Swami Asee­m­anand: Sci­ence grad­u­ate who donned saf­fron

The Free Press Journal - - NATION -

Naba Kumar Sarkar, Jatin Chat­ter­jee, Omkar­nath. What's in a name?

Swami Asee­m­anand, ac­quit­ted on Mon­day in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, is a man of sev­eral names but com­mit­ted to one shade of saf­fron.

Born Naba Kumar Sarkar in Ka­maarpukar vil­lage in West Ben­gal's Hooghly district, Swami Asee­m­anand, as he came to be pop­u­larly known, stepped into the na­tional spot­light in 2010 when he was ar­rested by the CBI for his al­leged role in the blast in Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007.

Nine peo­ple were killed and 58 wounded when a pow­er­ful ex­plo­sion ripped through the mosque com­plex dur­ing Fri­day prayers.

The 66-year-old saf­fron-clad self con­fessed monk was sub­se­quently named as an ac­cused in two other ter­ror in­ci­dents the same year -- the Oc­to­ber 11, 2007 blast in Ajmer's famed Kh­waja Chishti shrine in which three peo­ple were killed and the bomb­ing of the Samjhauta Ex­press on the in­ter­ven­ing night of Fe­bru­ary 17-18, 2007, in which 68 peo­ple lost their lives.

Mon­day's ac­quit­tal, on grounds of lack of ev­i­dence, is his sec­ond. In March last year, he was ab­solved by a spe­cial Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA) court in the Ajmer blast case.

As the be­spec­ta­cled, grey­haired Asee­m­anand walked free on Mon­day, the only cloud in his hori­zon is the pend­ing Samjhauta trial, which shows lit­tle sign of re­sum­ing with wit­nesses from Pak­istan re­fus­ing to come to In­dia to tes­tify, an of­fi­cial said.

The story of the man who grew out of his hum­ble be­gin­nings be­gan some­where in the 1970s. He had com­pleted his grad­u­a­tion in sci­ence in in 1971, but his in­ter­ests lay else­where as well and he be­came in­volved with rightwing groups from school, go­ing on to work full time with the Van­vasi Kalyan Ashram in Pu­ru­lia and Bankura dis­tricts in the state.

It was at the Ashram that Naba Kumar Sarkar was chris­tened Swami Asee­m­anand in 1981, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Asee­m­anand now faces trial only in the 2007 Samjhauta Ex­press train blast case since he was ear­lier ac­quit­ted in the Ajmer Dar­gah blast case of the same year.

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