On March 8, 2017, an NIA special court in Jaipur had convicted, and later sentenced to life imprisonment, former RSS pracharak Devendra Gupta in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast. The court said the NIA had established that Gupta had bought the cellphone SIM cards used to time and trigger the bombs kept at the Sufi shrine.
On Monday, another NIA special court in Hyderabad acquitted Gupta and four others, including Swami Aseemanand, of all charges in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast even though the SIM cards used in the blast were part of the set used in the Ajmer Dargah blast.
In its various chargesheets on ‘Hindutva terror cases’, the NIA has maintained that Devendra Gupta, along with a few others, was a common link in these cases and had been asked by key accused Sunil Joshi to get SIM cards in the run-up to the blasts.
According to the chargesheets, Gupta, along with key accused Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, had bought 11 SIM cards under fictitious names from Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. These SIM cards were used not only to communicate and discuss the conspiracy but also assemble bombs, where they acted as timer devices.
In fact, a SIM recovered from an unexploded bomb at Mecca Masjid blast site had matched with a phone used in the Ajmer Dargah blast.
The ostensible connection notwithstanding, the NIA special court in Hyderabad was not convinced of the agency’s evidence linking Gupta and others to the blast and acquitted them.
The NIA chargesheet in the Mecca Masjid blast says the agency had established that in the winter of 2008 Sandeep Dange had handed over a briefcase containing four mobile phones to a witness in the case. “The suitcase contained mobile phones, which were used in the commission of offences…the instant case and other blasts —- Ajmer Sharif, Samjhauta Express and Malegaon,” the chargesheet said.
In an effort to further establish connection between the two blasts, and Gupta’s involvement in both, the chargesheet stated, “The mobile phone with IMEI No. xxxxxxxx999 and SIM No. xxxxxxxx289 are found with unexploded IED has been seized from the scene of offence in the instant case is also purchased by accused Lokesh Sharma. The SIM card no. xxxxxxxxx289…has also been used in another mobile bearing IMEI no. xxxxxxxxxx330, which is one of the four mobiles… seized by Rajasthan ATS in connection with Ajmer blast.”
Apart from this, the probe had found that the modus operandi used in the two blasts were similar. “At both places timer devices in the form of mobile phones with SIM cards were used,” the chargesheet said. This, it added, was corroborated in a forensic analysis of bombs placed at both places.
According to the NIA, Devendra Gupta, who worked for the RSS in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, was key to the logistics and assembly of bombs in both cases. He was the first person arrested by the Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2010 in the Ajmer Dargah case.
In that case, he was convicted along with Bhavesh Patel and Sunil Joshi. A resident of Bharuch in Gujarat, Bhavesh had allegedly planted two bombs at Ajmer Dargah but only one exploded, the probe agency stated. Two SIM cards found in the unexploded bomb became the first material evidence in the case and led the conviction of the duo.