Hindutva terror probe haunts Pune investigation

Hindutva terror probe haunts Pune investigation

Praveen Swami

Investigators focus on jihadist groups, but some fear Hindutva group may have carried out German Bakery bombing

Key suspects in Abhinav Bharat’s terror campaign have never been held, hence controversy

Signs are investigation into German Bakery blast will take time

PUNE: Back in November 2008, as Lieutenant-Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit walked into a Nashik court to face trial for his alleged role in the bombing of a Malegaon mosque, Hindutva activists showered the rogue military officer with rose petals.

Last week’s bombing of the German Bakery in Pune has brought the ugly story of Abhinav Bharat — the Hindutva terrorist group Purohit helped found — back from the obscurity to which it was consigned by the Mumbai carnage, which took place just days after the trial in Nashik began.

In private, Hindus sympathetic to the ultra-right have been saying the bombings demonstrate the moral legitimacy of Purohit and his Hindutva terror project. Even as the police detained more than two dozen young Muslim men for questioning, some community leaders have been arguing that the bakery attack could just have easily been carried out by a Hindutva group.

Part of the reason for the controversy is that key suspects involved in Abhinav Bharat’s terror campaign have never been held. Jatin Chatterjee — better known by his alias Swami Asimanand — is thought to be hiding out in Gujarat’s Adivasi tracts, where he runs a Hindu proselytisation organisation. Ramnarayan Kalsangra, Abhinav Bharat’s key bomb-maker, is also a fugitive.

Founded in the summer of 2006, Abhinav Bharat was set up as an educational trust with Himani Savarkar — daughter of Gopal Godse, brother of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin — as its chairperson. But, documents filed by Maharashtra prosecutors show, members of the group were soon involved in discussing armed activity. In June 2007, Purohit allegedly suggested that the time had come to target Muslims through terrorist attacks — a plea others in Abhinav Bharat rejected.

But, the evidence gathered by the police suggests, many within the group were determined to press ahead. At a meeting in April 2008, key suspects including Madhya Pradesh-based Hindutva activist Pragnya Singh Thakur and Jammu cleric Sudhakar Dwivedi, also known as Amritananda Dev Tirtha, met Purohit to hammer out the Malegaon plot. Explosives were later procured by Purohit, and handed over to Kalsangra in early August 2008.

Abhinav Bharat’s long-term aims, though, went far beyond targeting Muslims: its members wanted to overthrow the Indian state and replace it with a totalitarian, theocratic order. A draft constitution prepared by Abhinav Bharat spoke of a single-party system, presided over by a leader who “shall be followed at all levels without questioning the authority.” It called for the creation of an “academy of indoctrinization [sic.].” The concluding comment was stark: “People whose ideas are detrimental to Hindu Rashtra should be killed.”

Purohit’s plans to bring about a Hindutva state were often fantastical. He claimed, the prosecutors say, to have secured an appointment with Nepal’s King Gyanendra in 2006 and 2007 to press for his support for the planned Hindutva revolution. Nepal, he went on, was willing to train Abhinav Bharat’s cadre, and supply it with assault rifles. Israel’s government, he said, had agreed to grant members of the group military support and, if needed, political asylum.

Many believe that Abhinav Bharat carried out many attacks earlier attributed to jihadist groups — notable among them, the bombing of the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad in May 2007, and a subsequent attack on the famous shrine at Ajmer. Despite persistent questioning of Abhinav Bharat cadre, though, the investigators have not been able to link the group to the attacks.

Matters are complicated by the fact that some of the operations attributed to Abhinav Bharat may not have had much to do with the group — even though its leading luminaries claimed responsibility for the attacks.

For example, Purohit allegedly claimed to confidants that the attack was carried out by the Dewas-based Hindutva terrorist Sunil Joshi, who was murdered in December 2007. But the United States Treasury Department later imposed sanctions on Lashkar-e-Taiba activist Arif Kasmani — a Karachi-based jihadist with close links to the Taliban and al-Qaeda — for financing the attack.

In January this year, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik went further, admitting that “there were some Pakistan-based Islamists who had been hired to carry out the Samjhauta Express attack.”

Judging by recent Hindutva terror attacks, like last year’s bombings in Goa, it is unclear if they still have the capabilities to mount a sophisticated attack of the kind seen in Pune. Few investigators believe that the organisations — or other Hindutva cells — mounted the operation. “Still”, says one Maharashtra police official involved in investigating both Hindutva and jihadist attacks, “you can’t help wondering — what if?”

Signs are the investigation into the bombing of the German Bakery will take time. All that investigators have by way of suspects are three men recorded holding brief meetings before the blast by a poor-quality closed-circuit television camera. From the videotape, it is unclear if the men had anything to do with the attack.

The longer the investigation takes, the more time conspiracy theories and speculation will have to proliferate — likely deepening the communal fissures the bombing is already opening up.

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3 பதில்கள் to “Hindutva terror probe haunts Pune investigation”

  1. vedaprakash Says:

    Parveen Swami has just twisted the musings and tried to misinterpret the rumours mischevously.

    This would only discredit his calibre of covering the jihadi and Islamic terrorism.

    Readers know that PS has been the regular columinist to write on those subject matter!

    Tamil version and the comments can be seen here:


  2. vedaprakash Says:

    Nowhere is safe, the idea of India is under attack
    Maroof Raza, Feb 21, 2010, 12.28am IST

    The announcement by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) leaders in rallies across Pakistan in early February, that Pune along with Kanpur and Delhi, would now be targeted, confirmed what many already knew – that the gaze of the so-called jehadis had shifted beyond the Kashmir Valley. It is ‘Brand India’, increasingly popular with global investors and tourists, that they wish to destroy because it reflects India’s economic success and multicultural ethos. The German Bakery in Pune fit the bill. Talks or no talks with Pakistan, such attacks look set to continue.

    About a decade ago, it became clear to those who sponsor anti-India terrorism in Pakistan, that their best efforts to wrest Kashmir from India were getting nowhere. So Pakistan’s terrorist ideologues along with military and intelligence hardliners initiated Phase-II of their design ‘to bleed India by a thousand cuts’. The attacks on Mumbai and Pune are the most recent examples of what is to follow. Whereas Part-I of the Zia era offensive was aimed at Kashmiri secession through a violent uprising – and this has failed — Part-II is aimed at the centres of India’s secular credentials and economic growth, outside the Valley. Many of them are what might be referred to as India’s ‘Tier-II’ cities.

    To achieve this objective, Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, with the help of groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) set up the ‘Karachi Project’ in the early 2000s, possibly 2002. LeT produced the JuD. The Pakistani agencies’ aim was to create groups of sleeper cells and sympathizers across India, who would be tasked to undertake terrorist operations in Indian cities when they received orders from Pakistan. For this, they began recruiting, funding and training groups such as the Indian Mujahideen (a front for JuD), with the aim of identifying and mapping targets that represent India’s multicultural and secular ethos (Pune, Ajmer, Varanasi), or are icons of India’s growth story (Bangalore and Hyderbad.) In short, places that represent the idea of India. And the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai was their most spectacular achievement.

    The so-called jehadis resent anything that contradicts their hardline Salafist Islamic worldview. Thus, a multicultural, multi-ethnic society like India (and the US) is their logical enemy. Places frequented by foreign nationals — in Pune, or Goa’s beaches — have long been on their radar screens. So were most of the targets of the 26/11 attacks. If past experience is anything to go by, then centres of communal harmony and places of worship that reflect India’s multi-religious heritage could be their next targets. Most of them are in our Tier-II cities. Previous targets have included the Dargah at Ajmer, the Akshardham Temple in Ahmedabad and pockets of communal harmony such as Hyderabad and Varanasi. These places offer tailormade situations for terrorists. They are crowded (offering cover), have shoddy and ill-equipped police forces (as in most of India’s small towns) and produce instant headlines when attacked.

    But while the official response to a terrorist attack is to beef up security in the place that has already suffered, terrorists rarely attack the same target twice. The security forces remain tied to the previous target in large numbers with pickets and posts, which is precisely the terrorists’ aim as they shift their gaze to the next ‘safe’ target till it is attacked. That was the case with Pune, and sadly will be the case with the next set of targets.

    The writer is a defence analyst and serves on the strategic think-tank, Security Watch India

  3. vedaprakash Says:

    A ‘moth-eaten’ India? Chandan Mitra

    A small but influential section of public opinion in India has been pleading for “flexibility” in the Government’s approach to the Kashmir issue. Some important opinion makers have, in fact, gone on record to suggest that India will gain, not lose, stature if it gives up the Kashmir Valley in order to buy peace with Pakistan. At any rate, we will stop bleeding in the Valley and the world would look upon us as a mature, self-assured, emerging global power once the “thorn” of Kashmir is removed. They argue that none other than Jawaharlal Nehru internationalised the issue by scurrying to the UN in 1948 and pledged India to conduct a plebiscite in the State.

    After losing nearly 1,00,000 lives in 22 years of insurgency, isn’t it high time that Delhi considered this “out-of-the-box” solution? And if that is not quite practical yet, what about joint sovereignty? Why can’t undivided J&K have a united quasi-Parliament thereby abolishing borders and giving equal say to India, Pakistan and the “people” of the State over its destiny? Washington, which loves such complex arrangements that facilitate a permanent foothold for itself in strategic regions, (erstwhile Yugoslavia being a case in point) has privately pushed this line for long. There may not be too many takers for such abject capitulation, but the fact that these views are increasingly aired in public appears to have put the Government on the defensive. Under pressure from Washington, New Delhi stonewalled the legitimate demand to call off the proposed Foreign Secretary-level talks despite last week’s blast in Pune.

    This section of appeasement peddlers are, therefore, certain to overlook the menacing threat conveyed earlier this month by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (euphemism for Laskhar-e-Tayyeba) deputy chief Abdur Rahman Makki. Speaking at a Kashmir Day rally in Islamabad on February 5, the fire-spewing Makki not only let slip that Pune was on their radar, but also declared that jihad was also to be waged against the alleged denial of river water to Pakistan. This is a very significant addition to Pakistan’s agenda, doubly important because it is a “secular” inter-governmental matter rather than emotional or Islamist. The annexation of Kashmir on grounds of its denominational character is a declared jihadi objective. But Talibani/jihadi forces had so far refrained from dovetailing this issue with other disputed matters between India and Pakistan.

    The specific reference to river waters suggests that despite pretending to have no truck with jihadis, the Pakistani Government is covertly in cahoots with them and could well have prompted the hardliners to raise the water issue to bring additional pressure on India. Further, it is also likely that the jihadis believe it is a matter of time before Pakistan’s civilian Government collapses and hard-line groups seize power in Islamabad with the support of ISI. They have thus initiated the process of understanding matters of statecraft so they can play an effective role in a future Government — a chilling prospect indeed.

    This brings us to the fundamental question: Will Pakistan’s blood-feud with India ever end? Will Islamabad be satisfied even if, for argument’s sake, Delhi agrees to part with the Kashmir Valley? All these years, Pakistani leaders across political hues kept harping primarily on Kashmir, former President Musharraf candidly declaring it to be the core issue. After resisting this classification for some years, India succumbed, saying it was ready to discuss Kashmir if Pakistan addressed our concern over cross-border terror. At Sharm-al-Sheikh, India bent down further agreeing, first, to delink terror from talks acknowledging Pakistan too was a victim and, second, to bring Balochistan on the table. Events of the last few months culminating in Delhi’s latest genuflection clearly establish that the Sharm-al-Sheikh joint declaration was not a case of “bad drafting” as the Government wanted us to believe. It was, in fact, a formal statement of India’s revised position which also amounted to quietly admitting Pakistan’s charge that we have fomented disaffection in Balochistan.

    A pattern is now rapidly falling into place. First Pakistan forced us to agree, howsoever reluctantly, that Kashmir was indeed the “core issue”. Second, it got us embroiled in the problem of Balochistan whose mere mention in an official document was sufficient for Islamabad to claim victory.

    And finally, by getting jihadis to talk about the water dispute, Pakistan has ensured that the arena of its conflict with India continues to widen. As it gets its way on one, it pushes forward a second and then a third. Shrewdly assessing the Obama Administration’s burning desire to exit Afghanistan soon, Pakistan is cunningly seeking to get more and more pressure mounted by Washington on Delhi.

    Meanwhile, India’s humiliation at the London conference and the conclave in Turkey confirms Islamabad’s resounding diplomatic success in excluding India from the core group on Afghanistan. Having convinced the West that it is as much a victim of jihadi terror as India, Pakistan has also managed to put India on the back-foot over Kashmir. The US is breathing down our neck to concede “something” on J&K without insisting on visible progress in clamping down on the masterminds of 26/11. It is a measure of Delhi’s pathetic helplessness that JuD/LeT supremo Hafiz Sayed, his No 2 Rahman Makki and all luminaries of the Rogue’s Gallery of terror cock a snook at us and hold public rallies pledging a bloodbath for Kashmir’s “liberation”, while India meekly pleads for immediate resumption of talks with a triumphant Pakistan!

    As far as the issue of water is concerned, there is frankly nothing to discuss. The Baglihar Dam on the Chenub was referred to the World Bank by Pakistan and the independent arbitrator gave a go-ahead to India with a few suggested modifications. Under the Indus Water Treaty of 1955, India is entitled to the use of the waters of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej while Pakistan has legitimate rights over Jhelum and Chenub, but the usage is subject to certain conditions. India has adhered to these in constructing the Baglihar Dam, which will generate 450 MW of electricity for power-starved Kashmir, but the flow of Chenub waters to Pakistan will not be blocked.

    The jihadi threat to forcibly extract more water from India clearly flies in the face of international agreements and counter-guarantees. In any case, jihadis probably neither comprehend the details of such binding agreements, nor do they care for international opinion. The opening of the water front by jihadi groups is aimed solely at aggravating alleged Pakistani angst against India, thereby legitimising their ongoing campaign of terror. Makki’s bloodthirsty diatribe, saying that “denial” of water justifies targeting cities like Delhi, Kanpur and Pune, that is, places way beyond Jammu and Kashmir, gives the game away.

    Who knows what more will be added to the jihadi wish-list in the years to come? Hyderabad, Junagadh, Assam, Kolkata? Jinnah complained in 1947 that he had been tricked into accepting a “moth-eaten Pakistan”. The jihadis are carrying forward the promised 1,000-year war to reduce India to a moth-eaten entity, within and without.

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