A Mumbai court on Thursday convicted 26/11 handler Abu Jundal and 11 others in a case of arms haul, saying the explosives and rifles were meant to eliminate Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat CM, and VHP leader Pravin Togadia.
“This was a conspiracy after the 2002 Gujarat riots to eliminate then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia,” the Mcoca court said, upholding the prosecution’s claim.
There was direct evidence that the consignment of arms was provided by Pakistan and brought in to avenge Godhra riots and spread unrest, the court said.
But, all the accused, including Lashkar operative Jundal, whose real name is Zabiuddin Ansari and was deported from Saudi Arabia in 2012, escaped the stringent the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (Mcoca). Eight people were acquitted in what has come to be known as the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case.
On May 8, 2006, a team of Maharashtra anti-terrorist squad chased two cars on the Chandwad-Manmad highway near Aurangabad and arrested three terror suspects.
The ATS recovered 30 kg RDX, 10 AK-47 rifles and 3,200 rounds of ammunition from one of the vehicles. Jundal, who was in the other car, managed to flee and was believed to have escaped to Pakistan.
Hailing from Beed district in Maharashtra, Jundal was on the radar of intelligence agencies which through phone intercepts traced him to Pakistan and got to know in 2012 of his plans to move to Saudi Arabia.
Jundal was picked up for questioning by the Saudi police in June 2012. A year later, Jundal was brought to India. He led the ATS to another hideout from where 13kg RDX, 1,200 cartridges and 50 hand grenades were recovered.
The special court framed charges against the 22 arrested accused in August 2013.
The trial was stayed by the Supreme Court for a while after one of the accused challenged the constitutional validity of certain provisions of MCOCA. The stay was vacated in 2009.
In August 2015, the Bombay high court directed the lower court to expedite the trial. During the trial, the prosecution examined 100 witnesses while defence examined 16.
More than 1,000 Muslims were killed in the communal frenzy that gripped Gujarat after 59 Hindu activists were killed when a coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt in Godhra in February 2002.
(With agency inputs)