Malegaon blasts: While Sadhvi Pragya escapes the law, Karkare's image takes hit

Remember Hemant Karkare, the police officer who died on the streets of Mumbai battling terrorists?

No, Ajmal Kasab and his gang did not kill Karkare on 27 November 2008. He died a thousand painful deaths on Friday the 13th when the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a chargesheet in the Malegaon blasts that shreds Karkare's reputation and questions his integrity.

In 2009, India decorated Karkare, the then chief of Mumbai ATS, with the Ashok Chakra for laying down his life for the country. Now, he has been thrown into the ugly chakra of terrorism politics.

In 2006, when residents of Malegaon were observing Shab-e-Baraat, two powerful blasts ripped through the Maharashtra town, killing 37 persons and injuring hundreds. Most of them were Muslims.

From 2007 to 2008 similar attacks took place on the Samjhauta Express (February 2007), Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid (May 2007), the Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) and once again in Malegaon (September 2008).

The case was cracked open by Karkare while probing the second blasts in Malegaon. Piecing together some disjointed leads, Karkare tracked down the owner of the motorcycle used in the blasts. It belonged to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.

Karkare's investigations led the police to a Hindutva plot, an alleged plan to respond to a bomb with a bomb. Soon, Thakur and Lt Colonel SK Purohit, a serving army officer, were identified as the main suspects, arrested and chargesheeted. A 4500-page chargesheet by the ATS gave details of the plot and identified Abhinav Bharat Sangh, a Hindutva outfit, as perpetrators of these attacks.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

On Friday, the National Investigations Agency, which probed the blasts afresh gave a clean chit to Pragya Singh Thakur. And sullied Karkare's image for ever.

According to the The Indian Express, the new chargesheet says the investigation conducted by Karkare was flawed, that the evidence produced against Colonel Prasad Purohit, another key accused, had been fabricated, and statements of witnesses were taken under duress.

During the original probe, the ATS had found explosives at Purohit's residence in Deolali. NIA officials now claim the incriminating evidence was planted at Purohit's home by the ATS.

Investigations in India rarely lead us to the truth. Ishrat Jahan's encounter, Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj's murders are two telling examples of how different agencies discover their own brands of contrasting truths and facts in high-profile cases. So, nobody can say with any conviction if Karkare's ATS was the hero of the Malegaon probe or the villain, as being made out now.

By some sheer coincidence, since the change of government at the Centre, probe in all the blasts believed to have been  plotted by Hindutva outfits have turned on their head. In many cases, like the Ajmer Dargah probe, witnesses have suddenly turned hostile. In others, like the one in Malegaon, fingers are now being pointed at the original investigators.

The stakes have always been high. In 2014, Swami Aseemanand, the main accused in the Samjhauta blast case, told  a news magazine in  a detailed interview that the attacks were discussed with RSS leaders after a conclave. "

"Aseemanand told me (the interviewer) about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation’s powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living—a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you,” the Magazine wrote.

Aseemanand later denied the interview but the magazine stood by the story and also submitted audio recordings of the interaction as evidence.

In 2015, Rohini Salian, who was a special prosecutor in the Malegaon case, had alleged that she was under pressure from the NIA against the accused. She had later filed an affidavit naming the NIA officer who had approached her. Salian was later denotified from the panel of lawyers.

Amidst the politicking and bickering, Sadhvi Pragya seems to have escaped the law. And Karkare's image has become the casualty.

Think about this: If the ATS under him really planted evidence to frame innocent karyakartas of Abhinav Bharat Sangh, did he deserve the Ashok Chakra?

And, if he didn't, if his findings were correct, did we really deserve a martyr like Karkare?

Updated Date: May 14, 2016 10:47 AM

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