Devendra Gupta, 41, was born in a family of modest means in Ajmer, where his father Satyaprakash ran a grocery store. His elder brother and younger sister are married, while he vowed to remain unmarried. The family of Gupta, who is one of those convicted in the Ajmer dargah blast of 2007, hails from a village near Agra. Satyaprakash had moved to Ajmer after his parents’ death and settled there. However, his son’s arrest in 2010 and wife Pushpadevi’s long struggle with cancer has forced Satyapraskash to relocate again, to Pithampur near Indore, to be with his elder son Deepak Gupta. Pushpadevi died in July 2012, and Devendra was brought under heavy police escort to attend the funeral.
“He never hit a dog in his life, did not fight with anyone in school. Why would he do something like that? Neither he nor we had ever been to a police station before. He was framed in a conspiracy hatched by the Congress,” claims Satyaprakash, 68. “He was not even in Ajmer on the day of the blast.’’ The father calls the son’s fascination with the RSS a shauk (hobby) he acquired during his stay in MP. “I thought it would last for a year or so. But he never left the organisation.” He says his son used to attend RSS shakhas but never appeared to have strong views initially. “He would occasionally fast but was not very religious before leaving home.”
Contradicting his father, Deepak says his younger brother was always “patriotic and fearless”. “He was neither good at studies nor excelled in sports but followed strict discipline. He would wake up at 5 am, take a cold bath and knock on his friends’ doors to persuade them to join the RSS shakha, return home by 8 am and leave quickly to work at a medical store as an assistant,’’ says Deepak, 43, who had lost his job for a few months after his brother’s arrest. He says Devendra did not like films and did not even read children’s magazines like his siblings did, and claims claims he was very popular in Ajmer and even in Jharkhand, his last RSS assignment, because he was helpful by nature.
“His English was weak and he had to take a supplementary in that subject. I am not sure if he completed Class X,” says Deepak, who works with a private company in Pithampur Industrial Estate. Deepak’s son, a class X student in an English-medium CBSE school, proudly displays a book gifted by his uncle — Hamare Rashtra Nirmata, with Gandhi, Shivaji, Vivekananda, RSS founder Hedgewar and Netaji Bose among others on the cover.
Because Devendra was not academically inclined, the family forced him to join an ITI where he undertook a bookbinding course. He worked in the medical store for three or four years and left Ajmer to join his brother at Pithampur around 2000, then quit after a few months. By then he had come in contact with Sunil Joshi, once suspected to be the prime mover of the right-wing group before his killing at Dewas on December 29, 2007.
The RSS posted Devendra at Manpur, Mhow and Sanver in Indore, first as vistarak and later as pracharak. He was sent to Jharkhand in 2003 after which he had limited contact with his family. Asked if Devendra had strong views about Muslims, Deepak says, “He was more against anti-national Hindus… He always kept Bharat Mata a notch above his own mother and so do I. He can never be a terrorist… A Hindu can never be a terrorist.”
In the small drawing room of his two-storey house, a Bharat Mata portrait hangs above their mother’s photograph. “It has always been like this,” Deepak says. His family supplements his income by running a general store from home. “Our family went through a lot; neighbours and others avoided us. I was interrogated for three days at a BSNL office in Indore by the CBI,’’ he says. This was in 2009 end, a few months before Devendra’s arrest. Satyaprakash says he too went through a difficult interrogation.
After the conviction, Deepak says, “What kind of evidence is it that lets off some [Swami Assemanand and others] and convicts some when all are accused of the same conspiracy?” He says his mother wanted to meet Devendra when she was in the last stages of her cancer but courts did not grant bail. He says the arrest of Devendra and other RSS activists “was all politically motivated”.
Investigators had accused Gupta of arranging SIM cards from Jharkhand that were used for the Ajmer explosion. Devendra is also an accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case.