Main Yashwant Shinde Bol Raha Hoon

An RSS worker trained in firearms and bomb-making reveals the Sangh’s extremist underbelly

Yashwant Shinde, a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the former head of the Bajrang Dal in Maharashtra. Shinde claims in an affidavit that senior RSS leaders facilitated training for him and others in the use of modern firearms as well as bomb-making in preparation for a widespread terror campaign. ILLUSTRATION BY SHAGNIK CHAKRABORTY
30 September, 2022

In a series of four interviews over the course of September, Yashwant Shinde, a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak—full-time worker—spoke to Sagar, a staff writer at The Caravan. Shinde explained how he was trained to carry out covert operations in Pakistan and conduct bombings across India that could be blamed on Muslims. In 2003 and 2004, he alleged, his fellow trainees bombed mosques in the Maharashtra towns of Jalna, Purna and Parbhani. Others who allegedly helped facilitate the conspiracy have been tied to a bombing campaign that killed more than one hundred and twenty people over five years. Most of Shinde’s claims line up with the details of these cases in media reports and court records. It is not possible to fully verify Shinde’s claims unless they are tested against evidence such as phone records, training-camp registers, forensics reports and crime scene videos and photographs, which can only be accessed by investigative agencies. Many of these allegations were mentioned in an affidavit that Shinde submitted to a district court at Nanded, in which he asked to be made a witness in the 2006 Nanded bombing case. The Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, which had investigated the case and filed a closure report, has opposed his application.

Shinde is still devoted to the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva ideology. However, he has slowly grown disillusioned with the RSS leadership after seeing many friends lose their lives conducting extremist violence for the Sangh. He has grown to believe that the sacrifices of ideologically driven extremist workers have been squandered for the political gain of the Bharatiya Janata Party, instead of the glory of Hinduism itself. He came to believe that extremist violence would only harm the Sangh Parivar in the long run. Without fully understanding their level of involvement, Shinde claims to have alerted several senior leaders in the Sangh Parivar, either directly or through intermediaries, that members of their organisation were conspiring and conducting a terror campaign.

These leaders include Indresh Kumar, a member of the RSS national executive; Shrikant Joshi, a former RSS national executive member; Venkatesh Abdeo, a former central general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad; Sunil Deodhar, a national secretary of the BJP; Tapan Ghosh, a former RSS leader and founder of Hindu Samhati; Pramod Muthalik, the founder of the Shri Ram Sena; and Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghchalak—supreme leader—of the RSS. If Shinde’s claims are true, much of the leadership of the RSS and VHP were either part of the conspiracies behind the bombings or knew that Sangh members were part of the conspiracy and failed to act on that information.

Worryingly, Shinde’s claims, as well as charge sheets produced by previous investigations into these cases, detail how many members of the conspiracy were trained by serving or retired personnel of the Indian Army and the Intelligence Bureau. The evidence suggests that since the early 2000s, the Sangh Parivar cultivated and trained multiple cells of people to conduct an organised terror campaign across the subcontinent, with the help of individuals from India’s security establishment.

Detailed questionnaires regarding Shinde’s claims were sent to Kumar, Bhagwat and Deodhar. Questions were also sent to Milind Parande, the current secretary general of the VHP; Pragya Singh Thakur, a BJP member of parliament; and LK Advani, a former home minister and BJP president. Organisations named by Shinde in the interviews, including the CBI, the Indian Army, the National Investigation Agency and the Tripura Baptist Christian Union, were also sent questions. None of them had responded at the time this interview went to press.

The interview has been translated, edited and condensed.

Sagar: When and how did you join the Sangh? I learnt from your affidavit that you ended up in Jammu and Kashmir in 1994. Were you an RSS or Bajrang Dal member then?