As the trial in the May 18, 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case started here earlier this week, all eyes are on one of the defence lawyers, B Rajavardhan Reddy — a prominent RSS activist also associated with the group Hindu Vahini.
Reddy made news in October 2012 when he accused a research scholar from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Sharib Ali, and his friend Mohammed Ismail Khan, a law student of Osmania University, of posing a threat to his life. Sharib Ali had gone to Reddy’s house in Saidabad to interview him as part of his research on bomb blast cases in several cities, after the lawyer agreed for the interview and invited him to his house.
However, when Sharib and his friend reached there, Reddy asked for their ID proofs and alerted the police. Soon, police officials and activists from Hindu Vahini barged into the house. The duo were detained for over two hours and interrogated by Malakpet police. After police verified their identity and several people from TISS vouched for Ali’s credentials, they were let off.
The trial in the Mecca Masjid blast case, in which nine persons were killed, started Monday in the First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Special Court for National Investigation Agency cases at Nampally. Five others were killed when police opened fire on protesters immediately after the blast.
A panel of lawyers, including Reddy, is defending Lokesh Sharma, Devendra Gupta, Swami Assemanand, Rajendra Choudhury, Tejaram Parmar and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharatbhai, who are accused in the case. Reddy is tasked with defending Bharatbhai. The NIA had filed four chargesheets against six of the 10 accused in this case. Three accused — Ramchandra Kalsangra, Amit Prince and Sandeep Dange — are at large while the fourth, Sunil Joshi, was killed by his associates in December 2007.
On Thursday, two former constables of Hussaini Alam police station — Abdul Sharif and Mohammed Pasha — who were on security duty outside Mecca Masjid when the bomb went off were produced as witnesses by the NIA. Sharif said the bomb went off at 1:15 pm when the prayer was on. He recalled seeing a few bodies and the injured calling out for help. Pasha said he was praying, so he did not see the the blast, but he described the chaotic scenes afterwards.
When asked by Reddy if they saw anyone placing the bomb or any movement by suspects in the area, both denied.
Earlier, the NIA produced another former head constable, Abdul Baig Mirza, who was also on duty at the spot. One of the key witnesses, Mohammed Mannan, the manager of Mecca Masjid, was cross-examined on the first day. Mannan said after the blast, the prayer area was awash with blood and that blood-stained carpets had been given to the NIA as evidence. The mosque’s attendant Masood Ali Baig’s statement was also recorded. Both Mannan and Baig were cross-examined by Reddy.