IN THE trial of the 2008 Malegaon blast, a witness who was claimed to have attended a camp with accused Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit and others, was declared hostile on Saturday.
The witness denied the contents of two of his statements recorded by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2008 and 2011. The statements included a claim that in the camp, organised a month after the blast, Purohit had given a lecture mentioning terrorism in India on religious lines and the need to respond to it. The witness denied all the contents and said he had never stated those. This is the second witness of the 188 who have deposed so far to turn hostile.
Special Public Prosecutor Avinash Rasal, representing the National Investigation Agency (NIA), declared him hostile and cross-examined the witness. When the contents were read out from the two statements, the witness told the court they were incorrect. When the witness was asked by SPP Rasal that he was refuting his statements to save the accused, he denied it.
The ATS, which investigated the case initially before the NIA took over, had included in its first and a supplementary chargesheet, statements of the witness who deposed on Saturday.
In the two statements, it was claimed that in May 2008, the witness was asked by Purohit to get in touch with Rakesh Dhawde and pick up a parcel to deliver it to another accused Sudhakar Chaturvedi. Dhawde, who was named as an accused in the blast, has been discharged from the terror case in 2017.
The statement further said the witness was invited for an adventure camp at Panchmarchi, Madhya Pradesh, in October 2008. It was claimed in the statement that while it was called an “adventure” camp, nothing about adventure was spoken or taught.
The statement claimed that Purohit had given a lecture where he spoke about terrorism in India, Pakistan’s role in weakening India through proxy wars like counterfeit currency, drugs and terrorism. It also said that Purohit spoke of the need for Hindu organisations and Hindus to come together under Abhinav Bharat, a group set up in 2004, which the ATS claimed was part of the blast conspiracy.
The statement also said the lecture included comments on religious lines about terrorism in India and the need to “respond”. It said the witness had left the camp after a few days and had not spoken or met Purohit since. It also included the names of the other accused, including Chaturvedi and Sameer Kulkarni, claiming they were present there.
The witness denied all these contents. While he said he identified Purohit who was present in court, he said he did not know others, including Kulkarni, who was also present in the courtroom.
SPP Rasal said this was the second witness to turn hostile. Another witness related to the arrest panchnama of Purohit had earlier denied the ATS statement. A blast at Malegaon near Nashik on September 29, 2008, killed six and injured over 100. Seven accused, including Purohit, Chaturvedi, Kulkarni, BJP Bhopal MP Pragya Thakur, Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi, Ajay Rahikar and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, are facing trial.