In Malegaon Blast Case, the charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999, have been dropped against four accused including Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya in the Malegaon blast case. This is a partial relief, as they will face trial for conspiracy charges. The court said that the accused will face trial under sections 16 (committing a terror act) and 18 (criminal conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and sections 120(b) (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 326 (intentionally causing harm to others) of the IPC. The court said that Thakur couldn’t be exonerated of conspiracy charges, as she was aware about a motorcycle that was used in the blast.
On September 29, 2008, a bomb kept on a motorcycle, exploded near Hamidia Masjid in Malegaon, a communally sensitive textile town in Nashik district of northern Maharashtra. Six people were killed and 101 were injured in the attack, which the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) initially said was planned by Hindu right-wing groups to target Malegaon’s Muslim population. Thakur was the first arrest made by the ATS, which went to arrest Purohit and retired officer Ramesh Upadhyay. Between October and November 2008, the ATS arrested 11 people.
But in 2011, the probe was shifted to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which in a chargesheet last year, accused the ATS of manipulating and coercing witnesses. The agency discharged Pragya Thakur and five others, and revoked MCOCA. The NIA, however, stated that there was substantial evidence against Purohit and others.
In another episode on the same day, Uttar Pradesh government has ordered the withdrawal of a 22-year-old case against Yogi Adityanath under a new law passed last week, which provides amnesty to politicians from what the Chief Minister has called old, “non-serious” cases against them. Under the law, seen as controversial, given the deep crime-politics nexus in the state — 20,000 cases against politicians will be withdrawn.
The case against Yogi Adityanath involves flouting prohibitory orders and holding a meeting in his home turf Gorakhpur in 1995. Minister of State for Finance, Shiv Pratap Shukla and BJP lawmaker Sheetal Pandey were also named as accused. Uttar Pradesh has been one of the states known for a high percentage of legislators who have criminal cases — including that of murder, kidnapping, and crimes against women — against them.
The FIR in the Panchrukhiya case, names Adityanath and “24 other identified persons” for attempt to murder, rioting, carrying deadly weapons, defiling a place of worship, trespassing on a Muslim graveyard, and promoting enmity between two religious groups. The case was significant partly because it was the first clear hint of the extent to which Adityanath was ready to go to manufacture a riot, and partly because the revelation came merely a year after he joined active politics, becoming a Member of Parliament for the first time from the state’s Gorakhpur seat in 1998. For some time, after he was named in the FIR, the Gorakhpur MP lay low. But, once he formed his personal anti-minority outfit, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, in 2002, within weeks of the Godhra incident in Gujarat that year — when the death of 59 kar sevaks in a fire on the Sabarmati Express set off Hindu-Muslim riots that killed over 2,000 people in Gujarat — the outburst of communal riots became unusually frequent in Gorakhpur and its neighbourhood.
The region witnessed at least six major riots in the very first year since the group’s formation – at Mohan Mundera village in Kushinagar district, Nathua village in Gorakhpur district, and Turkmanpur locality in Gorakhpur city in June, at Narkataha village in Maharajganj in August, and at Bhedahi village in Maharajganj and the Dhanghata locality of Sant Kabir Nagar in September.
Most of these cases started off as criminal incidents that turned communal after Adityanath or other leaders of the Hindu Yuva Vahini jumped in. In all, between 2002 and 2007, when Adityanath was arrested and kept in lock-up, Gorakhpur and its neighbouring districts witnessed at least 22 major riots, most involving him or his henchmen. These arrests, in fact, were the only time the police showed some spine in dealing with him and his outfit. The crackdown was in response to Hindu-Muslim riots that had erupted in and around Gorakhpur, caused primarily by a toxic campaign of communal politics by Adityanath and his group in the run-up to the Assembly elections in 2007. Two persons were killed, properties worth crores were burnt and the area remained under curfew for several days during that January-February period.
Adityanath and over a dozen leaders of the Hindu Yuva Vahini were arrested while they were marching towards the troubled areas of Gorakhpur on January 28, 2007, a day after he made an inflammatory speech aimed at turning a small criminal incident into a communal riot. The arrest was timed so as to prevent the group from carrying out its threat of burning the tazia – a replica of Imam Husain’s mausoleum in Iraq – that Muslim residents were to take out as part of a Muharram procession on January 29. Adityanath remained in lock-up till February 7, when he managed to get bail. Most of the FIRs against him from that time are still alive, though their fate has become uncertain now that Adityanath has assumed power in the state. From the chief minister’s office, he can do a modest amount of good, and he can also do immense harm.
Coming back to Malegaon bombings, they were a series of bomb blasts. On April 25, 2016, the court found the initial ATS charges to be fabricated and released the nine Muslims previously arrested. The explosions, which resulted in at least 37 fatalities and 125 injuries, took place in a Muslim cemetery, adjacent to a mosque. 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 paramilitary forces were deployed in sensitive areas to prevent unrest. Today, if one has to believe court and government orders, no one has done any blast and Uttar Pradesh CM is most clean politician of the era.
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