The three alleged right-wing Hindu activists picked up on Thursday night in connection with the September 29 Malegaon blast were produced in a Nashik court on Friday. The blast had claimed six lives and injured over 30 people.
Pradnyasingh Thakur alias Sadhvi Purna Chetnanand Giri (38), Shivnarayansingh Kalsangara (36) and Shyam Bhanwarlal Sahu (42) were remanded to the custody of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) till November 3. While Thakur was arrested from Surat, the others were picked up in Indore.
Two more Indore residents, Dilip Nahar and Dharmendra Bairagi, have also been detained without formal arrest.
The ATS relied on an old motorcycle sold by Thakur four years ago as crucial evidence.
Public Prosecutor Ajay Mishra told the court that Thakur — better known among her acquaintances as Pragya Singh — owned the motorcycle on which the bomb in Malegaon had been planted. A forensic examination showed the use of RDX in the device. All three have been booked for murder, attempt to murder and causing grievous hurt under the IPC, and for being members of a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“There was an attempt to distort the bike’s registration plate, which was found to be bogus, and the engine chassis number. Thakur admitted that the bike was in her name,” Mishra said. He also said Thakur had several phone conversations after the blasts, lasting “400 minutes”. He, however, did not specify whom she spoke to, or what she said.
“Thakur moved to Surat around 2001. She became a sadhvi in 2007. In 2002, she had floated an outfit called Jai Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti. It is being investigated,” said Hemant Karkare.
Acquaintances in Madhya Pradesh recall Pragya as feisty and boyish. “She was a spirited young leader who spoke well and was interested in social work,” said Usha Thakur, BJP MLA from Indore. An ABVP activist, she took diksha from Juna Akhada head Swami Avadheshanand in Allahabad. Intelligence sources, however, claimed she had recently distanced herself from the swami.
“Pragya quit ABVP in 1997. Since then she has had no connection with us” said Hitesh Shukla, ABVP’s state secretary.
As for the others, Shyam Sahu runs a mobile phone shop in Indore; Shiv Narayan Singh is an electrician; Dilip Nahar resides at Bengali Chouraha, while Dharmendra Bairagi operates a photocopying machine at a private school in Indore. All, according to Indore locals, are long time RSS workers.