Was Purohit part of a bigger network?

November 9th, 2008 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) Although Lt.Col. Shrikant Purohit is the first serving officer of the Indian Army to be arrested in connection with a terror attack, investigators are widening their probe to determine whether more uniformed personnel are part of a bigger network to have infiltrated the armed forces.Unwilling to share details of the case, which are at a “sensitive” stage, investigating officers believe that Purohit may have “indoctrinated” other personnel with his political views and could not have worked single-handedly in planning such an attack.

“The arrest of Purohit is already a big blow to the army. After the current round of arrests of Hindu radicals linked to the army, top generals are just hoping this is a one-off case that does not prise open another can of worms,” said a senior official who is monitoring the case.

Purohit, whom the Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) describes as the mastermind of the Malegaon blast that killed five people in September, was one of the founder members of the right wing Hindu radical outfit Abhinav Bharat.

Sleuths from the ATS are also examining if Purohit was involved in an April 2006 incident in Nanded in Maharashtra, about 350 km from Malegaon, where a powerful bomb went off in the home of a retired Public Works Department (PWD) executive engineer Laxman Gundayya Rajkondwar killing two people.

According to a member of the investigation team overseeing the probe, interrogation of Purohit has been extensive and investigators were going through his telephone calls and correspondence with a fine toothcomb.

“That he was keen on establishing a home-grown right-wing terror network is certain. We want to know how far it has spread and the people involved,” the official said.

Efforts are also on to track down his laptop, which could throw light on the conspiracy behind the Malegaon blast. Another angle being probed is whether money from the funds meant for operational purposes of military intelligence had been allegedly siphoned off.

Military intelligence is investigating whether Purohit had access to weapons or explosives in any of his postings - he was posted at the Army Corps Training College and Centre at Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh when he was first called in for questioning.

As a Maratha Regiment officer, Purohit was posted in Jammu and Kashmir. Later, he was moved to the military intelligence corps due to a medical problem. He was posted in Maharashtra where his role was to liaison with the other security agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau and the state police.

The fact this episode has dented the image of the army, which has till date never been faced a predicament like this was reflected in defence minister, A.K. Antony’s remarks on the ongoing probe. The normally reticent Antony admitted that the “matter was serious” and the army was “determined to go to the root of the whole thing”.

Purohit is the eighth person to have been picked up by the ATS for alleged involvement with the Malegaon explosion. Malegaon is a Muslim majority town, about 280 km from Mumbai.

The other accused include Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shivnarayan Singh Kalsangram, Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu, Major Ramesh Shivji Upadhyay (retd), Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dattaram Dhavde and Ajay Rahirkar.

The surprise arrests have indicated a change of course for police, who had blamed Muslim activists for a wave of bombings that have killed more than 145 people across the country since May.

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