In a major relief to Jatin Chatterjee, better known as Swami Aseemanand, a Hyderabad court on Thursday granted him bail in the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast case.
The Fourth Metropolitan Sessions court directed him to furnish two sureties of Rs 50,000 each and not to leave Hyderabad without prior permission. Earlier associated with the RSS, the Right wing leader is considered an ideologue of the Abhinav Bharat — a fringe-group linked to other similar attacks targeting minority groups.
Nine persons were killed in the blast during Friday prayers at the historic mosque in Hyderabad city on 18 May, 2007. Five persons were killed in subsequent police firing near the mosque after protests broke out after the blast. The case, that is eerily linked with the 2007 Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast, 2008 Malegaon blasts, and the Samjhauta Express attack, has seen many twists and turns in the course of investigation in the last 10 years — from witnesses turning hostile to the lack of circumstantial evidence.
A total of 68 people, mostly Pakistani nationals, were killed in the blasts in two coaches of Samjhauta Express in Panipat on 18 February, 2007 whereas the blast at the shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer, carried out on 11 October, 2007 killed three pilgrims and left 15 others injured.
Aseemanand was an accused in all three cases that also included other senior Right-wing leaders as suspects. However, he was acquitted in the Ajmer Shareef Dargah blast case on 8 March citing the "benefit of doubt" after several witnesses turned hostile.
The recent verdict in the Ajmer Dargah blast case is especially significant because it will probably weaken the prosecution's case in the other two cases as well.
In the Mecca Masjid case too, as a report in The Times of India points out, key witnesses have retracted their statements against the RSS functionaries. The witness had earlier said that the accused had used their mobile phones to contact each other before and after the blasts to avoid the phone calls being traced back to them.
In an interesting aside, a controversial purported "confessional statement" was also leaked to the media in 2011, wherein Aseemanand had apparently "confessed" to being behind the Samjhauta Express, Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif and the Mecca Masjid blasts, in what he called a "bomb for bomb policy" against the so called "Islamic terrorism," according to The Hindu.
However, the accused in the case have argued that the leak was intentional and was meant to "intentionally outrage the religious beliefs of a class, and amounted to interference in fair trial and contempt of court," as reported in The Indian Express.
According to another report in The Hindu, it was earlier believed that the attack was an act of terrorism carried out by Hizbul Mujahideen or Lashkar-e-Taiba. However, later investigation linked the crime to the Hindu fringe groups. The key accused in the Mecca Masjid case, including Aseemanand, were some of the senior RSS fuctionaries and were also linked to the other two cases. However, as the investigation changed hands from the local police to CBI to the NIA, charges were dropped against many senior RSS leaders like Lokesh Sharma, Devender Gupta and Pragya Singh Thakur, The Hindu report said.
Aseemanand, was first arrested in connection with the Mecca Masjid case in November 2010, after absconding for over an year. A report in The Indian Express from the time reveals that Swami Aseemanad, alias Swami Omkarananda was hiding in Haridwar under fake identities before the CBI finally nabbed him. He has been in and out of the jail since then in connection with the three cases, however, he was finally acquitted in the Ajmer blast case earlier in March.
Updated Date: Mar 23, 2017 20:53 PM