It is the first time that an Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative has been convicted for any blast in India.
Mirza Himayat Baig, who was convicted on Monday, is believed to be the catalyst who integrated the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives with the native IM.
Rakesh Maria, additional director of police, Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), said: “Baig knew both sections [LeT and IM] and played a crucial role in getting these outfits together.”
Baig also played a key role in indoctrinating youngsters for IM. Maria said Baig was one of the persons who indoctrinated an accused arrested in the August 2012 low-intensity Pune blasts.
Baig’s entry into terrorism shows how terrorist organisations recruit young, ambitious men from poor families.
Through his formative years, Baig saw his father work as a waiter at a small restaurant in Beed.
His two brothers did odd jobs. Baig, the bright spark in the family, wanted to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree, but did not clear his first-year exams and dropped out.
In 2003, Baig registered for a Diploma in Education from Azam Campus in Pune. “His plan was to go back to Beed and work as a teacher,” said an ATS officer.
By registering at Azam Campus, Baig unknowingly walked into LeT’s hunting ground. He hailed from the same area in Beed as Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal and Fayyaz Kagzi.
Baig was not directly involved in Kagzi’s anti-national activities while pursuing his course but he was known to almost everyone accused in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case as most of them frequented the campus.
Baig worked at a library and at a bookstall to support himself, but by the time he completed his course, he had got sucked into Ansari’s and Kagzi’s LeT module.
Around that time, IM recruiter Akbar Chowdhury spotted him and introduced him to IM founder Iqbal Bhatkal.
In 2010, Baig surveyed potential targets in Pune, bought backpacks and the mobile phone that Yasin Bhatkal used to execute the blast.
He accompanied Yasin to the bakery, but did not go in as he feared he would be recognised. However, he helped Yasin find the right table and plant the bomb.