A special NIA court on Wednesday in Jaipur awarded life sentences to two persons convicted in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah bomb blast case.
The court had convicted Devendra Gupta, Sunil Joshi and Bhavesh Bhai Patel and acquitted several other accused in the case that included controversial former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist Swami Aseemanand who has also been accused in other cases in the past like Mecca Masjid blasts, 2006 Malegaon blasts and 2007 Samjhauta Express blast.
So what are the details of the Ajmer blast case?
On October 11, 2007, an explosion occurred in Dargah Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s courtyard in Ajmer in Rajasthan. The blasts took place just before ‘Iftar’ at the shrine that is popularly known as Ajmer Sharif. It was the holy fasting period of Ramazan and evening prayers had just ended. A crowd had gathered at the courtyard to break their fast. That is when a bomb that was placed inside a tiffin carrier went off. Reports said the blast claimed three lives and injured 17.
Initial investigations had pointed towards the hand of Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba in the attack. However, later, the investigation turned towards members of the RSS. A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court found Sunil Joshi and Devendra Gupta guilty on charges of conspiracy and Bhavesh Bhai Patel was found guilty of planting the explosive on the blast site. Joshi, a former RSS functionary, had died soon after the blasts. He was found shot dead in mysterious circumstances in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh and investigations by multiple agencies hinted it as an inside act, though the probe is still underway.
The court awarded life sentences to both Gupta and Patel for being found guilty under various sections of the Indian Penal Codi (IPC), Explosive Substances Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The acquittals in the case were given on “benefit of doubt.” At least a dozen witnesses turned hostile during the trial.
The high-profile case was taken over by the NIA from the Rajasthan anti-terror squad. The NIA filed three supplementary chargesheets in the case and it was fast-tracked after the BJP government came to power in 2014. Initially, the involvement was suspected of Islamist terror groups but after a confession by Swami Aseemanand, the investigation shifted to Hindu right-wing groups.
According to a report by The Hindu, Aseemanand confessed before a metropolitan magistrate in Delhi’s Tis Hazari court in December 2010. The report said Aseemanand confessed that he and other activists (presumably from right-wing groups) were involved in bombing places of worship like Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad. He also confessed involvement in Malegaon blasts and the Samjhauta Express blasts. He gave the motive as revenge against “terror acts of Muslims.”
Others accused in the case were Lokesh Sharma, Chandrashekhar Leve, Harshad Solanki, Mehul Kumar, Mukesh Vasani and Bharat Bhai.
Special Judge Dinesh Gupta’s nearly 500-page judgment was based on testimonies of 149 witnesses and 451 document submitted to his court.