It’s been almost 15 years, six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device on a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon on September 29, 2008. A special court on Wednesday declared a retired military officer as the 20th hostile witness in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. The former officer failed to identify Prasad Purohit, one of the accused in the case. He also claimed he had given no statement to the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
When asked if he could see any accused in the case present in the court, he told special judge Prashant R Sitre that could not, even though Purohit was there. The witness in March 2009 gave a three-page statement to ATS, which initially investigated the case, related to Purohit’s visit to Deolali in Nashik, where the explosive device used for the blast was assembled in advance.
The Malegaon 2008 blast case was the first case in which Hindu rebels, including Lt. Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, were charge-sheeted in 2009 by the ATS. The status of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), handling the Malegaon blasts and other Hindu-terror cases, has taken a serious thumping. The NIA, of course, has disproved the claims, saying there was no question of shielding the accused, and that Salian’s impending transfer or notification from the case is part of an official procedure.
The 2007 murder case of former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak Sunil Joshi was planned a fortnight before by Lokesh Sharma and Rajendra Chaudhary in connivance with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, states the supplementary chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Explaining the role of Pragya, the chargesheet states that on the day of the murder, “Pragya was present at Koti Chandi Yagya Dussehra ground at Indore.” She stayed at Indore from December 25, 2007, to January 5, 2008. NIA has also alleged in the chargesheet that she had held captive Anandraj Kataria, an associate of Joshi, in a flat in Indore for 10 days, after the murder. MP police charged Kataria for the murder of Joshi but NIA did not name him. A day after the murder, on Dec 30, 2007, “Pragya called Kataria to a flat and later took him to the residence of late Laxman Singh Gaur.
He was held captive since Pragya apprehended that Kataria was immature and if questioned by police he may reveal the facts about the earlier criminal act carried out by late Sunil Joshi and herself, as Kataria was closely associated with Joshi and her as well,” the charge sheet was filed before a court in August 2011.
The primary motive behind the murder of Joshi according to the chargesheet appears to be sexual advances made by Joshi against Pragya, which did not go down well with Lokesh and Rajender who treated Pragya as a sister. It also considered Joshi an accused in Samjhauta and Malegaon blasts close to RSS leader Indresh, but so far, the agency has found no direct link between the RSS leader with the blast cases.
The chargesheet also states that “Pragya after the murder of Joshi had met Lokesh and Rajender at the flat where Kataria was held captive and congratulated the two for the task.” It further says, “Witnesses statements establish that at MGH hospital, Dewas (where Joshi was admitted after being shot), she (Pragya) was handed over a mobile phone of Sunil Joshi which was picked up from the crime scene by Ramcharan Patel,” one of Joshi’s associates.
NIA also said Pragya visited their house of Joshi on the night of the murder and collected a briefcase. This briefcase is believed to have contained explosive making material and they later handed it over to Ramji Kalsangra, wanted in connection with Malegaon, Samjhauta, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah blasts. According to the statement of Vasudev Parmar, the planning to kill Joshi started a fortnight before the actual incident. Parmar told NIA that Rajender had met him and took his mobile number and address Joshi in Dewas around December 15, 2007.
Four of the 12 charge-sheeted accused; Shyam Sahu, Jagdish Mhatre, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Ajay Rahirkar were granted bail due to delay in investigations by NAI. The bail 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 this April expressed prima facie doubts about charging Malegaon blasts accused Sadhvi Pragnya and Purohit under the Draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court. 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 of the Indian state of Maharashtra, some 290 km to the northeast of the state capital Mumbai.