Four more prosecution witnesses in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blasts case turned hostile Friday before the Panchkula Special National Investigation Agency Court, taking the number of total hostile witnesses to 14.
The blasts had occurred on the intervening night of February 18-19, 2007, near Dewana railway station in Panipat district of Haryana, killing 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, and injuring 12. The train was on its way to Lahore.
Five witnesses appeared before the court on Friday, out of which the four who turned hostile are: Rajeshwar Singh, Lal Krishan Joshi, Ajay Chauhan and Shakti Singh. The fifth witness, Aruna Thakur, on the other hand, stood by her earlier statement.
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Rajeshwar Singh, a resident of Aita in Uttar Pradesh and regional chief of RSS Dharam Jagran Samanvay Vibhag at Agra, informed the NIA court that he does not know Swami Aseemanand, who was also present in the court. Denying ever giving any statement to the NIA, Singh said he knew a different Swami Aseemanand who used to live in Dang area of Gujarat.
Another witness, Lal Krishan Joshi, a resident of Bhawani Mandi in Rajasthan, had earlier in his alleged statement to NIA on December 8, 2010, said: “I firstly met Pragya Singh in 1999 during the wedding of my cousin Geetanjali where she (Pragya) came with my cousin Alka and my brother-in-law Bharat Vyas from Ujjain. She used to live with Alka in Ujjain back then.” Joshi had also allegedly said that he had gone to Delhi in September 2007 on the behest of Pragya Singh.
The third witness, Ajay Chauhan, a resident of Haridwar, had on earlier on May 28, 2011, given an alleged statement to the NIA claiming he was introduced to Swami Aseemanand in Paramhans Ashram in Haridwar in 2010 during the Kumbh Mela. A visibly upset Aseemanand had mentioned “very secretly” that “CBI, Haryana Police and NIA are searching for him because he was involved in the Samjhauta train blast”, the statement had said.
The fourth witness who turned hostile, Shakti Singh, a resident of Haridwar, had reportedly told the NIA on May 28, 2011, he met Aseemanand during the 2010 Kumbh Mela in Haridwar and that Aseemanand had confessed his involvement in the Samjhauta train blast. “He also said that his close associate, Manoj alias Sunil Joshi, was murdered in Dewas (MP).”
Meanwhile, a resident of Jaipur, Aruna Thakur, manager at Gujrati Samaj Atithi Grah, stood by her earlier statement. She had brought along with her, the entry register of her guest house showing that seven persons, including one Manoj (Sunil Joshi), had stayed in her guest house in Jaipur from October 31, 2005, to November 4, 2005.
The case has been posted for next hearing on September 18.