The National Investigation Agency has dropped charges against Pragya Singh Thakur and five others accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case. Charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) were also dropped against 10 other accused, including the the lieutenant colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit. On 25 April, about two years after the NIA told a Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court in Mumbai that it did not have any evidence to link nine Muslim men to the September 2006 Malegaon bombings, the court discharged the accused from the case. Earlier that month, the NIA had gone back on its stance and opposed the released of the Muslim men.
Two blasts took place in Malegaon, around 300 km north of Mumbai, in September 2006, and again in 2008, killing 37 people and injuring more than 100. There are two different sets of people accused in the case—the nine Muslim men arrested by the state Anti-Terrorism Squad soon after the attacks, and four Hindus arrested by the NIA after it took over the investigation in 2011. In April 2014, the NIA had said there was no evidence supporting the ATS’ report recommending that the nine men be prosecuted. Before that, in 2011, then prosecutor for the NIA, Rohini Salian, acknowledged that based on new information, right-wing extremists were also involved in the 2006 blasts.
In her story “The Believer” that was published in our February 2014 issue, Leena Gita Reghunath reported on how Swami Aseemanand, one of the main accused, along with Pragya Singh Thakur, Sunil Joshi, Bharat Rateshwar, and others, planned a number of other attacks that included but were not restricted to the Malegaon blasts. By Aseemanand's account, senior leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) endorsed and encouraged the attacks. In this excerpt, Regunath recounts how the conspiracy was planned and executed, beginning at the Shabari Kumbh in 2006, a three-day festival held by the Sangh in the Dang district of Gujarat as a means of converting Christian tribal people to Hinduism.
FOR THE THREE YEARS PRECEDING the Shabari Kumbh, alongside preparing for the festival, Aseemanand had been meeting with several other long-time Sangh workers to discuss a problem far more distressing to them than religious conversions. At the core of this group were Pragya Singh Thakur, the executive member of the ABVP; and Sunil Joshi, the former RSS district leader in Indore.
In early 2003, Aseemanand received a phone call from Jayantibhai Kewat, who was then a BJP general secretary for the Dangs. “Pragya Singh wants to meet you,” Kewat told him. Kewat arranged for them to visit his house in Navsari, Surat, the next month.