Radical Hindu terror plot in unsolved bombings?November 15th, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) More arrests are expected in the coming weeks as the frightening dimensions of a radical Hindu terror plot start to unravel, with investigators indicating that it had the makings of a larger conspiracy and planning of reprisal killings of Muslims for serial bombings in a number of Indian cities. Ten people, including a self-proclaimed Hindu seer and a serving lieutenant colonel, have so far been arrested for the Sep 29 bombing in a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in the small Maharashtra town of Malegaon that killed five people. Investigators are now examining if a Hindu terror conspiracy was involved in several other blasts - like the one of the Samjhauta Express train in 2007 - that have till date remained unsolved.
The Anti-Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) arrest of Mahant Amritanand Dev alias Dayanand Pandey, the self-styled pontiff from Kanpur, which investigators say is a “prize catch”, has already revealed that it was under his instructions that Lt. Colonel Shrikant Purohit procured RDX from an army depot that was used in the Malegaon blast.
“Pandey was present in all the pre-blast meetings in Bhopal, Jabalpur and Faridabad, monitored operations meticulously and was also responsible for arranging the finances that came in through illegal channels,” an ATS source told IANS.
Investigators are now questioning the suspects on the May 2007 blast at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, the attack on the Samjhauta Express train between India and Pakistan in February 2007 and the April 2006 twin blasts at New Delhi’s Jama Masjid.
“Not much headway has been made into the investigations in these attacks. We need to examine if a similar radical Hindu fringe could have been behind these bombings and that is under the scanner now,” said a senior intelligence official, who could not be named because of the sensitivity of his position.
“We could see more arrests in the coming days but that will depend on whether we can get sufficient evidence.”
It is believed that Pandey, a dropout from the National Defence Academy, was in touch with two other accused who are on the run - Ramji Kalsangara, who allegedly planted the motorcycle owned by the Hindu ascetic Pragya Singh Thakur in Malegaon, and Sameer Dange.
In the Mecca Masjid blasts as many as 14 people were killed and over 50 injured. The case was investigated by the city police special wing and was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation which could not come to any conclusion. There were some remote indications of Bangladesh-based terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami’s involvement.
Investigations into the Samjhauta Express explosion, in which at least 68 people were killed, and the Jama Masjid blast also failed to make headway and police could not across on any tangible leads.
Police have already established a strong link between Pandey and some of the suspects in the Kanpur blast case through surveillance - on Aug 24, two members of the right-wing Bajrang Dal were killed there while assembling bombs.
“With his (Pandey) arrest we will now get to the bottom of this case and see if there are linkages as well in the 2006 Nanded blasts in Maharashtra,” said a senior police official.
Unearthing this terror network has indicated a major course correction for police, who had blamed Islamic terrorists for a wave of bombings that have killed more than 145 people targeting cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Jaipur this year.
The arrests have reinforced growing suspicions over the last few years of a potential threat from Hindu extremists.