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Samjhauta case: RSS leader, Sadhvi Pragya under NIA scanner

Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh leader Indresh Kumar and Sadhvi Pragya are under the scanner in the Delhi-Lahore Samjhauta Express blasts at Panipat in 2007 that claimed 68 lives. HT reports.

chandigarh Updated: Jun 21, 2011 20:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh leader Indresh Kumar and Sadhvi Pragya are under the scanner in the Delhi-Lahore Samjhauta Express blasts at Panipat in 2007 that claimed 68 lives.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which probed the case, has found the role of Indresh Kumar and Sadhvi Pragya highly suspicious. Their involvement in the conspiracy will be investigated, the agency stated in its chargesheet filed in the special designated court in Panchkula on Monday.

Though the two have not been named as accused in this chargesheet, the sequence of events given by the NIA puts on record their alleged involvement in the case.

Indresh Kumar, a member of the RSS’s national working committee, gave Rs 50,000 to Sunil Joshi, the prime accused who masterminded the blast, in Nagpur to meet the expenditure for buying explosives, the chargesheet alleged. His name has also figured in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case.

However, Sadhvi Pragya’s role has come out more clearly. She was a close associate of prime accused Aseemanand and Sunil Joshi and participated in the meeting in which the conspiracy to carry out the blast was hatched, according to the chargesheet.

When contacted, Indresh Kumar, who hails from Kaithal in Haryana, categorically denied the allegations. “These charges are blatant lies and atrocities on innocent people. It is a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the Sangh Parivar. All this is being done to appease Pakistan. Will they now hand over Asimanand, me and others to them?” he told Hindustan Times.

Aseemanand, four others accused

The criminal conspiracy for the Samjhauta Express blasts near Panipat on February 18, 2007, was hatched by Naba Kumar Sarkar, alias Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi (now dead), Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramchange Kalasangra, alias Ramji.

They, along with some others, were present in the “main conspiracy meeting” held at Valsad in Gujarat in June 2006, where the plan to carry out the blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer, Hyderabad and the Samjhauta train was discussed. Charges have been filed against them under various sections, including criminal conspiracy, murder and sedition.

While Aseemanand and Lokesh Sharma are lodged in Ambala jail, Joshi was murdered in December 2007.

Kalsangra and Dange are absconding.

The entire conspiracy was hatched between 2005 and 2007 by the five accused and others at different places in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and other states, the NIA, which took up the probe almost a year ago, told the court.

Four IEDs planted

Four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) having highly explosive material such as PETN, TNT, RDX and a mixture of petrol diesel and kerosene were planted in unreserved compartments of the Samjhauta Express in Delhi.

Two of these exploded in compartment numbers 12 and 13, when the train reached Diwana village in Panipat. The coaches caught fire after the explosion, charring 67 people to death on the spot. One succumbed to burns later. Besides, 12 passengers sustained burns and injuries.

An unexploded IED in a suitcase was found in coach number 15.

However, it exploded when it was being defused. Later, another device was recovered from near the railway track.

‘Bomb ka badla bomb’

“Aseemanand was upset with Islamic jehadi/terrorist attacks on temples such as Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath Mandir (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan Mandir (Varanasi). He used to vent out his anger during the discussion with Sunil Joshi, Pragya and Bharat Bhai. Over a period of time, they developed a feeling of vengeance against not only the jehadi terrorist, but against the community as such,” the chargesheet said.

He allegedly even propounded a “bomb ka badla bomb” (bomb for bomb) theory and often exhorted his associates to undertake terror attacks on religious sites of the minority community to give a befitting reply for the attacks on temples.

During the June 2006 meeting in which all accused were present, Aseemanand called for the bomb-for-a-bomb approach and found ready takers.

Agitated, Dange said: “Chaaron taraf mandiron par hamley ho rahe hain aur Hindu baithey hue hain, kuch nahin kar rahe hain.” (Temples are being attacked and Hindus are just sitting, doing nothing). To this, Joshi responded: “Yahan Hindu mar rahe hain, aur Bharat sarkar Samjhauta train chala rahi hai.” (Hindus are being killed and the Indian government is running the Samjhauta train) Dange then declared: “Hum Samjhauta train ko hi uda denge (We will blast Samjhauta train).”

“The train was chosen, as most of its passengers are Pakistani citizens. While Aseemanand provided financial and logistical support, Joshi took the responsibility for organising the blasts,” the agency informed the court.

Dange, Lokesh Sharma, Ramji, Bharat Bhai and others were instrumental in procuring explosives and other raw material for putting together the IEDs and planting them.

The five accused

Name: Swami Aseemanand, alias Naba Kumar Sarkar.
Age: 60 years
Occupation: Spiritual leader. Hails from Dangs (Gujarat) and is lodged in Ambala jail.

Name: Lokesh Sharma, alias Ajay Tiwari.
Age: 34 years
Occupation: Property dealer. Hails from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and is jailed in Ambala.

Name: Sunil Joshi, alias Manoj, alias Guruji.
Age: Murdered in December 2007
Occupation: Ran a small business. Belonged to Dewas in Madhya Pradesh and masterminded the blasts.

Name: Ramchandra Kalsangra, alias Ramji.
Age: 41 years
Occupation: Electrician. Belongs to Indore in Madhya Pradesh. He is absconding and carries a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh.

Name: Sandeep Dange, alias Teacher.
Age: 41 years.
Occupation: Engineer. Belongs to Lokmanya Nagar in Indore. He is absconding and carries a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh.

Case file

February 18, 2007: 68 passengers killed and 12 injured in IED blasts in two coaches of the Samjhauta Express near Diwana village in Panipat

July 26, 2010: After railway police, Haryana, draws a blank after three years, the Centre hands over probe to the National Investigation Agency

July 29, 2010: NIA takes over investigation and registers a formal case for the Samjhauta blast

December 21, 2010: Special NIA court grants production warrant to NIA for suspect Swami Aseemanand, who was arrested by the CBI on November 19 from Haridwar in connection with Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid blast case

December 23, 2010: NIA flies Aseemanand to Panchkula from Hyderabad and he gets one-day remand

December 30, 2010: NIA court records Aseemanand’s statement

January 3, 2011: Aseemanand is sent in NIA custody till January 13 and later in judicial custody

January 22, 2011: NIA court issues non-bailable warrants against Sandeep Dange, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Ashwini Chauhan. Cash rewards of Rs 10 lakh each announced for information leading to the arrest of Dange and Kalsangra and Rs 2 lakh for information for Chauhan

May 12, 2011: Aseemanand’s bail plea is rejected by special NIA court in Panchkula

June 18, 2011: Lokesh Sharma is presented before the NIA court and sent to judicial custody

June 20, 2011: NIA submits chargesheet against five accused

July 1, 2011: Case listed for next hearing

Bundle of lies: Defence

Defence lawyer Ajay Kaushik has termed the NIA chargesheet as a bundle of lies.

“The NIA has nothing substantial to link the blasts with the accused. The statements it claims to have gathered have been extracted by torturing the accused,” Kaushik said.

He said that the US treasury department inquiry into the Samjhauta Express blast case had linked it with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which wanted to throw a spanner in the dialogue between Pakistan and India.

First Published: Jun 21, 2011 20:30 IST