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Malegaon: Exactly a year before today as Muslims in Malegaon were wrapping up Tarawih – the special night prayers offered during Ramadan when the terrorists struck the city once again. They had already done so in 2006 when they had struck at the eve of Shabe Barat. This time they chose Ramadan – the holy month of Ramadan regarded as one of the holiest months in Islamic calendar. And at the time, Muslims normally gear them up for Eid Al Fitr –an annual mega carnival that marks end of the month-long fasting.


“We had not taken any food after ending the fast that day. My husband was late and we were waiting for him so as to have the food together. As he came, an elated Ferheen rushed to buy the food from nearby stalls”, recalled Fareeda Shaikh, mother of Ferheen, the 10-year old girl who died in the blast on September 29 last year. “Suddenly we heard a huge explosion. We were still to comprehend what had actually happened when someone came and informed that she had been severely injured in the blast.” Fareeda broke and could complete somehow. “She never came back after that.”


Like Ferheen, six others had also died in the powerful blast.


In a near simultaneous incident, terrorists had also struck outside a mosque in Modasa, a town in Gujarat. The blast in Modasa had killed a Muslim boy.


As these blasts had followed similar incidents in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi, and like it was claimed after the 2006 Malegaon blast, investigators initially suspected Islamist groups such as SIMI or the Indian Mujahideen to be behind these attacks too.


However as it turned out later, the slain Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare painstakingly carried out an investigation that finally led to the involvement of Hindu terrorists in the attacks. Indian Express was the first to break the news:

“The Maharashtra police are said to have cracked the September 29 bomb blasts in Malegaon and Modasa town in neighbouring Gujarat saying these were allegedly carried out by the Hindu Jagran Manch, an Indore-based Hindu extremist group known to have links to the BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The key suspects are being questioned, top Maharashtra Police sources have told The Indian Express”, the newspaper wrote on October 23 in 2008.


Hemant Karkare said...

"We are being very very careful. In fact, when we want to question a suspect and if he or she has any Hindutvawadi connections, we make sure once, twice, thrice, that we have enough reason and evidence to even question. Normally it is not like that. We are able to freely question anyone we suspect"

The breakthrough though unbelievable for many, was not unexpected for the Indian Muslims and a vast majority of secular people in the country - tired of the attacks on innocent civilians occurring on regular interval on Indian soil. The Malegonians in particular had believed Hindu radical groups are targeting Muslims ever since they faced the first attack on September 8, 2006. After September 29 attack in 2008, their belief had become more profound.


“The blast is a clear target on Muslims by Hindu extremists. This time we want a thorough and transparent enquiry into the investigations”, people in Malegaon were heard telling ministers and government officials visiting the city in the aftermath. Hemant Karkare was also one among them who came to Malegaon after the blast.


“In fact, immediately after the blast I had visited Malegaon along with the Deputy Chief Minister and other officials and witnessed the anger of the locals who shouted some slogans," Indian Express had quoted then ATS chief Hemant Karkare as saying on November 27, 2008 – a day after he was killed in November 26 Mumbai attack. "After that I told my men that we have to pursue this case very objectively and not start with assumptions that people of this community or that community could be responsible."


The investigations opened the Pandora’s Box and besides terrorist attacks at some other places also unearthed a deeply rooted conspiracy to overthrow the Indian government. More astonishing was the fact that some in-service and retired army officers were also engaged in terrorist activities in association with a Sadhvi and a Sadhu.

“Lieutenant-Colonel Purohit, the first serving officer of the Indian Army to be arrested in connection with a terror bomb attack, has confessed to being mastermind of the Malegaon blast. The 37-year-old officer reportedly told police he had mapped the conspiracy and provided the explosive for the for the September 29 'revenge' attack which killed six people.


It is learnt that Purohit, who was arrested on November 5, admitted to supplying the deadly RDX and weapons to members of the Abhinav Bharat, a radical Hindu outfit. Sources said the Mumbai's Anti-Terrorism Squad was planning to question another serving army officer in this connection whose name cropped up during Purohit's interrogation”, Times of India wrote on November 7, 2008.


Even more shocking, the investigations also threw light on how the group was planning to kill few RSS leaders:

“As per the ATS report that appeared in the media, ATS investigations had brought to light sinister plans of the rightwing organization. Members of Abhinav Bharat – Dayanand Pandey, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, S. Apte and Lt Col Prasad Purohit – were planning to kill RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat and Rashtriya Muslim Manch’s (RSS outfit) senior leader Indreesh”, Zeenews said on November 21, 2008.


Every passing day had a new revelation from the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS). On the expected lines, the revelations shocked the Sangh Parivar more than anyone. Their entire theory of Islamic Terrorism on Indian soil had received severe setback. Bharti Janata Party (BJP) – the political wing of Sangh Parivar immediately sprang into actions. On one hand, people allegedly associated with Parivar were showering flowers over the accused in the Nashik court, on the other BJP leaders were reportedly using all means to pressurize the government. This had been admitted by even Hemant Karkare:

Was the pressure telling on the investigation, what with someone who could be the next prime minister of the country questioning the credibility of the ATS?


"Of course," was the answer. "We are being very very careful. In fact, when we want to question a suspect and if he or she has any Hindutvawadi connections, we make sure once, twice, thrice, that we have enough reason and evidence to even question. Normally it is not like that. We are able to freely question anyone we suspect”, Indian Express wrote on November 27, 2008 quoting from Hemant Karkare.


The entire investigations, however, halted after ATS Chief Hemant Karkare died in the worst ever terrorist attack on the Indian soil on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai. How the case would be carried forward became imminent when ATS filed its chargesheet against the accused:

"The Malegaon bomb blast case investigations exposed Hindu terror groups for the first time in India. On Tuesday, the Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) filed a 4,000 page chargesheet in the case after three and a half months of investigation.


...But there is one setback as the police has failed to get the chargesheet on record in the MCOCA court. The very fact that the ATS could not manage to get the chargesheet admitted in the court in first attempt itself is indicative enough of the technical hurdles the prosecution is likely to face in this long drawn legal battle", CNN-IBN reported on Wednesday January 21, 2009.


The hope of any further investigations or progress into the case received yet another setback when the special Mumbai court dropped the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Prohit and other accused on July 31 this year.


Exactly one year after the 2008 blast today, people in Malegaon are helplessly recalling the efforts taken by Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) under its the chief Hemant Karkare.


"We are miserably missing Hemant Karkare. The way the entire case is being handled after his unfortunate death is shocking to say the least", said Advocate Irfana Hamdani to and asked, "Where is the local link? Where are all those people the accused had confessed giving bomb making trainings?"


In line with Advocate Irfana, Kul Jamaati Tanzeem leader Abdul Hamid Azhari also expressed shock over the way case is being handled.


"The country is facing threats from terrorist groups based in Pakistan, there is no doubt in this. However, does it mean we ignore the internal threats that had taken the whole country for rampage for quite a long time?" he asked.


The pain of Fareeda Shaikh - mother of the blast victim Ferheen is also not far from different. Stating that Hemant Karkare had revived the hope of justice among the people, she said, "But now it seems we will never get the justice."







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