The government is open to reinvestigating the 2010 Pune German Bakery blast if asked by the Mumbai high court which later this week will hear a plea by Himayat Baig against the death sentence awarded to him in the case, HT has learnt.
The 33-year-old school teacher, who was handed down the death sentence on April 18 for the blast that killed 17 people, has pleaded innocence and sought a fresh probe.
His claim has been strengthened by the “confession” of Indian Mujahideen’s India chief Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa, better known as Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested on August 28. As first reported by HT on September 4, Bhatkal told his interrogators that Baig, a resident of Beed in Maharashtra, had nothing to do with the bombing that he carried out with Qateel Siddiqui, an IM operative who was killed in Pune’s Yerwada prison in June 2012.
Yasin’s revelations were discussed at the highest levels in the home ministry, with the security agencies maintaining that Baig had nothing to do with the blast. The National Investigation Agency will reinvestigate the blast, if asked to.
Baig, once a member of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, was named the main accused by the Maharashtra Police in the February 13, 2010 blast case but there was no mention of Siddiqui who was also planning a strike on a Ganesh temple in the city the same day.
"If 17 innocent persons died on the day of blast, I’m the 18th innocent victim today,” Baig had said after his sentencing.
By reopening the case, the Centre wants to send out a clear message that only the guilty, and not innocent people, would be punished. Sense of injustice and feeling of being singled out has led to resentment among the minority community, especially the youth.
“We need to send this signal as no less than 12 IM boys trained by the ISI in Baluchistan are sitting in Karachi for the next terror strike in India,” a senior official told HT on condition of anonymity.
Another worry is Bhatkal’s claim that the IM was looking to spread Salafism, a puritanical form of Islam, by radicalising disgruntled youth and targeting leaders of Deobandi and Barelvi movements.
The IM bombmaker is learnt to have told NIA sleuths Dr Shahnawaz Alam and Mohammed Sajid, both members of the Azamgarh module of the IM, were in Afghanistan for a possible tie-up with groups such as the al Qaeda. The two, involved in various acts of terror for three years, fled India after the 2008 Batla House encounter in Delhi.