Swami Aseemanand Says the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Sanctioned Terrorist Attacks
Swami Aseemanand, incarcerated in Ambala Central Jail for abetting terrorist attacks on various targets between 2006 and 2008—Samjhauta Express (February 2007), Hyderabad Mecca Masjid (May 2007), Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) and two attacks in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008)—which together took the lives of 119 people, has made a revelation to The Caravan which has been published in the latest issue of the magazine. In the course of over two years, Aseemanand granted four exclusive interviews to The Caravan journalist Leena Gita Reghunath inside Ambala jail, the total duration of which ran into 09 hours and 26 minutes. In the last two interviews, Aseemanand repeated that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time.
Aseemanand told The Caravan that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.” (A list of questions was sent to Bhagwat, but he has not responded.)
Extract from the 11,200-word-long The Caravan article:
Over the course of our conversations, Aseemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”
Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation’s powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living—a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this.” Indresh added, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”
Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.’”
Chargesheets filed by the investigative agencies allege that Kumar provided moral and material support to the conspirators, but they don’t implicate anyone as senior as Bhagwat. Although Kumar was interrogated once by the CBI, the case was later taken over by the NIA, which has not pursued the conspiracy past the level of Aseemanand and Pragya Singh. (Joshi, who was allegedly the connecting thread between several different parts of the conspiracy—including those who assembled and those who planted the bombs—was killed under mysterious circumstances in December 2007.)
Sixty-three-year-old Aseemanand dedicated almost his entire adult life to the tribal arm of the RSS, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA). At the time he planned the terrorist attacks, he had been the national head of the VKA’s religious wing, the Shraddha Jagran Vibhag—a position created especially for him—for a decade. In honour of Aseemanand’s service to the Sangh, in December 2005, he was awarded a special Guruji Samman on the occasion of the birth centenary of MS Golwalkar. The award came with a one-lakh-rupee cash prize and the veteran BJP leader and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi gave the ceremony’s keynote address. Not only have the RSS and the BJP never disowned Aseemanand for his roles in the terrorist attacks, or taken back the awards, Aseemanand confessed to The Caravan that RSS-affiliated lawyers are providing his legal aid.
Knowing the national relevance of the sensitive information that Aseemanand revealed to The Caravan journalist, in an interview which was conducted with the full consent of Aseemanand, we place these facts in front of the public, along with a tape recording and transcript of parts of the conversation that mention Mohan Bhagwat. The full story is at caravanmagazine.in/reportage/believer
Date: 5 February, 2014
Mr. Anant Nath
Dr. Vinod K Jose
Editor, The Caravan and Director, Delhi Press
Executive Editor, The Caravan
Total number of interviews: 4
Dates taken: 10 January 2012, 22 June 2013, 9 January 2014, 17 January 2014
Place taken: Ambala Central Jail, Haryana
Total duration of all interviews together: 9 hours, 26 minutes, 51 seconds
Relevant audio related to Mohan Bhagwat:
Interview 3: 1:40 – 1:42
THE CARAVAN TRANSCRIPTS
Writer: Leena Gita Reghunath
Editors: Vinod K Jose (reporting and content) and Alex Blasdel (structure and story)
Copy Editor: Ajay Krishnan
Fact Checker: Manas Roshan
Transcribed on: third interview—10 January 2014; fourth interview—17 January 2014
Transcription extracts / highlights on Mohan Bhagwat:
From third interview with Aseemanand, 10 Jan 2014, Ambala Central Jail, Haryana:
@ 1 hr: 40 min:
Aseemanand: Mohan Bhagwat, Indresh and Sunil, they all came to meet me in Shabari Dham.
Sunil said to Bhagwatji: Thoda hindu ka akraman hona hai. Sangh se jude hue log hai jo yeh vichar rakhte hai. Jo bhi hoga hum tak hi rakhenge. Sangh se inko jho denge bhi nahin. Aap se koi madat nahi lenge. Aap adhikari hai is liye aap ko bata rahe hai. Is liye aap ko bata raha hai, ki hum log soch rahe hai. [We should do some violence in the name of Hindus. There are many in the Sangh who feel so. Whatever happens it will be limited to us. We will not link the Sangh with this. We won't take any help from you for this. We are letting you know because you are the top officials of the Sangh that we are planning to do this.]
Then Mohanji and Indresh, both said: Yeh bahut achcha hai. Zaroori hai. Sangh se nahi jodna. Sangh nahi karenge. [unclear] Hindutva ke liye bhi aisa koi hai. Sangh ka yeh vichar nahi hai. [This is great. It's very important that it be done. But the Sangh will not do this ... (unclear) ... That now Hindus will also have someone to do this. But don’t link this to the Sangh. Because this not the ideology of the Sangh.]
Then told me: Swamiji aap yeh karenge toh hum nishchint hoga. Koyi galat nahi hoga. Criminalization nahi hoga. Aap karenge toh crime karne keliye kar rahe hai aisa nahin lagega. Ideology ke saath juda rahega. [unclear] Bahut zaruri hai yeh hindu ke liye. Aap log karo. Aashirwad hai. Is se aage kuch bhi nahi. [If you will do this, we will be at ease with this. Nothing wrong will happen then. This will not be criminalized then. If you do it then people won't say that we did a crime for the sake of doing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings. Nothing more than that from us.]
Interview 4: 2:29 – 2:30
Extract from fourth interview January 17, 2014:
Aseemanand: Phir kya hua ki Mohanji bola ke [So then Mohanji told me that] “aap kaam kar sakte hai.” Indreshji bola ki “haan aap kaam kar sakte hai. Sunil ko leke aap kaam kar sakte hai. Par ham log nahi rahenge. Aap hai to ham log aapke saath hai yeh aap maan lena. Aap jo karenge galat nahi hoga. Disha teekh rahega.” [You can work on this. You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved. But if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you on this. If you do this we are ensured that nothing wrong will happen. This will be on the right course (with your presence).]
This I had told Bharat and Bharat had told this to the CBI. I was surprised how CBI got to know all these things. That only me, Sunil, Bhagwatji and Indresh had met in a camp at the Shabri Dham. Yeh yeh baat hua tha [we had talked about these particular topics] – it was very surprising to me that how CBI knew about this. [In] 2005, after the Surat meeting this happened, close to Diwali.
Corrections: 1)|5 February, 2014| This press release previously stated that the reporter's first interview with Aseemanand was in December 2011. The reporter met Aseemanand at a hearing that month. The first interview took place on 10 January 2012. 2) |9 February, 2014| An earlier line from the story, also excerpted in the press release, contained a transcription error. The line originally read: 'According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”' This line has been modified to: 'According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this.” Indresh added, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”' The Caravan regrets the errors.