The probe into the Malegaon blast seems to be opening up a Pandora's box. Investigating agencies suspect that the blasts on the Samjhauta Express, at Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid and the Ajmer blasts could have been carried out by the same outfit and that there is a need for relook at the investigations into these cases.
K P S Raghuvanshi, former chief of Mumbai's Anti Terrorism Squad, does not think Hindu terrorism is a new phenomenon. He says his team made headway into the network of radical Hindu groups way back in 2006 when they were investigating the Nanded blast. The former ATS chief, who is currently additional director general of police (railways), spoke to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa about the capabilities of radical Hindu groups and his findings during the investigation into the Nanded blast.
The investigation into the Malegaon blast seems to be a continuation of the Nanded blast case. Do you think the efforts made by the Mumbai ATS in 2006 are paying off now?
I really cannot say that. The ATS is doing a very good job at the moment. All I can say is that we said back in 2006 that Hindu fundamentalism is growing and it was necessary that we acted upon it. What we had said back then has proven to be true now.
The narco-analysis reports of two accused in the Nanded blast states that some of these groups planning to carry out terror strikes enjoyed the patronage of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. During your investigations, did you find this to be true?
I cannot comment on that. All I have to say is that the narco-analysis reports came in very late and by the time we started to look into it, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. We however got to know that those involved in the Nanded blast were also part of the Parbhani blasts case.
Tell me more about the Nanded case.
We found that these men had trained in Pune. We did get leads into other cases, but we had to restrict ourselves only to the Nanded blast case. However, one thing I would like to tell you, if these men had succeeded in their operations then matters would have been even more serious.
Lt Colonel Srikant Purohit (an accused in the Malegaon case) claimed during his narco-analysis that he had taken the help of local Muslims in Malegaon to assemble the bombs. During your investigation did you find any link between radical Hindu groups and Muslims?
Narco-analysis reports can be misleading at times. Until we get some concrete evidence during the investigations, we cannot jump to any conclusion. No, I did not find any links between Muslim and Hindu groups when I was investigating the Nanded case.
Did Hindu outfits run parallel camps along with the Students Islamic Movement of India?
No. Not to my knowledge.
What do you have to say about the timing of the Malegaon blast investigation? Does it look politically motivated to you, since it's suddenly happening virtually on election-eve?
We as policemen do not go by religion when we carry out investigations. We look at it as a crime and only think that the criminal should be brought to justice. Hence I say it is not a politically motivated investigation.
Is Hindu terrorism a new phenomenon, according to you? If not, since when have they have been into such activities?
It is not a new phenomenon. Investigations conducted during the Nanded case show that they were into such activities since 2004 itself.
Can Hindu groups strike at will like, let us say, the Indian Mujahideen? What are their capabilities?
They are into such activities. But I must also add that they have not acquired the capabilities they may have desired as yet.
Where are Hindu groups getting their funds from?
They have various sources. It could be local patronage; in the Nanded blast it was pointed out that the men raised funds from a gym that they were running.
There is a lot of talk about RDX being used by Hindu groups. Where are they sourcing it from?
I would not be able to comment on that as it is a matter of investigation. This is the first time that RDX has been found in Malegaon. The earlier cases had no traces of RDX.
How many terror modules do these radical Hindu groups have?
It is difficult to say unless we have a total database. But I would like to point out that their base is strongest and numbers highest in Mumbai, Kerala and Kanpur.
During the Nanded blasts, the name of one Mithun Chakravarthy cropped up. Who is this man?
We have not been able to track him down. I am sure it is a false name of a person in the group.
Did the name Abhinav Bharat or Pragya Singh crop up during the Nanded blasts?
Purohit was in touch with the Mumbai ATS when he was a Military Intelligence officer. He has also attended a programme conducted by the ATS. How did he manage to dodge all of you?
Yes, had came to the ATS and he did have informal interactions. He was a Military Intelligence officer and hence there was no question of getting suspicious about him. He never interfered with the investigation as we never discussed the investigation with him. Yes, he had been invited with many other military officials, former RAW officials and clerics for a series of sessions for ATS officials.
A ban on the RSS and VHP as is being sought, do you think it would help?
This is a very political question. Bans do help the investigating process at times. But I would also like to point out that banning SIMI did not help.
Why was the Nanded blast case hushed up?
No, no. It was not hushed up. In fact, there is no question of it being hushed up. The investigations were conducted properly. But I would also like to point out here that out of the five accused, three were killed while making the bomb.