November 24, 2008 1:31:26 am
Arrested Army officer Lt Col Prasad Purohit has told the CBI that VHP general secretary Pravin Togadia was involved in the formation and funding of Abhinav Bharat, the radical Hindu group at the centre of investigations into the September 29 Malegaon blast.
The officer has also said that Swami Aseemanand of Dangs had told him that Sunil Joshi — the man to whom Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur sold her motorcycle that was used in the Malegaon blast— was also involved in the Ajmer Sharif shrine bombing of October 11, 2007.
Sunil Joshi, whom Swami Aseemanand described to Purohit as “apna banda” (our man), was murdered in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh in the last week of December, 2007. The swami, originally Jatin Chatterjee of Bengal, is on the run.
The CBI interrogated Purohit in connection with its investigations into the May 18, 2007 blast at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid.
Purohit is understood to have told interrogators the name of a serving Colonel of the Army, his neighbour in Panchmarhi, who attended key meetings of Abhinav Bharat, including one allegedly hosted by the senior New Delhi endocrinologist R P Singh in Faridabad in January this year.
The Army has denied that any of its officers besides Purohit is under the scanner in the Malegaon probe. Dr Singh has denied involvement in the blast conspiracy.
The CBI report records competing claims made by Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya on the Malegaon blast. Purohit claimed to have met Pragya on October 5, 2008 to tell her that “our people” had carried out the killings in Orissa, burnt down two churches in Karnataka, and also carried out the Malegaon blast. To which, says the CBI report, the Sadhvi retorted: how could Purohit claim that Abhinav Bharat had been responsible for the Malegaon blast, when it was actually her people who had carried out the attack?
Purohit told interrogators that one Prashant Hartalkar, who he identified as the VHP’s Maharashtra chief, had called him on the phone to say that Pravin Togadia wanted him to find out who was investigating the Nanded blast case. In April 2006, an explosion in the home of an alleged RSS worker in Nanded, Maharashtra, killed two men who were suspected to have been putting together a bomb.
The CBI report details plans by Abhinav Bharat to try and ultimately replace the RSS and VHP as the standard-bearer of the ‘Hindu cause’. Purohit claimed to have told VHP leader Eknath Rao Shete that “the RSS needs to change its dress code to attract the youth of the country”.
Purohit also gave details of the conspiracy to eliminate RSS leader Indresh Kumar for ‘getting Hindus killed in Nepal’. He admitted he had, at the behest of Dayanand Pandey (alias Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Mahant Amritanand) and the Pune-based veteran RSS leader Shyam Apte, given a weapon to one Alok, a colleague of the Kolkata-based radical Hindu activist Tapan Ghosh, on April 11-12, 2008 in Bhopal. Next month, he had sent 12 rounds of ammunition to Alok, meant to be used to kill Indresh.
Purohit told the CBI Pandey had asked him to get RDX or some other explosive as “Guru Agya”. But it is not clear if he actually got the explosives.
Pandey also made Purohit contact Dr R P Singh over the telephone in August 2007. The report quotes Singh as having told Purohit that Indresh had “sold off Hindus in Nepal”, a job for which he (Indresh) had been given Rs 3 crore by the ISI. Purohit conveyed this to Togadia, who said that he already knew about this.
Purohit’s interrogation report includes several other details:
• Purohit first met Togadia in February 2006 in Nashik at the home of the local VHP unit head Vinayak. In December that year, he met Togadia in Mumbai and apprised him of the Abhinav Bharat concept. In March-April 2007, Togadia told Purohit over the phone the names of donors to the trust. In August-September, 2007, Togadia gave him Rs 2 lakh, which were subsequently passed on to Abhinav Bharat’s Samir Kulkarni. On August 2, 2008, Togadia severely reprimanded Purohit for breaking up the VHP’s Madhya Pradesh unit.
• On February 2, 2008, Shyam Apte gave Rs 2 lakh to Purohit, and orders to kill Indresh. Purohit passed on the money to another activist, Rakesh Dhawade, who gave him the weapon for Rs 50,000. This weapon was given to Alok. Dhawade, Purohit said, claimed to have trained the RSS cadres who died in the Nanded blast. Purohit had given Dhawade Rs 3.2 lakh the month before, to buy another four weapons.
• The same month, Purohit met Sandip Dange and Ramji Kalsangra with Samir Kulkarni. Ramji and the Purohit exchanged numbers, and decided to keep Kulkarni out of the operation.
• On April 11-12, 2008, Purohit spoke to Sadhvi Pragya at the instance of Aseemanand in Bhopal. The Sadhvi told the officer that Indresh was like a father to her. In June 2008, she told Purohit that she did not want to work with him. He met her five days after the Malegoan blast.
• Apte and Pandey insisted on killing Indresh. Dange called up Purohit repeatedly for arms-training. In July 2008, all those who had come for arms to Abhinav Bharat scattered, including Tapan Ghosh.
• On August 3, 2008, Pandey directed Purohit to get RDX for Ramji at a meeting in Mahakaal Dharamsala. Towards the end of the month, one Pravin Patil came to Panchmarhi to state that he had gained knowledge of explosives through Internet research.
• On Oct 23, 2008, Purohit was interrogated by Col Srivastava of the Army about the Malegaon blast. The Colonel got him to talk to Dr R P Singh.
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