Archives for posts with tag: Pragya Singh Thakur

NDTV Correspondent, Updated: October 23, 2010 18:53 IST

Jaipur: The Rajasthan ATS on Friday filed a charge sheet against five 2007 Ajmer blast accused, accusing them of murder and defiling a place of worship.

A senior RSS leader, Indresh Kumar, is among those named in the charge sheet, which says the blast at the Ajmer Dargah three years ago was the result of an elaborate conspiracy hatched by a group of Hindu radicals.

The chargesheet says:

  • Indresh took part in a meeting in Jaipur on October 31, 2005 with seven others
  • In the meeting he exhorted members to do radical acts
  • Indresh said being part of religious organisations will help them avoid suspicion and accomplish their mission
  • Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, was also present in that meeting.
Police say there is not enough evidence to frame charges against Indresh yet, but there’s every possibility he will be questioned.
The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, says the RSS must accept the truth.”The RSS should accept the truth which has come out,” said Gehlot.”The ATS has done a very good job as it was very important for the truth to come out and it is now in the open. A link was found between Ajmer Sharif blast, Jaipur and Malegaon blasts and the wrongdoers were caught. I think the ATS has done a good job for which even the central Government had thanked them,” Gehlot added.

But the man in the eye of the storm, Indresh Kumar, claims he’s being framed. “It is a political conspiracy,” he told NDTV.

“The RSS has been consistently working to undermine and upset the pluralistic ethos of India,” said Manish Tewari, Congress Spokesperson. (Read: Congress accuses RSS of ‘disturbing’ communal amity)
The 806-page charge sheet was filed by the Anti-Terrorist Squadin the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Jagendra Kumar Jain in connection with the blast on the premises of the Dargah of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti that left three persons dead and 15 others injured.The accused have been charged with sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 120B (conspiracy) and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship) of IPC among others.The prosecution has cited 133 witnesses.

The court fixed October 26 for arguments on the charge sheet.

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Dargah Shareef of Khwaza Moinuddin Chishti Ajm...

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Unfinished stories, goes an old idiom in Ajmer, find their denouement in Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s shrine. Perhaps, unfinished investigations do too. Two-and-a-half years after low-intensity blasts ripped apart the courtyard of the centuries-old shrine, the Rajasthan police arrested three men—Devendra Gupta, Vishnu Prasad and Chandrashekhar Patidar. Gupta, an RSS worker, was suspected to have bought the mobile phone and SIM card that triggered off the October 2007 blast in which three were killed. Till their arrest on April 30 this year, the story narrated by the investigators, lapped up by the establishment and reiterated in large sections of the media was that the Ajmer blast was the handiwork of jehadi terrorists.

The one troubling question—would jehadis target Muslim devout at a dargah?—can have complicated answers, as the body count at Lahore’s Data Ganj Baksh would testify. But in India, the question wasn’t even deemed worthy of being asked as a reasonable line of inquiry. The needle of suspicion remained firmly and automatically fixed on Islamic terrorists—young men from the community were detained at various stages of the investigation and interrogated at length—until the trail finally led to Gupta and pointed to radical Hindu nationalist groups instead. Says Rajasthan Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Kapil Garg: “We have arrested some people of that religion (Hinduism) and we’re dead sure we’re on the right track.”

Malegaon Blasts-I
September 8, 2006
37 dead

 

  • Initial arrests: Arrested include Salman Farsi, Farooq Iqbal Makhdoomi, Raees Ahmed, Noorul Huda Samsudoha and Shabbir Batterywala.
  • Later revelation: Suspicion now rests on Hindu terrorists because of the 2008 blasts.

 

Samjhauta Express Blasts
February 18, 2007
68 dead, mostly Pakistanis

 

  • Initial suspicion: LeT and JeM were blamed. Those arrested included Pakistani national Azmat Ali.
  • Later revelation: Police have seen the evidence trail lead to right-wing Hindu activists. Investigators claim the triggering mechanism for the Mecca masjid blast three months later was similar to the one used here. Police are looking for RSS pracharaks Sandeep Dange and Ramji.

Mecca Masjid Blast
May 18, 2007
14 dead

  • Initial arrests: Around 80 Muslims detained for questioning and 25 arrested. Several have now been acquitted, including Ibrahim Junaid, Shoaib Jagirdar, Imran Khan and Mohammed Adul Kaleem.
  • Later revelation: In June 2010 the CBI announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for information on the two accused, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra. Lokesh Sharma arrested.

Ajmer Sharif Blast
October 11, 2007
3 dead

  • Initial arrests: HuJI, LeT blamed. Those arrested include  Abdul Hafiz Shamim, Khushibur Rahman, Imran Ali.
  • Later revelation: In 2010, Rajasthan ATS arrests Devendra Gupta, Chandrashekhar and Vishnu Prasad Patidar. Accused Sunil Joshi, who was killed weeks before the blast, is believed to have been a key planner.

Thane Cinema Blast
June 4, 2008

  • Affiliated to Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Sanathan Sanstha,  Ramesh Hanumant Gadkari and Mangesh Dinkar Nikam arrested. Blast planned to oppose the screening of Jodhaa Akbar.

Kanpur And Nanded Bomb Mishaps
August 2008

  • Two members of Bajrang Dal—Rajiv Mishra and Bhupinder Singh—were killed while assembling bombs in Kanpur. In April 2006, N. Rajkondwar and H. Panse from the same outfit died under similar circumstances in a bomb-making workshop in Nanded.

Malegaon Blasts II
September 29, 2008
7 dead

  • Initial suspicion: Groups like Indian Mujahideen involved
  • Later revelation: Abhinav Bharat and Rashtriya Jagaran Manch accused of involvement. Arrested include Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Srikant Purohit and Swami Amritanand Dev Tirth, also known as Dayanand Pandey.

Goa Blasts
October 16, 2009

  • 2 dead Both accused are members of the Sanathan Sanstha. Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik were riding a scooter laden with explosives, which accidentally went off.

Terror trails in India dramatically changed with the Malegaon blasts investigation in September-October 2008. Led by then Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who was subsequently killed on the night of 26/11, the investigation pointed to Abhinav Bharat (AB), an ultra-right-wing Pune-based organisation established in 2005-06, and its members or affiliates. What Karkare’s teams managed to uncover is part of recent history and should have become the basis of examining and monitoring the new phenomenon of Hindutva terror but didn’t.

The Hindutva links to Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and other low-intensity blasts have been in the public domain for close to two years; the signs were visible since 2002-03 when an ied found at the Bhopal railway station was traced back to local Hindutva activists Ramnarayan Kalsangra and Sunil Joshi. They were questioned, but no evidence was found. Yet, it prompted Congress leader Digvijay Singh to declare a Bajrang Dal hand. Later in 2006, there were explosions in the houses of Hindutva activists in Nanded and Kanpur, where ieds were being prepared. Through that year, mosques in several towns in Maharashtra—Purna, Parbhani, Jalna—were rocked by low-intensity blasts; the Nanded one was meant for a mosque in Aurangabad. Recovered with a map of Aurangabad were false beards and Muslim male outfits. That should have been warning enough.

However, till May-June this year, the establishment did not either see these warning signals or chose to ignore them—except for a brief two-month period in 2008 when Karkare led the Malegaon probe. Now, it may be difficult to sustain the denial. “For the last 10 years, stories about Hindu right-wing violence have been trickling out. Instead of a systematic investigation, there has been an event-to-event investigation. The larger story has remained underinvestigated and under-reported,” says Mumbai advocate and human rights campaigner Mihir Desai. The CBI is only now seeking directions from the Union home ministry to see the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and other blasts in conjunction after there has been no conclusive evidence of the involvement of Islamic groups.

The Hindutva links to Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and other low-intensity blasts have been in the public domain for close to two years; the signs were visible since 2002-03 when an ied found at the Bhopal railway station was traced back to local Hindutva activists Ramnarayan Kalsangra and Sunil Joshi. They were questioned, but no evidence was found. Yet, it prompted Congress leader Digvijay Singh to declare a Bajrang Dal hand. Later in 2006, there were explosions in the houses of Hindutva activists in Nanded and Kanpur, where ieds were being prepared. Through that year, mosques in several towns in Maharashtra—Purna, Parbhani, Jalna—were rocked by low-intensity blasts; the Nanded one was meant for a mosque in Aurangabad. Recovered with a map of Aurangabad were false beards and Muslim male outfits. That should have been warning enough.

However, till May-June this year, the establishment did not either see these warning signals or chose to ignore them—except for a brief two-month period in 2008 when Karkare led the Malegaon probe. Now, it may be difficult to sustain the denial. “For the last 10 years, stories about Hindu right-wing violence have been trickling out. Instead of a systematic investigation, there has been an event-to-event investigation. The larger story has remained underinvestigated and under-reported,” says Mumbai advocate and human rights campaigner Mihir Desai. The CBI is only now seeking directions from the Union home ministry to see the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and other blasts in conjunction after there has been no conclusive evidence of the involvement of Islamic groups.

The Hindutva links to Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and other low-intensity blasts have been in the public domain for close to two years; the signs were visible since 2002-03 when an ied found at the Bhopal railway station was traced back to local Hindutva activists Ramnarayan Kalsangra and Sunil Joshi. They were questioned, but no evidence was found. Yet, it prompted Congress leader Digvijay Singh to declare a Bajrang Dal hand. Later in 2006, there were explosions in the houses of Hindutva activists in Nanded and Kanpur, where ieds were being prepared. Through that year, mosques in several towns in Maharashtra—Purna, Parbhani, Jalna—were rocked by low-intensity blasts; the Nanded one was meant for a mosque in Aurangabad. Recovered with a map of Aurangabad were false beards and Muslim male outfits. That should have been warning enough.

However, till May-June this year, the establishment did not either see these warning signals or chose to ignore them—except for a brief two-month period in 2008 when Karkare led the Malegaon probe. Now, it may be difficult to sustain the denial. “For the last 10 years, stories about Hindu right-wing violence have been trickling out. Instead of a systematic investigation, there has been an event-to-event investigation. The larger story has remained underinvestigated and under-reported,” says Mumbai advocate and human rights campaigner Mihir Desai. The CBI is only now seeking directions from the Union home ministry to see the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and other blasts in conjunction after there has been no conclusive evidence of the involvement of Islamic groups.

The Hindutva links to Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and other low-intensity blasts have been in the public domain for close to two years; the signs were visible since 2002-03 when an ied found at the Bhopal railway station was traced back to local Hindutva activists Ramnarayan Kalsangra and Sunil Joshi. They were questioned, but no evidence was found. Yet, it prompted Congress leader Digvijay Singh to declare a Bajrang Dal hand. Later in 2006, there were explosions in the houses of Hindutva activists in Nanded and Kanpur, where ieds were being prepared. Through that year, mosques in several towns in Maharashtra—Purna, Parbhani, Jalna—were rocked by low-intensity blasts; the Nanded one was meant for a mosque in Aurangabad. Recovered with a map of Aurangabad were false beards and Muslim male outfits. That should have been warning enough.

However, till May-June this year, the establishment did not either see these warning signals or chose to ignore them—except for a brief two-month period in 2008 when Karkare led the Malegaon probe. Now, it may be difficult to sustain the denial. “For the last 10 years, stories about Hindu right-wing violence have been trickling out. Instead of a systematic investigation, there has been an event-to-event investigation. The larger story has remained underinvestigated and under-reported,” says Mumbai advocate and human rights campaigner Mihir Desai. The CBI is only now seeking directions from the Union home ministry to see the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and other blasts in conjunction after there has been no conclusive evidence of the involvement of Islamic groups.

Hindu Terror Master

NEW DELHI — For the first time in this Hindu-majority nation of 1.1 billion people, the police have announced the arrest of people who are accused of being part of a Hindu terrorist cell.
Brijesh Singh/Reuters

Times Topics: India

Members of a right-wing Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, offering prayers last month in Agra, India.

Pragya Singh Thakur, shown in 2007, has been arrested in a September bombing.

Police officials in western Maharashtra State said they had arrested the nine suspects and charged them with murder and conspiracy in connection with the bombing in September of a Muslim-majority area in Malegaon, a small city. Six people, all Muslims, died in the explosion, which was among a string of terrorist attacks in Indian cities in recent months.

Blame for several of these attacks has been placed on radical Islamist groups; one group, calling itself Indian Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for several attacks. But the arrests of the Hindu suspects in the Malegaon bombing raised the possibility of another source of terrorism, involving a radical Hindu fringe.

“This is a very dangerous trend,” said Ajit Doval, former chief of India’s Intelligence Bureau, who added that it could undercut efforts to bolster pluralism in India.

Those arrested by the police antiterrorism squad in Maharashtra over the past two weeks included a Hindu nun with links to the principal opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and an army colonel, who is suspected of having provided ammunition and training to the bombers.

The Indian Army has long viewed itself as being free of ideological or political bias, so the arrest of an army officer was deeply troubling to the military. “I can tell you that we are taking it seriously,” said the defense minister, A. K. Antony.

The arrests reinforced growing suspicions over the last few years of a potential threat from Hindu extremists. In August, two members of a right-wing Hindu group called the Bajrang Dal were killed while assembling bombs in the northern industrial city of Kanpur. In 2006, two people who were thought to belong to the same group died under similar circumstances in a bomb-making workshop in Nanded.

Officials in the Central Bureau of Investigation told reporters in New Delhi on Saturday that investigators had established a link between the Nanded group and the Malegaon bombing.

Bal Thackeray, the leader of another Hindu hard-line group, the Shiv Sena, wrote in June in the group’s weekly magazine that Hindus should defend themselves from Islamist attacks by forming their own squads of suicide bombers.

“The threat of Islamic terror in India is rising,” Mr. Thackeray wrote, according to a translation from the Marathi language that was published in The Hindu, a national English-language daily. “It is time to counter the same with Hindu terror. Hindu suicide squads should be readied to ensure the existence of Hindu society and to protect the nation.”

Prosecutors said that investigators of the Malegaon bombing on Sept. 29 traced a motorcycle at the site of the explosion, apparently used to plant the bomb, to a Hindu nun named Pragya Singh Thakur, 37, who lives nearby in Gujarat State. While in college, Ms. Thakur was a member of the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to Vishnu Dutt Sharma, a senior leader of the student wing.

Mr. Sharma described Ms. Thakur as “aggressive in her speeches and work.” She was religious and studious, Mr. Sharma said, and did postgraduate work in history.

During a pilgrimage in 2007, Ms. Thakur renounced a worldly life and became a nun, or a sadhvi in Hindi, cutting her hair short and donning orange robes, the sacred color of Hinduism, according to a brother-in-law, Bhagwan Jha. After she became a nun, her name was changed to Purnachetnanand Giri, which means complete consciousness.

Ms. Thakur’s lawyer, Naveen Chomal, said she had done nothing wrong and that the police had arrested her only because her motorcycle was found at the site of the bombing. The police have said they also have taped telephone conversations in which Ms. Thakur wondered aloud why the Malegaon bombing had not inflicted a higher death toll.

Some people have begun to treat the suspects as heroic figures. Several Hindu organizations have rallied to Ms. Thakur’s side, contributing to a fund for her legal defense.

Her father, Chandrapal Singh Thakur, told The Times of India, a national daily newspaper: “If the government doesn’t act in time, common people will have to do something about their own safety. I pray that she succeeds in her endeavors.”

Mr. Thakur has placed a photograph of his daughter on the family altar. The Bharatiya Janata Party has issued statements defending Ms. Thakur.

Her arrest led police investigators to several other suspects, including Lt. Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit. At the time of his arrest, Colonel Purohit was posted with the Indian Army’s education corps, studying Chinese.

A prosecutor, Ajay Misar, said that Colonel Purohit had helped the bombers obtain money, arms and training. “He supplied six pistols and 196 cartridges to the other accused,” Mr. Misar said in a telephone interview.

Dinesh Aggarwal, an inspector in the antiterrorism squad, said the suspects were part of a larger conspiracy. “Their precise role will be known after the investigation is completed,” he said.

The terrorist bombings have become a major political issue, with state elections scheduled for later this month and a national election expected next spring.

The opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, initially distanced itself from Ms. Thakur, but acknowledged that she had been part of its student wing after photographs of her with prominent party leaders were published. Recently, the party has defended her. And the party’s chief minister of Gujarat State, Narendra Modi, accused the government of maligning the army’s image by arresting Colonel Purohit as a pre-election ploy.

BBC News at One

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posted on BBC News (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7739541.stm)

A new and highly controversial phrase has entered the sometimes cliche-riddled Indian press: “Hindu terrorism”.

As with the term “Islamic terrorism” and “Christian fundamentalism”, this latest addition to the media lexicon is highly emotive.

It was in the aftermath of the 29 September bomb blast in the predominantly Muslim town of Malegaon in the western state of Maharashtra that the term “Hindu terrorism” or “saffron terrorism” came to be used widely.

That was because the state police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested 10 Hindus following the blasts and has said that it wants to arrest several more.

Little-known

1.  Female priest, Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur, aged 38, who has been accused by the ATS of being involved in the Malegaon blast.

Hindu devotee in Nasik

2. Lt-Col Prasad Srikant Purohit,Indian army officer who the ATS says is the prime accused in the case.

3. Col Raikar and  Maj Prabhakar Kulkarni, retired army officer is also under arrest.

Police are investigating whether some of those arrested are members of a little-known Hindu outfit called Abhinav Bharat (Young India).

His vision was to militarise India to fight the British Government.

Military-style training

Its aim, as its website claims, is to “encourage students to take up careers in the armed forces of the country”.

Military training involves teaching students how to fire guns. The students are prepared for the National Defence Academy, the central government’s premier military college. The branch of the academy in the city of Nasik has many impressive buildings. One of them is used to impart military-style training to students, aged 10-16 years.

They have hired lawyers to represent her and at every legal hearing in Nasik supporters of right-wing parties gather outside the court and shout anti-government slogans. All eyes will be now be on the court proceedings -to find out whether “Hindu terrorist will punished by government.

2002
Evidence that Hindutva groups were seeking to acquire terrorist capabilities begins to emerge. An improvised explosive device (IED) is found at the Bhopal railway station in December, evidently intended to target Muslims arriving in the city to attend a Tablighi Jamaat gathering.

2003
On November 21, there is a bomb blast at Mohammadiya Masjid in Parbhani, Maharashtra.In December, exactly a year after the discovery of the IED at the Bhopal railway station, another bomb is found in the Lamba Khera area, on the outskirts of Bhopal, on the last day of a Talblighi Jamaat meeting.

2004
On August 27, there are blasts at the Meraj-ul-Uloom Madarsa and Masjid in Purna, and at the Quadriya Masjid in Jalna, both in Maharashtra, injuring 18 persons.

2006
Bajrang Dal activists Naresh Kondwar and Himanshu Panse are killed in a bomb-making accident in Nanded, Maharashtra, in April. Police later find that the two men had allegedly been responsible for the Parbhani blast, and other Bajrang Dal activists linked to the Nanded cell were involved in the Purna and Jalna blasts.Blasts triggered at three different places in Malegaon, including a mosque-cum-graveyard where 38 people are killed. The occasion was Shab-e-Baraat and people had come to offer prayers for their dead.

2007
On February 18, 68 people are killed and scores injured when two suitcase bombs exploded in the Indo-Pak Samjhauta Express when it was passing through Dewana village in Haryana. Among the dead are 42 Pakistani nationals. Indian authorities immediately blame a suspicious Pakistani national for allegedly masterminding the attack and call it an attempt to sabotage the peace process.On May 18, a bomb blast at the historic 17th-century Mecca Masjid in the heart of Hyderabad kills nine persons and injures at least 50. Police fires on people protesting against the attack, killing five. Reportedly, around 200 Muslim youth are picked up, kept in illegal detention and brutally tortured for many days.In August, two Bajrang Dal activists, Rajeev Mishra and Bhupendra Arora, were killed in Kanpur while assembling bombs.On August 25, twin blasts rock Gokul Chaat and Lumbini Park in Hyderabad, killing 53 persons. Police point fingers at HUJI and, later, the Indian Mujahideen, for carrying out the attack to avenge the Mecca Masjid blasts.On October 11, a low-intensity bomb explodes at the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, killing three persons. The same module of HUJI which the police had blamed for the Mecca Masjid blast is alleged to be behind the attack. The SIM card used to trigger the Mecca Masjid blast is found to be from the same series as the one found at the site of the Ajmer blast.

2008
On September 29, five Muslims are killed in Malegaon, Maharashtra, and another person in Modasa, Gujarat, when bombs exploded within minutes of each other. Police immediately blame their usual suspects, the Jehadis.

The probe takes a new turn, however, after the arrest of Dayanand Pandey, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Srikanth Purohit in October for their alleged involvement in the Malegaon blast. Police says the attack was carried out by the Hindu Jagran Manch, an Indore-based Rightwing Hindu outfit, which reportedly has links with Abhinav Bharat, another such outfit based in Pune, and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. Many photographs in which Sadhvi Pragya is seen with senior BJP leaders also come to light. But the probe comes to a standstill in November after the mysterious death of Maharashtra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare in the Mumbai terror attack.

2009
On October 16, two men die when a bomb they were carrying explodes in Margao, Goa, on Diwali eve. The suspects are allegedly members of a Rightwing Hindu organisation called Sanatan Sanstha. The police also recover two unexploded IEDs at Sancaole, Goa.

2010
On May 1, the Rajasthan ATS arrests Devendra Gupta from Bihariganj in Ajmer. He is allegedly responsible for procuring the SIM cards used for carrying out the Ajmer Dargah blast. Chandrashekhar, an RSS activist from Madhya Pradesh, is also arrested for his alleged role in the plot. Both are linked to Abhinav Bharat. However, Swami Asimanand, the alleged mastermind of the Ajmer and Malegaon blast, is still absconding. CBI Director Ashwani Kumar claims that the bombs used in the Ajmer, Malegaon and Samjhauta express blasts had used the same arming devices that were procured from Indore.On May 17, the National Investigating Agency files a chargesheet at a district court against 11 members of Sanatan Sanstha, a Rightwing Hindu outfit, for the 2009 Margao blast.

Courtesy: Hardnews