Was Aseemanand only a fringe player in the Hindutva camp?
Although the mastermind of the alleged Hindu terror blasts was a leader of only an RSS-inspired group, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, he used to enjoy the trust of the top Hindutva leadership. So much so that a good part of the who’s who of the Hindutva camp attended his Shabari Kumbh in Gujarat’s Dang district in 2006 to make the event a success. (Aseemanand headed the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Dangs district.)
Among the luminaries at the event were then Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief KS Sudershan, his deputy and current chief Mohan Bhagwat and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, besides Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Also, religious and social leaders, such as Morari Bapu, Swami Satyamitrananda Giri, Asaram Bapu and Shankaracharya Vidya Narsingh Bharati of Karvir Peeth, attended the event.
Aseemanand, investigators said, organised the event meant for attracting tribals to the Hindutva camp by using the Ramayana character Shabari, a tribal woman devoted to Ram.
But the Rajasthan anti-terrorist squad has said in its chargesheet in the Ajmer blast case that Aseemanand alias Jotin Chatterjee — a suspect in blasts on the Samjhauta Express and in Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif, Malegaon and Modasa — used the event to meet his followers to finalise plans for the blasts.
The chargesheet said around half-a-dozen members of Aseemanand’s group reached the venue 10-12 days ahead of the start of the event on February 11, 2006. It also said people later exposed for their roles in the blasts — Sunil Joshi, Pragya Singh Thakur, Sandeep Dange, Ramji Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Devendra Gupta — were among the organisers.
Of them, Joshi, a close follower of Aseemanand, was shot dead in December 2007 while Dange and Kalsangra are yet to be apprehended. Aseemanand was arrested from Haridwar last November.
But Manmohan Vaidya, national publicity chief of the RSS, said Aseemanand was only a member, not a leader, of the ‘Shabari Kumbh Mahostav Aayojan Samiti — the event’s organising committee. Admitting he used to lead an RSS-inspired group, Vaidya declined further comment as the matter is being investigated.