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This article was first published 8 years ago  » News » A tale of two 'terrorists' and a cautionary lesson

A tale of two 'terrorists' and a cautionary lesson

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
May 17, 2016 09:49 IST
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The Malegaon blasts case and the 1993 Mumbai blasts case have a strange parallel.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf explains how the two terror cases separated by ideological motives and nearly a decade between them found a curious commonality.

In my teenage years I was the proud owner of a motorcycle that I drove all across the city.

I often lent my motorcycle to friends and family who wanted it for a ride.

It had become what they call in Mumbai 'janta ka motorcycle.' Whoever wanted the bike, perhaps to take his girlfriend out or in an emergency, asked me for it and I willingly handed over the keys.

Fast forward some 25 years. I read Sadhvi Pragya's case and realised how frightening things can get if you trust friends and relatives with the ease that I did.

For those who came in late, Sadhvi Pragya featured prominently in the Malegaon blast case.

She had bought an LML motorcycle (registered number GJ 05 BR 1920) in 2003. Although the bike was registered in her name, one of her acquaintances, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, rode it regularly.

Shivnarayan Kalsangra later gave the bike to a relative, Ramji Kalsangra.

Investigators believe Ramji Kalsangra placed explosives on the motorcycle and parked it in a busy area of Malegaon, Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008. The bike's engine and the chassis number had been been tampered with.

Ramji Kalsangra, investigators say, had cleverly used a fake number plate so that the police would not detect who the bike's owner.

The aim was to target as many Muslims as possible -- Malegaon has a large Muslim communnity -- revenge for the blasts then frequently occuring in the country in which the accused were Muslims.

Seven people died in the Malegaon blast.

During the investigation, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad headed by senior police officer Hemant Karkare -- who was killed on 26/11 by Ajmal Kasab and his accomplice -- retrieved the bike's engine number after conducting a chemical test at a Nashik laboratory and after getting in touch with the LML company.

The ATS discovered that Sadhvi Pragya had bought the motorcycle. She was arrested and charged in the Malegaon blast case.

Based on this evidence Sadhvi Pragya has been in jail for the last eight years, awaiting a court verdict.

When she was arrested, Sadhvi Pragya repeatedly told the police that she had sold the motorcycle to a man named Sunil Joshi in October 2004 for Rs 24,000 and was being held illegally by the police.

Sadhvi Pragya is also one of the accused in Joshi's murder. He was killed in December 29, 2007.

Last week, the National Investigating Agency diluted the case against Sadhvi Pragya and Shiv Narayan Kalsangra by dropping the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against both of them.

Ramji Kalsangra is still absconding. He is also an accused in the Samjhauta train blast case.

Since the court has not delivered its verdict, we won't know if the sadhvi is a terrorist or not. Did she knowingly give the motorcycle keys to Kalsangra? Or was she unaware of the plot?

What we do know is that she landed in trouble for giving Shivnarayan Kalsangra the keys to her motorcycle.

A similar thing happened to Rubina Memon, the sister-in-law of the absconding terrorist Ibrahim 'Tiger' Memon, the main conspirator in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts which killed over 250 people.

Rubina lived in Dubai from August 1992 to August 1994 with her husband Suleiman and two children.

She was not present in Mumbai when the serial blasts shocked the city that Friday in March 1993, but the investigation headed by then deputy commissioner of police Rakesh Maria found a link to the conspirators through Rubina Memon.

On March 12, 1993, one cell of terrorists with explosives in a Maruti van were unnerved when gas started leaking in the vehicle near Worli, central Mumbai.

The van was meant to travel to the Mumbai municipal corporation headquarters in south Mumbai and wreak havoc there.

The gas leak forced the terrorists to abandon the van. A day later, the Mumbai police discovered the van and defused the explosives.

Investigations revealed that the van was owned by Rubina Memon who owned Flat 25 on the sixth floor of the Al Hussaini Co-operative Housing Society Limited, Mahim, north central Mumbai. She also owned a garage in the building.

After her arrest, Rubina told the police the van had been gifted to her by her father-in-law Abdul Razak Memon, and that she had no idea what it was being used for.

The prosecution told the court that although Rubina lived in Dubai, the van was in her name.

According to the prosecution, if the van was used for terrorist activities, then the same would lead to the logical conclusion that these acts would not have taken place without Rubina's permission.

In addition to this charge, Rubina was also charged with making arrangements to finance terrorist (external link) activities through her bank accounts.

A TADA court sentenced Rubina Memon to life imprisonment. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Her husband Suleiman Memon, who lived with her in Dubai, was acquitted as no charge could be proved against him.

The lesson that all vehicle owners must take from these two women is that one must be extremely careful before lending one's vehicle to family or friends.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /