Saffron terror: Swami Aseemanand implicates RSS Chief Bhagwat
In the latest Caravan issue, the primary accused in the Samjhauta blast case recalls an incriminating conversation with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
All misfortune pales in the face of firm conviction. So it is that Swami Aseemanand -- prime accused in the Samjhauta blast case -- can contemplate his bleak future with equanimity. "Whatever happens to me, it’s a good thing for Hindus,” the "warm and open" Swamiji tells Caravan writer Leena Gita Reghunath, “Logon me Hindutva ka bhaav aayega”—it will stir Hindutva among the people."
Caravan magazine's latest cover story, The Believer, is the product of two painstaking years of research and reporting, which included four startlingly candid interviews with Aseemanand himself. He lays out the minutiae of the plot, describing the planning in detail. And he names names. [Read the cover story in its entirety here]
We all know about his co-conspirators such as ABVP's Pragya Singh Thakur and Sunil Joshi, the ex-RSS man. But in his latest confession, Aseemanand aims much higher:
Aseemanand told me 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.”
Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.’”
The naming of Bhagwat by a prime accused in a saffron terror case is incendiary and unprecedented -- most alleged connections between the two men have been mostly of association, such as sharing the same stage, attending the same Hindutva celebration, etc. It is, therefore, puzzling why Caravan doesn't play this "revelation" up either in its headline, or in the excerpt highlighting the story. The revelation instead lies buried amid a long and detailed description of Aseemanand's (not very compelling) life.
Until now, Indresh Kumar was the biggest RSS functionary to be directly implicated in various charge-sheets where he was accused of aiding and abetting the primary conspirators -- much to RSS's chagrin which, at the time, responded by launching an aggressive dharna claiming a Congress party conspiracy. Aseemanand's decision to come out and name the RSS chief himself is certainly big news.
Reghunath did ask Bhagwat's office to respond to these allegations, and they asked her to email them, but never did respond to her queries. She also reached out to Narendra Modi to confirm Aseemanand's claim that that "Modi approached him at a senior RSS gathering in Ahmedabad, and told him, 'I know what Keshubhai is doing to you. Swamiji there is no comparison to what you are doing. You are doing the real work. Now it has been decided that I will be the CM. Let me come and then I will do your work. Rest easy.'"
Modi's office did not respond, either.
And why should they bother? For in the end, Aseemanand saying so doesn't make it so. A man facing a possible death penalty is free to unburden his soul -- but also to speak with little regard for fact. Without proof, these allegations amount to little more than one person's version of a conversation in the distant past.
That said, Aseemanand can still do great damage if he decides to repeat his allegations in a courtroom. With the trial in the Samjhauta case finally moving forward, he may yet give the RSS sarsanghchalak many sleepless nights.
Read "The Believer" on the Caravan website.
Note: The copy has been corrected to note that Caravan did indeed reach out to Bhagwat for a response but did not receive one.
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