to know why this inaction by the police in arresting the accused in the Modasa case when the police showed exemplary promptness in arresting the accused in the Ahmedabad blasts.
Thanks to the renewed interest in the case, in the aftermath of the exposures then in the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid bomb blast cases where the hand of the RSS activists and their network had come under the scanner, the National Investigating Agency (NIA) took up this case at the behest of the Central Government when it was led by Manmohan Singh, the PM during the UPA-II. This action definitely opened up new possibilities for the first time.
Before coming to the interim findings of the NIA it would be opportune to explain the ambience when bombs were discovered at different places without anyone claiming responsibility for it.
The police in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad say they had discovered a cachè of bombs a day before the start of a major Festival in Gujarat. They said the 17 bombs were not sophisticated devices but crude explosives. They were later defused. The incident came two days after the explosion in a market in Delhi that killed two people
Bombs in Ahmedabad last July killed nearly 50 people. Bombs have hit other cities in recent months. An Islamist group, called the Indian Mujahideen, said it was responsible for some of these attacks.
(Police ‘find 17 bombs in Gujarat’, www.bbc. Page last updated at 17-23 GMT Monday September 29, 2008 18.23 UK)
In Faridabad, a bomb was discovered outside a temple which was defused by an alert civilian.
New Delhi: A live bomb was found in the Faridabad district of Haryana early on Monday morning (Watch). The bomb discovered by civilians was found outside the crowded Banke Bihari temple in the city. Even though the Bomb Disposal Squad was rushed to the spot, interestingly it was a civilian in fact who actually defused the bomb. Police have not yet been able to ascertain as to who placed the bomb outside the temple and if it was part of a strategy to terror target the untouched State of Haryana.
(Times Now. September 29, 200801.59 IST) The Times of India,http://timesofindia.indiatimes. Com//Cities/Civilian defuses bomb in Faridabad/articleshow ‘3548338)
The manner in which a terror attack had taken place in Mehrauli, New Delhi around two days before the Malegaon-Modasa blast had baffled the police. The Delhi Police was investigating the Saturday afternoon blast in South Delhi’s Mehrauli which killed two and injured about 24. According to the police, several patterns, which defined the previous explosions, had not been established in the latest blast. There were no previously known instances of bombers moving on a motorcycle and virtually throwing the packet on the middle of a road as it had happened in this particular case. And that’s why it did not take much time for it to convince itself that the said blast ‘may not be the handiword of the same modules, which carried out the September 13 serial explosions’. It may be noted here that on September 13, the Capital had witnessed serial explosions at three different places that witnessed spilling of much innocent blood on the street.
In fact, senior probe officers told CNN IBN that they were looking at the possibility of a link between Saturday’s blast and at least three very minor explosions which occurred early this year in South Delhi, which went virtually unreported. Joint Commissioner of Police (Southern Range) Ajay Kashyap said: “We had three such very low blasts in January this year, we are looking at the continuity factor.”
Sources said there were several unusual aspects about Saturday’s blast which had forced them to look beyond the obvious assumption of the blast being linked to the previous blasts in Delhi, which took place a fortnight ago.
They said the blast occurred in an obscure lane which defies the usual tendency of terrorists choosing a well-known or centrally located crowded market. The modus operandi was old-styled. No timer was found on the bomb, a deviation from most of the blasts which have occurred in Delhi and other cities. Even the time of the explosion of 1400 hours was odd, as it is not the peak time for shoppers in the area.
Perhaps they could have looked at the history of bomb blasts in the country and could not have missed the fact that bikes have been a favourite instrument of the Hindutva fanatics to attack Muslims. A narco-test of those involved in Nanded bomb blasts (April 2006) which saw deaths of two Bajrang Dal activists had clearly revealed that ‘mysterious blasts’ in Parbhani in 2003 and Jalna (2004) which involved perpetrators on bikes throwing bombs at the congregation and fleeing were actually the handiwork of a terror module of the Bajrang Dal itself.
Every vehicle has a unique identity number, which is etched on the chassis, and that provides necessary details of its manufacture and it is easy to trace its trajectory from the shop floor to the seller to its ultimate purchaser. A badly damaged vehicle can also reveal such details if the chassis number of the said vehicle is not tampered with.
The NIA team—which took charge of the Modasa case in July 10 only—could at least recover the chassis number of the vehicle used in the blast by referring the matter to the FSL New Delhi whereas the FSL in Gujarat had failed to do so. One does not know whether it was the ineptness of the FSL personnel in Gujarat or it had to do with extraneous pressure applied on them to derail the case.
The importance of the chassis number can be gauged from the fact that investigations into the Malegaon bomb blasts (September 2008) could move ahead only because the investigating team could recover the chassis number of the two-wheeler which was parked before the closed office of SIMI in Bhikuchowk and this way it could lay its hands on the terror module comprising of the likes of Sadhvi Pragya, Lt. Col. Purohit and others.
Apart from the ‘coincidence‘ that the two blasts occurred on the same day, where similar motorcycles were used the NIA sleuths had based their argument on leads which had come from three sources. The first lead came from the Agency’s examination of three laptops that belonged to Dayanand Pande, the second from questioning of a few of Pragya Thakur’s and Pande’s Uttar Pradesh-based associates and the third concerned details from Lt. Col. Purohit’s group’s functioning in Maharashtra.
Basing itself on those inputs, the National Investigation Agency suspected that they might have been the handiwork of the same Right-wing Hindutva terror network and this had prompted it to question those accused in the Malegaon case about the Modasa blasts and had even taken necessary permission from the special court trying the Malegaon accused.
Looking at the fact that there has been much overlapping in the Hindutva terror network, with many players common to this bloody game, a team of National Investigation Agency (NIA) probing the Modasa (Gujarat) bomb blast case was also keen to interrogate the two RSS activists, Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, who were in judicial custody then in connection with the Mecca Masjid case.
It needs to be mentioned here that the CBI had named, besides Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, three other RSS members, Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange and Sunil Joshi (all three from Madhya Pradesh), as the prime suspects in the Mecca Masjid blast case. Unidentified persons had killed Sunil Joshi while the two other accused were on the run. The CBI had even declared them as absconding and has announced Rs 10 lakhs to anyone who could provide information about their whereabouts.
The deciphering of the chassis number in the Modasa case helped the NIA to reach the dealer, Shivani Motors in Varachha of Surat. (‘Bike traced to man who lives in Pragya area’, September 7, 2010, Indian Express) The dealer told the paper that they had sold the bike to one Subhash Singh Rabadia, who lived in Pushpak Society on A.K. Road in Varachha on June 2003. The vehicle bore the registration No. GJ-O5 BP-9807.
According to the report,
“Sources said Subhash told the NIA sleuths that he had sold the motorcycle to his nephew Jaysukh Dudhagra who stays in Punagam. This is the same neighborhood where Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur an accused in the Malegaon blast, used to reside. Dudhagra is a diamond worker and belongs to Dharmapur Lalpur in Jamnagar. Sources said the NIA team is questioning Subhash and Jaysukh and their statements have been contradictory. A few local youths have also been picked up for questioning.”
An NIA Team had then also visited the ashram of an RSS activist-turned-swami called Aseemanand who had also been involved in Ajmer Dargah, Malegaon, Mecca Masjid blasts and who was caught from Haridwar in mid-November 2010.
The NIA had reportedly found links between the Modasa blast and some other blast cases it was investigating. Everybody knows that Aseemanand’s role as a key figure in the net of Hindutva extremist organisations, including Abhinav Bharat, was first revealed during questioning of Lt. Col. Purohit who was arrested for his alleged role in the Malegaon blast. Purohit told investigators that it was Aseemanand who had introduced him to Sadhvi Pragya Singh. With new leads available from Assemanand it must have definitely become easier for the investigating agencies to connect the few missing links.
It was worth noting that the NIA made this important disclosure in the second week of February.
Modasa blast: NIA says Samjhauta accused did it [India]
(The Times of India, February 10, 2011 | by Mohan Vishwa)
New Delhi: A month after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram credited the NIA with a “breakthrough” in the Samjhauta Express train blast, the central probe agency has now `formally’ claimed to have achieved a similar “breakthrough” in the 2008 Modasa (Gujarat) blast case amid indications that both the incidents were carried out by the same group of Hindu radicals comprising members of Abhinav Bharat.
Although the confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand and subsequent questioning of Bharat Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and others made it amply clear that the Modasa blast too was the handiwork of the Hindu radicals, the NIA’s latest claim is learnt to have been made after the agency collected some corroborative evidence.
Without disclosing what it had got during investigation of the Modasa blast case, the NIA—in a brief report on its achievements during 2010—stated achieving a “breakthrough” in the case. The report has listed out breakthroughs in both Modasa and Samjhauta blast cases as the NIA’s “significant achievements in the field of investigation”.
One cannot guess what has happened in between that the same NIA, which talked of ‘unearthing’ the case some time earlier, has now declared that they are closing the case for ‘lack of evidence’ and ‘the inability to trace the main culprits behind the blast’. In fact the special NIA court has closed the case on April 22 and the 16-page final report named no suspects but only said that “the complainant is the victim of the blast and is fortunate enough to have survived”.
Perhaps we may never officially know who executed the blast, but there is enough ground to raise questions about the manner in which the same NIA has changed tune. The same NIA which had fought for months to take over the Sunil Joshi murder case—who was an important link in the alleged acts of Hindutva terror, who was charge-sheeted by the same NIA in the Samjhauta Express train blast of 2007—has been quietly shifted back to Madhya Pradesh or the same NIA which had done a marvellous job earlier seems to be pressurising a public prosecutor to go slow on a particular terror case. (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/nia-asking-salian-to-go-soft-i-am-a-criminal-lawyer-not-stupid-to-say-this-without-proof/)
It does not need underlining that the closure of investigations in the Modasa bomb blast case must be contested, challenged and exposed at all levels. One expects that in the monsoon session of Parliament, all those formations which claim themselves to be secular would raise their voice in unison to oppose the hurried manner in which Hindutva supremacists—involved in different terror acts—are busy giving themselves clean chits.
Subhash Gatade is the author of Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010), Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India, (2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India (2011). He is also the Convener of the New Socialist Initiative (NSI). He can be contacted at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org