The Army Court of Inquiry proceedings into the Malegaon blasts have thrown up facts that TEHELKA had been pointing to all along
Col Purohit: We have done two such operations earlier, which were successful. I was the one who had got the equipment for all of them… We have to make use of the fact that nobody in this country will be able to figure out who is behind all this.
RP Singh: The BJP has a problem with the VHP. The VHP will be like a headless chicken without Ashok Singhal and Pravin Togadia.
Col Purohit: The BJP will be as effective as the Shiv Sena at the national level if they remove the VHP.
Col Purohit: The Israelis ask us to give them proof of our involvement. What more proof do they need? We have completed two successful operations.
Maj Upadhyay: Hyderabad mein jo bomb blasts kiya tha woh apna hi aadmi tha. Woh colonel aapko batayenge kisne kiya tha (The Hyderabad blasts were done by our man. The colonel will tell you who it was).
THE ABOVE excerpt of conversations between Lt Col Shrikant Purohit and others accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts was first published by TEHELKA in 2008 and later in 2010. The conversations from 37 audio and three video tapes procured from the laptop of one of the co-accused Dayanand Pande, have been used as evidence to nail Purohit, a Military Intelligence (MI) official arrested in 2009.
TEHELKA had published the tapes again in 2011 (The Unturned Stone, by Rana Ayyub, 1 January 2011) and asked for an investigation into the role of the MI officials named in them. The tapes gain relevance now, in the light of conflicting media reports that Purohit could have been caught in the line of duty while spying on right-wing organisations. This conclusion has been arrived at after the Army Court of Inquiry’s hearing of witnesses — mostly from the MI — many of whom seem to support Purohit’s theory.
This is in line with what Purohit had said last year. He had asserted to the Anti-terror Squad (ATS) that he was an MI agent spying on both Hindu and Muslim extremists. However, it was his conversation with other army officials and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, one of the masterminds of the Malegaon blasts that got Purohit indicted. Pragya Thakur had confessed to meeting Purohit in Panchmarhi where he had told her about the two blasts that were executed under his supervision. While the witnesses cross-examined by the army can suggest that Purohit had infiltrated the Abhinav Bharat at the behest of the MI, the evidence against him is too incriminating to absolve him of the charges. Whether he was a spy who turned rogue owing to ideological reasons will need to be investigated. It is also quite surprising that the investigating agencies chose to close in on Purohit and Major Upadhyay while letting off the hook other army officials who were heard talking on the tape.
The MI seems to have downplayed its role in the issue. What emerges from the tapes is an attempt to shield some officers who were in liaison with Purohit and others who were in the know of his activities. In 2010, then ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi had said that they had a tough time questioning Purohit since someone from the MI rank and file would always be around. “It was not possible for Col Purohit to have carried out the blasts without keeping someone senior in the loop,” said an ATS official.
The reports on the Court of Inquiry have put the spotlight back on the MI officers’ role. It also is a reminder why the investigation needs to move beyond Purohit and rabble rousers from the Abhinav Bharat.