9 Dead. 11 Years. 0 Convictions Hyd Blast Case Back To Square One How the prosecution’s case crumbled
Hyderabad: Twenty months after it took over the Mecca Masjid blast case from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed to have made two key arrests from Madhya Pradesh in December 2012.
The NIA had nabbed Rajendhar Chowdary, a 35-yearold farmer, and Tejram Parmar, a 31-year-old mason, for allegedly planting bombs at the historic mosque on May 18, 2007. Later, the NIA did not even include Parmar’s name in the chargesheet and Rajendhar was acquitted, bringing the terror narrative — that started as a cross-border Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) conspiracy and ended as a domestic Hindutva terror plot — back to square one.
After the blasts, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Hyderabad police launched a probe and arrested several persons suspected to be HuJI operatives.
Five suspects, including an MBA student, were even sent to Bengaluru and subjected to narco analysis at Bowring and Lady Curzon Ho- spital, where they allegedly confessed to have carried out the terror strike with RDX supplied by their associates from Bangladesh.
Subsequently, the Mecca Masjid blast case was handed over to the CBI and two cases were registered by it in June and October, 2007.
When the CBI arrested Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma and Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Aseemanand in 2010, who were also accused in the Ajmer Dargah blast case, the terror narrative took a new turn from HuJI to Hindutva.
Almost four years after the CBI started its probe into the case and filed a chargesheet accusing persons affiliated to various Hindu religious outfits of having planned and executed the blasts to avenge terror strikes on temples, the probe was handed over to the NIA in April 2011.
The NIA continued the line of investigation pursued by the CBI and arrested three more persons, including the alleged bomb planters — Rajendhar and Tejram — along with a textile businessman from Gujarat, Bharat Bhai.
With the special court acquitting all the five accused, defence counsel claimed that the case was politically motivated and evidence was fabricated, while some victims rightly said that “justice delayed is justice denied”. Hyderabad: The ‘shoddy’ investigation carried out by the three investigative agencies that probed the Mecca Masjid blast conclusively led to the prosecution’s case collapsing like a pack of cards and acquittal of all accused, insiders say. With the result that even 11 years after the incident, there is no clarity as to who actually carried them out.
The case was probed by the Hussaini Alam police for the first two months. Police pointed the finger of suspicion on Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami and rounded up a few local youths on the charge that they triggered the blasts.
The CBI then took over the case and, in the first chargesheet, named a few persons belonging to RSS and Hindu Vichar Manch, including Aseemanand of Chhattisgarh-based NGO Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, as accused. The case was then taken over by the NIA from the CBI in 2011 and over the next three years, the NIA filed three supplementary chargesheets.
“The witnesses produced FREE NOW: by the prosecution and the testimony of Assemanand and his retraction later doomed the case for the state in the Mecca Masjid Case,” top investigative sources told TOI.
Out of the 226 witnesses cited by the NIA to prove its case, only 66 of them were crucial whose statements were capable of showing serious bearing on the result of the case. All the remaining witnesses were either doctors who conducted the post-mortem on the deceased in the blasts and police firing, or probe officials who attended panchnama, etc.
However, even the 66 witnesses turned hostile and rendered the NIA helpless. The majority of these witnesses belonged to places like Jharkhand and Indore from where many accused in the case hailed from. “These witnesses were teachers and small traders who said they knew the accused and their plans. But with their disinclination to sail with the prosecution midway, the balance was titled in favour of the accused,” said the sources.
Added to the key witnesses turning hostile was the confession fiasco of Aseemanand, key accused in the case. He had deposed before a Delhi magistrate in 2010 stating that he had carried out the blast as he was upset over the attacks on temples that targeted Hindus. Further, Asseemand told the magistrate that since the Nizam of Hyderabad opted to merge with Pakistan at the time of independence, he chose Hyderabad as the target in order to “punish” the city for siding with Pakistan. Aseemanand’s statement was recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC by the Delhi judge.
However, in 2011, Aseemananda wrote a letter to a Hyderabad court judge retracting the statement he made before the Delhi judge. “I made the statement confessing to my involvement in the Mecca Masjid case owing to pressure from CBI,” he said.
The sources told TOI that the NIA judge who delivered the verdict on Monday completely disregarded the statement made by Aseemanand before the Delhi judge. “This, coupled with the witnesses turning hostile, led to the prosecution’s case collapsing like a pack of cards,” they said.
There were other issues too. The prosecution relied on the statement of an alleged jail mate of Aseemanand who claimed that the latter confided in him about the conspiracy behind the Mecca Masjid blast. But the NIA could not even show proof that this witness was in jail along with Aseemanand.
Aseemanand being produced for a court hearing in 2011