THE probe into the February 18, 2007, explosions on board the Samjhota Express to Pakistan that killed 68 persons, 59 of them Pakistanis returning home after visiting India has become a virtual quagmire thereby further discrediting Indian investigating agencies.Initial investigation had needlessly misguided people, pointing the needle of suspicion to Jihadi terrorists belonging to Pakistani organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LET).
A finding by the US Department of Treasury, which is responsible for stopping flow of funds to terrorists, also blindly blamed the LET and Al Qaeda. Subsequently, Indian investigation agencies claimed that further investigation made by them showed that the act of terrorism on board the train was actually the work of Hindu extremists, who had association with some Hindutva organizations in the past and Indian Military Intelligence operatives. They went to town with a confession reportedly made before a magistrate by Swami Assemanand with alleged past links to some Hindutva elements. In his confessional statement, he had confessed his role not only in the incident on board the train, but also in the terrorist attacks against members of the Muslim community at Ajmer Sharif, Malegaon and the Mecca mosque at Hyderabad. However, apparently after receiving death threats from RAW operatives, he is reported to have retracted his confession. In its issue of March 31, 2011, the “Times of India” has reported as follows: “In a major twist, Swami Assemanand has turned hostile and has accused investigative agencies, including the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), of pressurizing him to make confessions”.
Coincidentally, the retraction of his confession came a day before the meeting between Prime Ministers Dr. Manmohan Singh and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani at Mohali during the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final. It also coincided with the meeting of the Home/Interior Secretaries of the Governments of India and Pakistan held on March 28 and 29. The Indian delegation to the talks was reported to have shared with the Pakistani delegation some details of the confessional statement on March 29. Assemanand’s denial of the confession does not absolve him of responsibility for his involvement in the train blast. He can even now be successfully prosecuted provided other suspects who were arrested during the investigation—either on the basis of his confession or through other independent evidence— stick to their respective statements and testify against him in the court. The Indian investigating agencies could find themselves in a very embarrassing situation in the Samjhota inferno probe. This is what happens when investigating agencies deviate from the path of professionalism and let themselves be used in partisan political games guided by bigotry and hate.
The retraction by Swami Aseemanand of his “confession” may not hurt the investigation in the 2007 Samjhota blasts case. Sources say the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has in its possession records of a call in which Swami Dayanand Pandey asks Malegaon blasts accused Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit to provide RDX to Ramji Kalsangre and Sandeep Dange before the Samjhota blasts. A Home Ministry official said they are examining another conversation in which Pandey claims to have received a call from a Delhi-based right-wing activist after the train blasts, claiming “Samjhota was done by my boys”. “In the wake of these discoveries, the NIA is examining the statements of the accused of the 2008 Malegaon blasts. They have already questioned Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh,” said the official. However, it is now an established fact that Indian Military Intelligence personnel, hardcore Hindutva operatives and RAW functionaries were involved in the Samjhota Express inferno and they must be brought to justice posthaste. – Dailymailnews