Running on fast track, 10 witnesses turning hostile, the Punjab and Haryana high court granting bail to mastermind Aseemanand and the Centre not challenging it before the Supreme Court is all that has been happening in the Samjhauta blasts trial.
Most of the killed commuters on the train on February 18, 2007 were from Pakistan who were headed home.
“…by adopting the balancing process as regards the individual liberty of the appellant and the right of the community and the nation to safety and protection from terrorism and disruptive activities, the scales would tilt in favour of the appellant (Aseemanand) in view of his long incarceration, the role attributed to him, his conduct subsequent to his arrest, his age of 77, his being an M Sc in physics and the fact that the trial in the case would be delayed, it would be just and expedient to grant him the concession of bail,” rules the high court in its order granting bail to Aseemanand.
The trial against Aseemanand and three others started on February 24, 2014, at the NIA special court, Panchkula.
What NIA chargesheets say
From first chargesheet submitted in June 2011
According to the chargesheet claims, Aseemanand was upset about Islamic jihadi/terrorist attacks on Hindu temples like Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan (Varanasi). He expressed anger during the discussions with Sunil Joshi, Pragya Singh and Bharat Bhai. They discussed the attacks and over time developed (a desire for) vengeance not only against the misguided jihadi terrorists but against the entire Muslim community. Aseemanand put forward a ‘bomb ka badla bomb’ theory.
Bharat Bhai had met Aseemanand in 1999 and become a close disciple of his. It was in 2003 that Aseemanand met Pragya and Joshi and they came closer.
In October 2005, RSS leader Indresh Kumar and others visited Shabri Dham, Gujarat. Joshi arranged a meeting between Aseemanand and Indresh. They discussed jihadi attacks on Hindu temples and the need to give a befitting reply. Indresh heads the Muslim Rashtriya Manch in the RSS and is not an accused in the case.
In June 2006, the main conspiracy meeting took place at Bharat Bhai’s residence in Valsad, Gujarat, attended by Aseemanand, Sadhvi Pragya, Joshi, Sandeep Dange, Ramchander Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma, Amit and Bharat Bhai. Aseemanand, who presided over the meeting, reiterated his theory of ‘bomb ka jawab bomb’. All agreed. Dange suddenly got agitated and said temples were being attacked everywhere and Hindus were silent. Joshi said Hindus were being killed and the government was running a Samjhauta train. To this Dange replied they would blow up the Samjhauta train. Joshi intervened and brought some order to the agitated discussion. Aseemanand suggested blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer and Hyderabad and also on the Samjhauta train. Joshi took on the responsibility for all the blasts.
Samjhauta Express train, which got burnt after a bomb blast near Panipat. (Rajnish Katyal/HT)
According to the chargesheet, Joshi talked about targeting the Samjhauta Express, which he and Dange had already discussed. Joshi said they should anyhow stop the train because most of the travellers on the train were Pakistani Muslims. He had already done some groundwork. Joshi told them that there would be three groups, the first of white-collared people who would help motivate youths for the missions and provide shelter, the second of members who would procure raw materials for fabricating bombs, and the third of those who would fabricate bombs and plant them. Aseemanand and Bharat Bhai were in the first group and Joshi said he would be in touch with all these groups but people in any group should not try to contact those in another.
From second chargesheet submitted in August 2012
According to the second chargesheet, Kamal Chauhan, Kalsangra, Sharma, Amit and Chaudhary attended a training at Bagli forest in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh in January 2006 organised by Sunil Joshi. They were imparted training about preparation of pipe bombs and firing of pistols. Later, they also participated in the firing practice organised by Joshi at the Karni Singh firing range at Faridabad in April 2006.
According to the chargesheet, Kamal Chauhan, along with Chaudhary, conducted a reconnaissance of Jama Masjid and Old Delhi railway station during November/December, 2006, under Sharma’s instructions. They gave feedback to Sharma that there was adequate security arrangements at Jama Masjid while there was no security available at Old Delhi railway station and therefore exploding bombs on Samjhauta Express could be easier and safer than planting a bomb at Jama Masjid.
Planting of bombs
The chargesheet says it is revealed that on the instructions of Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Chaudhary reached Indore on February 17, 2007, and went to a room at Sarvsampan Nagar, where the other accused Amit and Kalsangra were already present. Kalsangra delivered four suitcases, one each to Sharma, Amit, Chaudhary and Chauhan containing the IEDs, which were later planted on Samjhauta Express.
Sharma, Amit, Chaudhary and Chauhan boarded the Indore Intercity Express at Indore railway station on February 17, 2007, and reached Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station on February 18, 2007, from where they took a local train and reached the Old Delhi railway station. They reached Jaipur by train after planting the bomb on Samjhauta Express and then to Indore by bus.
From third chargesheet
The third chargesheet says, “It is very important to examine the previous and subsequent conduct of Rajender Chaudhary, along with other accused during the relevant period, which clearly discloses their association and execution of bomb blasts targeting Muslims. The investigation reveals that Rajender Chaudhary attended a conspiracy meeting with other co-accused at Jaipur in October 2005. The meeting was attended by Lokesh Sharma, late Sunil Joshi, Ramji (Ramchandra Kalsangre), Shivam Dhakad, Pragya Singh and Indresh Kumar, where the status and plight of Hindus and regular attack on Hindus by Jihadi Muslims, etc, were discussed. A discussion also took place on the need to do something to stop it.”
‘Forensic report confirms RDX’
Chaudhary had taken the NIA investigators to the forest area of Bagli village, Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, where a demonstration of bomb explosion was carried out during their training. The soil samples of the crater formed due to the blast revealed the presence of high explosive RDX. The bombs used on Samjhauta train also had RDX.
But the defence wonders why Mohammad Usman’s role was not probed. Despite a suitcase containing bombs having been recovered from him, his role was not probed. The defence raises doubts as to how someone continued to sleep even after the explosions. In his statement, under Section 164 of the CrPC, he revealed that when he was asked to get down the train, he was bringing a suitcase which was heavy and opened up after it fell down and had a bomb. Usman, according to his statement, threw it outside the train. The defence also raises doubt over the sketches being made with the help of train passengers that were never followed up.
Profile of other accused who did not get bail
Lokesh Sharma, a close associate of Sunil Joshi, allegedly planted a bomb on Samjhauta Express. Sharma was arrested on June 17, 2010, for the Ajmer blasts and on June 18, 2011 for the Samjhauta blasts.?
Kamal Chauhan was arrested on February 12, 2012. He allegedly planted a bomb on the Samjhuata train. He had once confessed before mediapersons that he had planted the bomb.
Rajinder Chaudhary was arrested on December 15, 2012. According to the NIA, he had not been using the mobile phone for the past one and a half years to avoid arrest. His father is a farmer and the family is into wrestling.
There were four more accused in the case -- Sunil Joshi, who was murdered on December 29, 2007, and Sandeep Dange, Ramchandra Kalsangre and Amit alias Ashwani Chauhan -- who are absconding.
Prominent witnesses who turned hostile
Bharat Bhai, who had earlier given a confessional statement regarding the conspiracy meeting before the magistrate, turned hostile in May this year. He said he had given the statement under the NIA pressure and had met Aseemanand only once. He is also an accused in the Ajmer blasts case.
Shivam Dhakad, who was to confirm Faridabad training, turned hostile in July this year. He was to confirm another meeting that took place between Joshi, Indresh and Aseemanand. He told the court that he never made any statement before the NIA about the training and the 2005 meeting in Jaipur. He claimed ignorance about the accused in the case saying he was not associated with the RSS.
Rohit Kumar, who was to confirm the discussion on the purchase of pistols among Joshi, Bharat Bhai and Devender Gupta in April-May 2006. He was to confirm about having seen a detonator with electric wires with Ramchandra Kalsangre in June-July of 2006. He turned hostile in May this year.
Neera was to confirm the links between Aseemanand and the other accused and also the main conspiracy meeting that took place at Bharat Bhai’s house. She turned hostile saying the earlier statement was given under the NIA pressure.
Total witnesses: 299
Witnesses examined: 139
Those who turned hostile: 10
Point and counterpoint
NIA prosecutor RK Handa says, “Talking about whether conviction will take place in this case is a premature thing. There is no eyewitness in this case and it is based on circumstantial evidence. Witnesses have turned hostile regarding establishing associations and conspiracy. There is other evidence which supports the case. A lot of witnesses are yet to be examined.”
Defence lawyer Mukesh Garg says, “It is a totally false case. Our clients are innocent. Aseemanand was framed as he was stopping conversions among tribals. Sonia (Gandhi) and Digvijay (Singh) are behind it. It is a case of acquittal. Witnesses have told the court that they didn’t even meet NIA people.”