A local Ghaziabad court Monday awarded capital punishment to the prime accused in the 2006 Varanasi serial blasts case. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 4.05 lakh on Waliullah (47), who is lodged at the Dasna jail in Ghaziabad. The court ordered that the death sentence will not be carried out till it has been upheld by the Allahabad High court.
In 2006, bombs had exploded at Varanasi’s cantonment railway station and Sankat Mochan temple in which at least 20 lives were lost and several others were injured. A third bomb, which was recovered from Godaulia area of Varanasi, did not explode.
Waliullah’s lawyer Mohammad Aarif Ali said: “Three separate cases were lodged after the serial blast. The court acquitted Waliullah in the blast that took place at the railway station. In the blast that took place at Sankat Mochan temple, the court awarded him capital punishment. In the recovery of bomb at Godaulia, the court sentenced him to life imprisonment.”
Ali said that they would file an appeal against Waliullah’s conviction in the High Court.
On March 7, 2006, a blast rocked the Varanasi cantonment railway station, and minutes later another bomb exploded inside the Sankat Mochan Mandir.
Police teams immediately began searches across the district, and soon found a bomb at the Godaulia locality. In the two blasts, as many as 20 persons were killed and several got injured. Police said, all three bombs were made by packing explosives in pressure cookers.
During the probe, the Uttar Pradesh Police initially claimed that blast was a handiwork of terrorist group Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami (HuJI).
On April 5, 2006, UP Police’s Special Task Force (STF) led by then Additional Superintendent of Police Vijay Bhushan, arrested Waliullah, who apart from running a small wooden-works shop also served as imam at a local mosque in Phoolpur, from Gosaiganj area of Lucknow.
Waliullah, an alleged HuJI operative, was declared the mastermind in the case. Police also claimed to have recovered detonators, RDX and a .32 bore pistol from his possession.
The bombs, the probe revealed, were kept in a cooker with ammonium nitrate and aluminum being used to make them.
Police alleged that the blasts were carried out by Waliullah’s three associates with whom he had studied at the Darul Uloom at Deoband in Saharanpur.
The three persons – who are still absconding — were identified as Bashiruddin, Mustafiz and Zakaria, all residents of Bangladesh.
Police stated that Waliullah provided logistical support to the three absconding persons.
As per the police, Waliullah took the three to Varanasi and helped them purchase cookers used for carrying out the blasts, and later they fled to Bangladesh.
In May 2006, Mohammad Zubair, a native of UP who was also alleged to be involved in the blasts, was gunned down in Jammu & Kashmir while attempting to cross the border.
Further probe also revealed involvement of one Shamim Ahmed alias Sarfaraz, a resident of UP’s Chandauli district. Police claimed that Shamim had planted a bomb at Godaulia area. He was never arrested.
In 2013, the then Akhilesh Yadav government ordered for withdrawal of case against Shamim. The move was stayed by the Allahabad High Court, after which the state government filed an SLP in the Supreme Court, contesting the HC order, which is still pending.
Case transfer to Ghaziabad
On May 3, 2006, lawyers in Varanasi court roughed up Waliullah when he was produced in the court for trial. Lawyers also did not spare policemen accompanying Waliullah to court. The Varanasi Bar Association then decided that no lawyer would argue for the accused. After the incident, Waliullah pleaded in the Allahabad High Court that his case be transferred to another district. The court agreed and shifted it to Ghaziabad.
Two years later in August 2008, a Lucknow court sentenced Waliullah to 10 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
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After an Indian Mujahideen terror module was busted after the Batla House encounter in September 2008, a few arrested IM members purportedly claimed responsibility for the Varanasi blasts.
Advocate Aarif Ali said, “I have submitted a statement of Asadullah Akhtar in the Ghaziabad court. In his statement recorded before Chief Judicial Magistrate, Hyderabad, Asadullah Akhtar admitted carrying out 2006 Varanasi blasts along with Mirza Shadab Beg, Mohammad Sarvar, Ariz, Atif and Saif. He also stated that the IED was assembled by Sadik Sheikh.”