STATING that the Lashkar angle in the February 2007 Samjhauta Express firebombing that killed 68, mostly Pak nationals, doesn’t have “any strength,” National Investigation Agency (NIA) Director General Sharad Kumar has said that he had never been under pressure on handling alleged Hindu extremist terror cases either from the NDA or the UPA government.
Kumar said the trial in most cases were moving at a good pace and he was confident that these would reach their “logical conclusion”.
The NIA chief was speaking at Idea Exchange at The Indian Express (detailed transcript in The Sunday Express on May 8).
“I will be very honest with you. I have not faced any pressure. Neither from this government nor from the previous government. I am working absolutely independently. No one calls me, no one tells me: Do this, do that. Same was true for the previous government also. We don’t brief anybody, we just do our work,” Kumar said.
He sought to clarify that his visit to the US was not centered around finding any new set of accused in the Samjhauta Express case where Swami Aseemanand along with other alleged Hindu extremists are accused.
“We are not investigating it any further. We have filed a chargesheet and the trial is going on very smoothly. I had gone to US with regard to 18 pending references under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and other agreements which were pending with them. Arif Qasmani’s issue was one of them. It was a routine exercise.”
“Initially, when we asked them to give a reply they did not give a reply for two to three years. Now we have pressed upon them to reply as defence will try to influence the mind of the judge that this was the handiwork of LeT people. We are hoping now they will reply in another couple of months as we have sent the query through MLAT. I don’t think the Arif Qasmani angle to the case has any strength.”
In 2009, US had shared intelligence that mentioned known LeT financier Qasmani as having funded the attack.
Kumar also sought to brush aside allegations that NIA cases were floundering in the court and the agency was going slow. “In the past one and a half years trial has progressed very well. In Samjhauta Express blast case, out of 299 witnesses, 2014 have been examined. In Ajmer Dargah blast case, the prosecution has already closed the evidence. The 2008 Malegaon blasts case is the only exception. When the Supreme Court does not decide petitions for three-long years, what do we do?” Kumar said.
On the issue of NIA first supporting the bail plea of nine Muslim men initially arrested in Malegaon 2006 blast case and then opposing their discharge, Kumar said the agency never opposed their discharge.
“There was no flip flop (in Malegaon 2006 case). It is not my duty (legally) to ask for discharge. We have filed our chargesheet. It was to be the court’s decision. I can only say that these are the real accused. This is what has happened in this case.”
Kumar, however, maintained that agency investigations had not found any links of the cases to RSS as an organisation even though many of the accused were part of the organisation.
“We did not find any links of the RSS as an organisation with the terror attacks. There were some of the accused who were members of the RSS but they had been expelled from the organisation,” he said.