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Thin Storyline

Thin Storyline

Author: Smruti Koppikar
Publication: Outlook
Date: February 2, 2009
URL: http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20090202&fname=Malegaon+%28F%29&sid=1

Introduction: That's the ATS chargesheet on Malegaon

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad finally filed the chargesheet in the Malegaon blasts case on January 20. But even as the 4,528-page document offered insight into the grand design of the conspirators to establish a Hindu nation, it fails to provide key links in the September 29 incident that saw a motorcycle bomb kill seven and injure nearly 90 in a Muslim-dominated area.

The ATS charges 14 accused-including Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Pragya Singh alias Sadhvi Purnachetanananda and self-styled guru Dayanand Pandey-of conspiring to set up a "separate Hindu rashtra with its own constitution and aims, and with Bharat swarajya, surajya, suraksha in its preamble". To this end, Purohit and others are said to have revived the Pune-based Abhinav Bharat. "This organised crime syndicate," says the chargesheet, "wanted to adopt a national flag...a solo-themed saffron flag with golden border and an ancient golden torch."

The chargesheet, filed in a special court in Mumbai, relies heavily on confessional statements, forensic evidence, transcripts of recorded conversations, entries in the two laptops recovered from Pandey and Purohit and statements of a dozen witnesses. But loopholes and inconsistencies remain.

For example, the ATS arrested 11 of the 14 accused. But the three absconding-Ramji Kalsangre, Sandeep Dhange and Pravin Mutalik-are the key links to the Malegaon blast. Kalsangre and Dhange are believed to have driven the RDX-laden motorbike and parked it near the simi office where the blasts took place. Mutalik arranged the fake army passes. The absence of their interrogation, statements and evidence renders the case that much weaker. "We are on their trail," says additional DG (Railways) K.P. Raghuvanshi who, after Hemant Karkare's death, now holds additional charge of the ATS.

Secondly, while the chargesheet details both the Malegaon plot as well as the group's larger ambition of establishing a Hindu rashtra, it doesn't say how the Malegaon blast would help that cause. The ATS also refers to help sought from "Nepal Maoists", but transcripts of Purohit's conversation bear references to King Gyanendra deposed by the Maoists-who agreed "to train 40 officers and 400 soldiers" and help procure "AK-56s from Czechoslovakia". They couldn't have been talking simultaneously to both the monarch and the Maoists.

Thirdly, the link between Purohit and the RDX seems tenuous. The chargesheet quotes a witness recalling Purohit bringing RDX from Kashmir and storing it in his Pune house. But there's nothing on the exact source of the explosive or whether it was pilfered from an army depot. There's also nothing to link Purohit or the RDX to the Samjhauta Express blasts.

Strangely too, none of the accused has been charged under relevant sections of the IPC for waging war against India, though there are minute details of their plans to establish a Hindu rashtra. Instead, the ATS has slapped sections of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act when MCOCA can be applied only if any one accused has at least two chargesheets in the previous 10 years, with charges carrying a prison term of over three years. Defence lawyers claimed that this proviso makes MCOCA irrelevant in the Malegaon case.However, the special court in Mumbai on January 22 ruled that the act can be applied to all the 11 accused.

The stage is all set for the trial. Now to see if the ATS charges hold good.

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