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The twists and turns of Mumbai’s 2008 Malegaon blasts case

Nine years on, it’s still unclear who planned, plotted and executed the 2008 Malegaon blasts in Mumbai

mumbai Updated: Aug 24, 2017 00:16 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
2008 Malegaon blasts,Mumbai blasts,Shrikant Prasad Purohit
Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohi being taken from Taloja Central Jail to the Army Base at Colaba on Wednesday.(Bhushan Koyande/HT)

Two agencies investigated the case at different times. Two separate charge sheets have been filed, with one debunking the other. Four laptops were seized and three videos and 37 audiotapes retrieved from them. But it’s still unclear who planned, plotted and executed the 2008 Malegaon blasts.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) first filed a charge sheet in 2009 invoking the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the accused including Pragya Thakur and serving military intelligence officer lieutenant colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit.

The probe was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2011, which re-recorded the statements of witnesses who claimed they had made them under duress before the ATS in 2008.

The NIA submitted its own charge sheet to the special court in Mumbai in May 2016. It discharged Pragya Thakur and five others, and revoked MCOCA. The NIA, however, stated that there was substantial evidence against Purohit and others.

The ATS was silent before the Bombay high court when the NIA accused it of having coerced and manipulated witnesses. When the court asked the ATS to clarify its stand on Pragya Thakur’s application for bail, the ATS just said the “probe had been taken over by the NIA and it was for the NIA to oppose or not oppose her plea now”.

The ATS was evasive when the Bombay high court, during the hearing of Pragya Thakur’s bail application in 2016, asked about CDs, DVDs and transcripts of phone conversations that took place between those accused and were a part of its charge sheet. The ATS officials said they could not remember all the details of the transcripts or video clips submitted before the court seven years ago.

In its charge sheet in 2009, the ATS had said the tapes revealed that one of the accused Sudhakar Dwivedi had recorded on his laptop the proceedings of various meetings several of the accused had held. While Upadhyay, Purohit, Dwivedi and some others were present at a meeting in Fardidabad in January 2008, it was at a meeting in Bhopal in April that year that Pragya Thakur’s name first came up.

The ATS claimed that the accused decided upon Malegaon as the spot for the blasts and that Thakur was present in this meeting and had volunteered to “provide men” for the blasts. “She had said that while Purohit would provide the explosives, she would provide them with men,” the ATS charge sheet had claimed.

In June 2008, at a meeting at Indore, Thakur introduced Ramchandra Kalasangra and Sandip Dange to the others. These two men are alleged to be the planters but have ‘remained at large’.

The NIA claimed the ATS had never handed over the transcripts or video clips from any of these meetings except the Faridabad meeting in which Thakur was not present. As per the transcripts available with the NIA, those present at the Faridabad meeting included Purohit, Dwivedi, Upadhyay, Himani Savarkar, and some RSS leaders.

An ATS officer, Sunil Mohite, told the high court during Pragya Thakur’s bail hearing that there might be a video recording of the Bhopal meet but no audio and that it might contain some footage of Thakur being present.

The NIA re-examined only 11 of the 452 witnesses examined by the ATS. The 11 included four who claimed they had testified under duress.

Pragya Thakur got bail without much opposition. Now the Supreme Court has granted bail to Lt Col Purohit, and an Army Court of Inquiry has cleared him. A case that the ATS had claimed was watertight is unravelling.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 00:15 IST