Government, Congress, CPI-M worry over armyman’s terror link (Roundup)

November 7th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) A senior army officer’s arrest for the Sep 29 terror attack in Malegaon is a “serious matter”, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Friday, even as the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) underlined the danger of “Hindutva elements” infiltrating the army. “This incident is a matter of serious concern for all of us,” Antony said, referring to Tuesday’s arrest of Lt. Col. Shrikanth Purohit by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in connection with the bombing in Malegaon that killed five people.

“We are determined to go to the roots of the whole thing. The Maharashtra Police and IB (Intelligence Bureau) are investigating the case and so far (as the) army is concerned, it is fully assisting in the investigation,” Antony said on the sidelines of a function here.

“Outside agencies are investigating the issue and the defence ministry is awaiting a report. We are also taking whatever steps are required internally. The matter is being considered in full seriousness,” Antony said.

Purohit — the first Indian Army officer to be charged with masterminding a terror attack — is said to be a founding member of Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu rightwing group. He has been remanded in judicial custody till Nov 15.

Police suspect that Purohit helped accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, retired army Major Ramesh Upadhyaya and his associate Sharad Kulkarni in procuring explosives used in the devastating blast. The three are already in police custody.

The Congress, which heads India’s ruling coalition, implicitly accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of trying to influence the country’s secular institutions with its ideology.

“We are proud of our army, but ashamed of individuals who under the influence of some political parties try to infiltrate the secular and democratic institution of our country,” Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress spokesperson, said at a press conference here.

“The country needs an answer to the question: has the BJP tried to use the secular and democratic institutions of our country to propagate its hateful agenda?”

The CPI-M also slammed the BJP.

“Instead of strongly coming out against such extremist groups resorting to terror, the BJP has dismissed the serious development as a ’sponsored investigation’,” the party said in a statement.

Referring to the alleged involvement of serving and retired army officers in the Malegaon blast, the CPI-M urged the government to take the matter seriously.

“The central government must take the reports of Hindutva infiltration in the army seriously,” the CPI-M said.

“The investigations into the Malegaon bomb blast have revealed the involvement of certain extreme Hindutva organisations and elements. The role of some retired army officers and the case against a serving army officer have disturbing implications for national security,” it said.

Strongly criticising Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia’s argument that Hindus cannot be terrorists, the CPI-M said: “The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and its outfits are making absurd statements that Hindus cannot be terrorists. These are the same people who go on talking about ‘Islamic terrorism.’”

The BJP has distanced itself from the Malegaon bombing. However, some Hindu groups have decided to provide legal aid to the accused in the case.

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