The Caravan magazine has defended its explosive story in which terror accused Swami Aseemanand has allegedly claimed top leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), including its chief Mohan Bhagwat, knew of his terror plots and approved them.
The executive editor of Caravan, Vinod K Jose, told HT the magazine firmly stood by its story. Jose said the correspondent interviewed the accused over two years inside the Ambala jail during visitation hours. The publication had proof in the form of over “nine hours” of taped interviews.
READ: Bhagwat knew of terror acts: Aseemanand to mag
The report has created a political storm ahead of the general elections. Both the main opposition BJP, which has institutional links with the RSS, and the lawyer for Aseemanand rejected claims made in the report on Thursday. Aseemanand has been accused of conspiring and carrying out the explosions on the Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and the Ajmer Sharif dargah, ostensibly to target Muslims.
Swami Aseemanand (PTI photo)
Jose said “RSS lawyers” and the BJP should “get out of the shock that the interviews took place”. The magazine reserved full rights to employ all legitimate methods to pursue stories, including whistle-blowers, he said. Criticising the BJP, Jose said it was a “classic reaction”. “Instead of attacking the processes, they should debate the message that comes through.”
Describing how correspondent Leena Gita Reghunath landed the interviews, Jose said, “This was neither a sting nor an entrapment. We conducted the interviews inside jail with the full consent of the accused”. The correspondent had first met Aseemanand in court, he said.
“No one can interview him (Aseemanand) like this,” said Subhash Chander Sharma, Aseemanand’s lawyer, in Panchkula.
READ: Aseemanand claims RSS chief knew about 'Hindu terror conspiracy'
Timeline of terror
* Feb 19, 2007: 68 people died, 50 were injured when two bombs went off on the New Delhi-Wagah Samjhauta Express.
* Most of the dead were Pakistani citizens.
* Islamic terror groups suspected at first. Later, links to Hindu groups emerged.
* Dec 2010: NIA claims Swami Aseemanand was the mastermind.
* Jan 2011: Aseemanand says saffron outfits behind bombing.
* Later, retracts statement.
* RSS sends notice to CBI, says probe maligning organisation
READ: Now, RSS accuses Cong of trying to malign Sangh family
Audio clip shared by Caravan magazine in press release. Magazine conversation in the clip relates to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat:
Another Audio clip shared by Caravan magazine in press release.