In a shocking disclosure, Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian, who appeared for the National Investigating Agency in the 2008 Malegaon blast case involving Hindu extremists, has said that the agency told her to ‘go soft’ in the case after the new government took over at the Centre. Some NIA officer approached her immediately after the change of government and told her in person to go soft. On June 12, he approached her for the second time and said she would no longer be appearing in the case. The Malegaon 2008 blast case was the first case in which Hindu extremists, including Lt. Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur were chargesheeted in 2009 by the ATS.
Pointing to NIA’s tardy approach, Ms. Salian said after the agency took over the case from the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2011, three more accused were arrested in addition to 12 accused arrested previously. However, all the three accused got bail by the court, because the NIA did not file a chargesheet against them, at a given specific time. Till date, whatever paper works are there that was done by the ATS and NIA has never submitted a single paper in court.
Four of the 12 chargesheeted accused; Shyam Sahu, Jagdish Mhatre, Shiv Narayan, Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Ajay Rahirkar have been granted bail. The bails pleas of the rest of the accused have been rejected. Purohit was the only one to challenge the rejection of his bail in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in April expressed prima facie doubts about charging Malegaon blasts accused Sadhvi Pragya and Purohit under the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court.
Salian also said to media that at a recent hearing at the Supreme Court, there was major confusion over who was appearing on behalf of the State of Maharashtra. Senior Counsel Mariar Puttam was to appear, but Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh objected to Puttam arguing the case.
Looking at the news which went viral, NIA denied allegations made by its special public prosecutor (PP) Rohini Salian said that it had tried to put any undue pressure on her to either go soft in the 2008 Malegaon case or having passed any “inappropriate” instructions to her through any of its officers. It also said that Salian was about to be removed as PP for failing to perform and that the process of her “de-notification” was underway when she went public with her accusations against the agency. Rebutting the charge that it pressured Salian into going soft on the Malegaon case, the agency said that the question of influencing Salian does not arise as special PP’s role comes only after a case is committed to trial. Routine affairs are handled by regular public prosecutors and the 2008 Malegaon case has yet not reached the trial stage.
The 2006 Malegaon bombings were a series of bomb blasts that took place on 8 September 2006 in Malegaon, a town in the Nashik district. The blasts were initially blamed on Pakistan but a chargesheet filed in 2013 put the blame on India based Hindu Radicals. The explosions – which resulted in at least 37 fatalities and 125 injuries – took place in a Muslim cemetery, adjacent to a mosque, at around 13:15 local time after Friday prayers on the Shab e Bara’at holy day of 15th Shabaan, eight month of Islamic Calender. Most of the blast victims were Muslim pilgrims. Security forces spoke of “two bombs attached to bicycles,” but other reports indicated that three devices had exploded. A stampede ensued after the devices exploded. A curfew was imposed in the town and state paramilitaries were deployed in sensitive areas to prevent unrest.
The Maharashtra police initially suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. However, no evidence was released against any of these groups, though the police claimed on 13 October to have identified the perpetrators. Lashkar-e-Toiba has had contacts with the controversial Students Islamic Movement of India in the region before. Police are also suspecting Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami in the attacks. On September 10, police sources said that the methods used are similar to attacks on mosques earlier in 2006 for which 16 Bajrang Dal activists, allegedly part of a “fringe group” of the organization, were arrested but not charged.
Malegaon has been the focus of communal tension for some time, which spilled out into the open in 1984, 1992, and 2001, when there were large scale protest over the US invasion of Afghanistan. Police had killed 12 Muslim protesters after a brief altercation with them. On May 2006, police recovered a cache of RDX explosives and automatic rifles from the region based on information they said was provided by arrested extremist Islamists. The arrested were former members of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Later on, they were given clean chit.
Meanwhile, Pragya Singh Thakur, a Hindu activist was arrested for her involvement in Malegaon. She became an activist of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of RSS and then an ABVP activist from 1993 to 2002. Seemingly, she was involved in the murder of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi in December 2007 in Dewas. Thakur, who has been in custody of Bhopal police since 2011, is suffering from multiple ailments and was undergoing treatment at Pandit Khushilal Ayurveda Hospital. She was arrested by Maharashtra police in connection with Malegaon blasts in 2008. She was later arrested by MP police in February 2011 for her alleged role in Sunil Joshi’s murder.