FOUR MORE witnesses in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case turned hostile before the special NIA court in Panchkula on Friday. The witnesses, associated with Gujarat-based Shabri Dham Ashram headed by prime accused Swami Aseemanand, are Kishore Bhai Gavit, Sunil Bhai, Mansu Bhai and Phool Chand. They were among five witnesses, who appeared in the NIA court on Friday, and resiled from their earlier statements given to the NIA.
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The Samjhauta Express blasts occurred near Dewana railway station in Haryana’s Panipat district, killing 68 people, mostly from Pakistan, and injuring 12 on the night of February 18, 2007. The train was on its way to Lahore from Delhi.
A resident of Ahwa in Gujarat, Gavit, had told the NIA in August 2012 that he was given a construction contract at Aseemanand’s Shabri Dham Ashram in Dang. Gavit had also stated that Aseemanand was associated with Abhinav Bharat, Lt Col P S Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and that after Pragya’s arrest in a bomb blast case, Aseemanand had said that the time had come to surrender before police. Gavit had also stated that he had seen Sandeep Dange, another accused, at Shabri Dham Ashram. However, on Friday, he said he had not given any such statement to the NIA.
Sunil Bhai, from Dang district, had given a statement to the NIA in August 2012 that since 2002 he was staying at Shabri Dham Ashram and had seen accused Sunil Joshi (now dead) and Pragya coming to the ashram. He, too, resiled from his statement on Friday.
NIA counsel, Rajan Malhotra, said that the other two witnesses — Dang district resident Mansu Bhai and Amonia village resident Phool Chand — were to testify about one of the absconding accused, Sandeep Dange, but they resiled from their statements given to the NIA in August 2012.
Malhotra said the fifth witness, Jayanti Bhai, a resident of Navsari district, who used to take care of donations at Shabri Dham Ashram, stood by his earlier statement. He submitted that he had dissociated himself from the ashram after Aseemanand’s name appeared in the media.