The National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into alleged right-wing Hindu terror strikes has hit a dead end with the anti-terror agency struggling to find credible evidence to unveil the masterminds.
Links of Hindu extremists to terror generated a lot of heat. Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde had accused the BJP and its ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of holding terror training camps and promoting Hindu terrorism. He later apologised for the comment.
No permission from court, so no evidence: NIA
In April 2011, the NIA was handed over seven terror cases, including the 2007 Mecca Masjid and the Samjhauta Express blasts, on the grounds that the strikes were carried out and planned by same set of people.
Read: Aseemanand moves high court for bail in Samjhauta Express blast case
It was hoped that a single agency rather than multiple state agencies working at cross-purposes would be able to unmask them. But, three years, a dozen arrests and six charge-sheets later, investigators concede they are not even close to the goal. Instead the agency is coming around to the fact that it does not have enough to even question Indresh Kumar, who is thought to have encouraged the extremists to carry out the strikes and even financed them.
The NIA declined comment on the story.
Kumar, who was questioned by the CBI in December 2010, is one of the few national office-bearers of the RSS who also heads its units in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir.
Read: NIA must act on Aseemanand's interview, says Digvijaya
The accused told their interrogators that the RSS leader had during two meetings asked them to continue “their work”. He is also alleged to have given money to former RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, accused of leading the group of extremists who carried out six blasts between September 2006 and September 2008 that killed 138 people, for “his activities”. Joshi was found murdered in December 2007. He was killed by his associates who worried that he would tell on them, an NIA probe claimed.
The agency had statements of witnesses and some of the accused against Kumar but these could only be used against him “if we can corroborate them with evidence that can stand judicial scrutiny”, an investigator told HT on condition of anonymity.
NIA officials say they are hamstrung as the cases were three to six years old when they were asked to probe. “Suppose for a meeting or even for planting a bomb, an accused travelled by bus or train. How can we find record of the journey now and any witnesses who could have seen them travel?” the investigator said. “We doubt if we can prove some of the cases during trial,” he said.
Besides, three accused -– Sandeep Dange, Ramji Kalasangra and Amit Chauhan -- are yet to be arrested. The NIA is also caught in a protracted legal battle to get custody of key accused Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Sudhakar Dwivedi.
RSS’ Kumar said he wasn’t surprised. Calling attempts to link him to the blasts as a “fraud” on “patriots” by government agencies, Kumar told HT the cases were cooked up to malign the “nationalists” within and outside the RSS. “There was no evidence against me,” he said.
Asked if the NIA’s talk of lack of evidence could have anything to do with the perception of a possible change of guard at the Centre after the ongoing polls, Kumar said: “I am not at the mercy of governments which come and go. It is a question of justice for patriots.”