26/11 han­dler con­victed Rahul takes on Modi over fail­ure to curb price rise in 2006 arms haul case

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Charul Shah let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com Congress vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi ar­rives at Par­lia­ment on Thurs­day.

A des­ig­nated Ma­ha­rash­tra Con­trol of Or­gan­ised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Thurs­day con­victed Lashkare-Taiba’s (LeT) 26/11 han­dler Abu Jun­dal and 11 oth­ers in the 2006 Au­rangabad arms haul case, say­ing the ex­plo­sives and ri­fles were meant to elim­i­nate Naren­dra Modi, then Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter, and VHP leader Pravin To­ga­dia.

“This was a con­spir­acy af­ter the 2002 Gu­jarat ri­ots to elim­i­nate then Modi and To­ga­dia,” said spe­cial judge Shrikant Anekar, up­hold­ing the pros­e­cu­tion’s claim. There was di­rect ev­i­dence that the con­sign­ment of arms was pro­vided by Pak­istan and brought in to avenge Godhra ri­ots and spread un­rest, the court said.

The ac­cused were con­victed un­der the charges of Un­law­ful Ac­tiv­i­ties (Pre­ven­tion) Act (UAPA) and con­spir­acy un­der the In­dian Pe­nal Code (IPC) along with Ex­plo­sives Act, In­dian Arms Act and Ex­plo­sive Sub­stance Act. But, all of them, in­clud­ing Lashkar op­er­a­tive Jun­dal, whose real name is Zabi­ud­din An­sari who was de­ported from Saudi Ara­bia in 2012, es­caped the strin­gent MCOCA.

Eight peo­ple were ac­quit­ted in what has come to be known as the 2006 Au­rangabad arms haul case.

On May 8, 2006, a team of Ma­ha­rash­tra anti-ter­ror­ist squad chased two cars near Au­rangabad and ar­rested three ter­ror sus­pects. The ATS re­cov­ered 30kg RDX, 10 AK-47 ri­fles and 3,200 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion from one of the ve­hi­cles. Jun­dal, in the other car, man­aged to flee. Hail­ing from Beed district in Ma­ha­rash­tra, Jun­dal was on the radar of in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, which, through phone in­ter­cepts, traced him to Pak­istan and got to know in 2012 of his plans to move to Saudi Ara­bia.

Jun­dal was picked up for ques­tion­ing by Saudi po­lice in June 2012. A year later, he was brought to In­dia and led the ATS to an­other hide­out from where 13kg RDX, 1,200 car­tridges and 50 hand grenades were re­cov­ered.

The spe­cial court framed charges against the 22 ar­rested ac­cused in Au­gust 2013. The trial was stayed by Supreme Court for a while af­ter one of the ac­cused chal­lenged the con­sti­tu­tional va­lid­ity of cer­tain­pro­vi­sion­sof MCOCA. The stay was va­cated in 2009.

In Au­gust 2015, Bom­bay HC di­rected the lower court to ex­pe­dite the trial.

Price rise came to a boil in Par­lia­ment on Thurs­day, with Congress vice-pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi fault­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi for the run­away cost of kitchen sta­ples, a charge that prompted fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley to spring to the gov­ern­ment’s de­fence.

Gandhi high­lighted spi­ralling prices of pulses such the pop­u­lar arhar dal, potato and tomato to tear into Modi’s poll prom­ise of tam­ing food in­fla­tion.

“There is a new slo­gan in vil­lages, arhar Modi, arhar Modi, arhar Modi,” he said in the Lok Sabha, mim­ick­ing the BJP’s 2014 poll slo­gan of “Ghar Ghar Modi (Modi in ev­ery house­hold)”.

He ques­tioned Modi’s si­lence on price rise. “You talk about start up In­dia, stand up In­dia, make in In­dia, but not price rise,” he said, mock­ing Modi’s sig­na­ture projects. Fi­nance min­is­ter Jait­ley coun­tered the Congress leader’s charge, and reeled out sta­tis­tics to make his point that the price rise is sea­sonal.

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