Yesterday, two years after it 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 National Investigation Agency (NIA) went back on its stand and opposed discharging the men.
The blasts took place in Malegaon, around 300 km north of Mumbai, in September 2006, 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. Prakash Shetty, the NIA counsel, told the court on Tuesday, “It wasn’t the right stage to evaluate the evidence against the two sets of accused independently and therefore it is my humble submission that they [the Muslims accused] should not be discharged.”
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 this excerpt from “The Believer” that was published in our February 2014 issue, Leena Gita Reghunath reports on Swami Aseemanand's account of how senior leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) encouraged, instigated and may have aided the perpetrators of a number of such attacks, including but not restricted to the Malegaon blasts.
THE NIGHT OF 18 FEBRUARY 2007, the Samjhauta Express started on its usual course from platform 18 of the Delhi Junction railway station. The Samjhauta, also known as the “Friendship Express”, is one of only two rail links between India and Pakistan. That night, almost three-quarters of its roughly 750 passengers were Pakistanis returning home. A few minutes before midnight—an hour after the train started its journey—improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated in two unreserved compartments of the 16-coach train. Barrelling through the night, the train was now on fire.