The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chargesheet in the September 29 Malegaon bomb attack case has produced new information that backs the suspicion among security agencies that some recent unsolved bomb blasts in the country,particularly the one at Hyderabads Mecca Masjid in 2007,could be linked to some of those blamed for Malegaon.
The Indian Express had reported on November 25 last year that some of the 11 men arrested for the Malegaon attack had allegedly told investigators that a Hindu activist had planted the bomb at the popular Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Ajmer in October 2007,which killed two people. They had also allegedly told investigators that the same set of people were behind the Ajmer and the Mecca Masjid blasts in which nine worshippers were killed during Friday prayers on May 18,2007.
Moreover,similarities had been found between the bombs in the two incidents such as identical tin boxes,arming devices,the same Telugu newspaper used to wrap them,and mobile phones used as remote triggers for both bombs,with SIM cards in those phones traced to the same shop in Jharkhand.
Joining this list now is an alleged conversation between self-styled mahant Sudhakar Dwivedi and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay,working president of extremist Hindu group Abhinav Bharat,both of whom have been arrested for Malegaon.
The conversation in Hindi is found in the transcript of an audio file titled majorupadhyaya.wma and is believed to be recorded on January 25,2008,one among several audio and video recordings Dwivedi is alleged to have made of his meetings with the others accused,including the Malegaon conspiracy meetings.
The Sunday Express has a copy of the Hindi transcript which is a part of the Malegaon chargesheet filed in a Special MCOCA court on Tuesday.
In the alleged conversation,the retired Major is quoted as telling the mahant that they need to create dedicated groups or committees among themselves which will be responsible for tasks such as domestic propaganda and international propaganda.
Upadhyay then goes on to purportedly say,At the same time,kuch log aise ho jo ek jo musalmaanoney aur christianoney jo dehshat faila rakhi hai,us dehshat ka mukaabla karney ke liye action karkey bhi,jaise Hyderabad ki masjid mein hua ya aur bhi jagahon pe logon ne kiya. to yah koyi ISI-waala aakey nahi kar raha tha. Is daur mein,yah apna hi koyi aadmi tha. Mein apni jaankari ke taur pe kah sakta hoon ki yah vyakti tha,woh tha ya nahi tha,woh mein nahin jaanta,wah colonel batayenge.
(At the same time,there should be some people who can counter the terrorism of Muslims and Christians through action,like what happened at the mosque in Hyderabad or at other places. This was not something done by the ISI. This was one of our own men. However,from what I know,I cannot pinpoint who was specifically responsible. That I do not know. That,the Colonel will tell us.)
The alleged conversation does not contain any more details about the Hyderabad incident. But as reported by The Indian Express on Friday,Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit,named the main conspirator in the Malegaon case,allegedly told Dwivedi,Upadhyay and some other members of Abhinav Bharat at a meeting the next day,January 26,2008,that he had conducted two operations in the past and they were successful.
Those remarks are also allegedly from an audio file on Dwivedis laptop and its transcript is also part of the Malegaon chargesheet.
When contacted,acting ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi told The Sunday Express that the ATS had alerted the investigating agencies after we found some parts of conversations between the conspirators were suspicious and that police teams from Rajasthan,Haryana,Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat had also visited Mumbai to question Purohit,Dwivedi,Upadhyay and Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur.
We have given all the evidence to the court. We have also communicated to the investigating agencies who came down for questioning that they could seek custody of the main conspirators if they feel the need for further questioning. We have also given the Gujarat team some inputs for the Modassa blast which they will have to take forward, he added.
Lawyers defending the Abhinav Bharat members,however,say the alleged links to other blasts around the country are police theories and proving them in court would not be easy.
Looking at all angles: Hyderabad police
• The Mecca Masjid blast was initially investigated by Hyderabad Police but later handed over to CBI. The police had picked up 78 Muslim youths on suspicion of being involved. However,the CBI,after a few hours of questioning,asked the police to release most of them. Cases were filed against 32 but over the last few months,a local court threw out the chargesheets for lack of evidence.
• Said Hyderabad Police Commissioner B Prasada Rao: Our officers went to Mumbai to question the Malegaon accused but didnt get any specific leads. We are now looking at what the ATS has found and exploring all angles.
(With inputs from Sukanya Shetty)