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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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POLITICAL CONTROVERSIES DOG INVESTIGATION OF MALEGAON BOMB BLASTS

 
 

 

Sankar Sen, IPS (Retd.)
sankarsen_ips@yahoo.com
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences
Former Director General, National Human Rights Commission
Former Director, National Police Academy

Malegaon bomb blast case is increasingly taking new turns and ramifications. Police investigation into this complicated case has unfortunately become the object of raging political controversies. In this case Anti Terror Investigation Wing (ATS) of Maharashtra police has arrested as many as 10 persons and booked them under various sections of the IPC, Explosives Act and Sections 3(1), (2) and (4) of Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA). In this case bombs planted on a bike exploded and killed 6 and injured as many as 100 persons in Malegaon. Initially, the police suspected that some fugitive members of the Muslim Terrorist Organization, SIMI, were responsible for these blasts. The course of investigation changed diametrically when after getting fresh leads the police arrested a number of persons including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit, a senior serving army officer, (the first serving officer of the army to be accused in a terror case) and retired Maj. Dinesh Upadhaya and Kanpur based Mohant Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey.

According to police investigators Malegaon conspiracy was hatched by the members of Abhinav Bharat, a right wing Ultra Hindu Group. Purohit is the mastermind who procured the RDX used in the preparation of the bombs. Police investigation has revealed that Purohit pilfered 60 kgs of RDX from the military cantonment of Jammu and Kashmir. However, this information provided by witnesses need corroboration. Army authorities have discounted the possibility of such pilferage of RDX.

Leader of Opposition Shri L.K. Advani has lodged strong protest to the Prime Minister regarding torture and barbaric treatment of Sadhvi Pragya by the anti-terrorist squad of Maharashtra Police. Affidavit filed by Pragya in the Nasik court provides details of torture done to her by the police. Allegation of torture are also being repeated by other arrested persons. The National Security Advisor and the Director of Intelligence Bureau at the instance of the Prime Minister met Advani and informed him of the various facets of the case. NSA has also promised to go into the allegations levelled by Sadhvi Pragya. Though Advani did not comment on the merit of the investigation, many BJP and Siva Sena leaders are decrying the investigation and calling it a sinister conspiracy to destroy the reputation of individuals with the hope of tarnishing the image of BJP and fetching electoral games. A Siva Sena member has filed a Public Interest Litigation before the Bombay High Court seeking action against ATS officers for the alleged torture perpetrated on Pragya Singh Thakur.

In this case ATS has invoked sections of MCOCA for the suspects alleged links with an organized crime syndicate. Section 3 and its other sub sections provide punishment for life or for a term which shall not be less than five years for a person who commits the offence of organized crime. MCOCA provides police a period of 180 days to submit charge sheets against the accused persons. Further under the Act a statement given before an officer of and above the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police will admissible in evidence. It may be mentioned in this connection that the Malimath Committee in its report on Review of Criminal Justice System recommended MCOCA as a model of anti-terrorist legislation and recommended similar legislation to be passed by the central government to combat terror. However, the use of MCOCA will be justified if there is hard evidence of organized criminal conspiracy. It will provide more powers and time to the police to complete the investigation, but if its draconian provisions are misused and the cases collapses in the court of law, the Maharashtra police will incur public opprobrium. Advani did not question the veracity of the entire probe. He thus differentiated his position from that of the BJP President Shri Rajnath Singh who went whole hog to accept the RSS-BJP allegation that the case against the Malegaon blast accused persons was framed up and Hindu saints were being targeted to appease the Muslim vote banks and bolster secular credentials of the Congress.

According to press report the police investigation has revealed that Purohit along with the other accused Dayanand Pandey were also thinking of eliminating two top RSS functionaries, General Secretary Mohan Bhagawat and another senior leader Indresh for being soft on the Muslims. This reported disclosure by Purohit has been confirmed by the other suspect Dayanand Pandey. Pandeys laptop seized by the police has provided valuable information and clues to the police. RSS leaders however, have termed this revelations as divisive tactics of UPA to fuel baseless rumors through the ATS in order to divide the Sangh and Hindu opinion.

It is further reported in the press that the accused persons in Malegaon blast case were also involved in Samjhota Express Indo-Pakistan friendship train - blast killing a number of passengers travelling back to Pakistan on February 9, 2007. A police team of Haryana had gone to Bombay to question Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Lt. Col. Purohit in connection with the Samjhota blast probe. However, no positive clues perhaps so far have been unearthed.

It is very unfortunate that the political considerations are impinging on difficult and time-taking investigation against the terrorists. Investigating police officers are dragged into controversies, making their task more difficult and problematic. The allegations of the BJP and VHP and other ultra Hindu groups that Malegaon bomb blast case is nothing but a frame-up, and Hindu groups and organizations were targeted with a view to tarnishing their image, lack credence. Without some concrete evidence I am sure ATS would not have registered cases and launched such wide-ranging investigations covering a number of states. Further, police investigations and reports will be scrutinized by the court. Again in a sensational case like this court would not grant remand of the accused persons without a careful scrutiny of police records. However, selective leaks and statements before the media by the investigating officers affect the quality and outcome of the investigation and embroil them in avoidable controversies. It would have been prudent on the part of the investigating officers not to share details of the on-going investigation with the media. There is always the risk that some of the details of investigation are likely to be exaggerated and twisted by the interested media persons. There is also no doubt that some of the statements made by the witnesses before the police during investigations will be retracted before the court. The police will end with egg on their face unless they are able to collect hard evidence after thorough and painstaking investigations instead of relying on oral testimonials. And this is not going to be an easy job. In their own self-interest the police should not talk to media till the investigation is completed or if it is absolutely necessary.

It will not be proper to criticize the abusive and intrusive role of the media, as has been reportedly done by the Maharashtras DGP, without taking note of the fact that many police officers in order to win limelight are in the habit of prattling on and providing unsubstantiated information to the media. However, there is also a flip side. If the police adopt a totally closed mouth and no comments policy, the reporter will rely on unverified information and attribute it to sources inside the police. Hence in investigation of any important and sensational case, a senior officer occasionally should brief the press about the course of investigation of the case and dispel doubts and scotch rumors.

It is also a crowning pity that phrases like Hindu terrorist and Muslim terrorist are being loosely used by the media and even by some political leaders. This will only go to broaden the constituencies of the terrorists and provide wrong notions to the common people and thus, make the work of the police investigators more complex and onerous. Terrorists, irrespective of their religious persuasions, are ruthless enemies of civilized order and have to be treated as such. The country now has to gird up its loins to combat terror. To communalize the issue for political gains will be a serious error. It will create confusion in public mind and weaken counter-terrorist programmes and operations.



The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
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