More than three months after a bomb planted in a motorcycle ripped the town of Malegaon, the police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is still hunting for three people accused in the case.
Seven people were killed and more than 70 injured in the September 29 blast, which became one of the more sensational terror attacks of 2008 after investigations revealed it involved a Hindu extremist group.
The key lead in the case was the motorcycle used to carry out the blast. Investigations by the ATS revealed that it belonged to Surat-based sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur (36), who was arrested on October 23.
Along with Thakur, the ATS arrested Shyam Sahu (42) for aiding in the attack and Shivnarayansingh Kalsangara (36) for allegedly making the bomb.
Sadhvi and Kalsangra allegedly spoke on the phone for 400 minutes after the blasts. Later, the ATS arrested Sameer Kulkarni (32), who was allegedly in Malegaon a day before the blast and participated in at least three meetings at the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik where the terror plot was reportedly hatched.
Major (Retd) Ramesh Upadhyaya (64) was arrested for holding three meetings with Thakur and her associates before the blast.
A political row erupted after some Hindu groups alleged that the government was playing vote bank politics and trying to appease the minority community.
The ATS recorded the statement of a witness to an alleged conversation between Pragya and Ramnarayan Kalsangara, the man who kept the explosives-laden bike in Malegaon.
Ramnarayan is Shivnarayansingh's brother and one of the three wanted in the case.
On November 3, all five accused were produced for extension of police remand. On the same day, three more people, Ajay Rahirkar (39), Rakesh Dhawade (42) and Jagdish Mhatre (40), were produced in court.
Rahirkar, treasurer of Hindu fundamentalist group Abhinav Bharat, had allegedly provided mobile phones and weapons for the blasts and was the principal fundraiser. He allegedly purchased weapons from Dhawade. Mhatre was arrested for procuring and supplying the weapons. The ATS recovered six foreign-made revolvers and 190 rounds from Dhawade.
On November 4, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, believed to be a member of Abhinav Bharat, was arrested in the case.
On November 5, in a dramatic development a serving army officer, Lt Col Srikant Purohit, was arrested. The ATS suspected Purohit supplied RDX, traces of which the forensic science lab found from the blast spot. Purohit allegedly taught other cadres of Abhinav Bharat to make explosives and conducted several meetings across the country.
The ATS then arrested a self-styled godman, Dayanand Pandey, on November 13 from Kanpur. Pandey had allegedly directed Purohit to arrange for RDX and Rahirkar transferred huge sums of money to his account.
The ATS has applied the stringent MCOCA on all 11 blast accused.
The police have recorded confessions of the accused, and statement from witnesses. But some accused have retracted their statements. While seeking the custody of Pandey, the ATS said it had got incriminating material in the form of one video and two audio recordings from two laptops recovered from Dayanand Pandey.
Investigations are not complete.
The main challenge before the ATS is to trace Ramnarayan Kalsangara, the planter of the explosives-laden motorcycle, and two other accused who played a key role in the blast.