Malegaon blasts case: Political patronage of ATS investigation

By A. Mirsab,,

Mumbai: The 2006 Malegaon bombings were a series of bomb blasts that took place on September 8, 2006 in Malegaon, a town in the Nashik district of the Indian state of Maharashtra, located at some 290 km to the northeast of state capital Mumbai. The explosions – which resulted in at least 37 fatalities and 125 injuries – took place in a Muslim cemetery, adjacent to a mosque, at around 13:15 local time after Friday prayers. A stampede ensued after the devices exploded.

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Though the site (a compound housing a mosque and Muslim cemetery), the date (Alvida Juma) and the time (during afternoon prayers on Friday) of the bomb blasts clearly indicated that Muslims were the target, but the ATS promptly blamed Muslim terrorists and arrested nine persons from the community. Even at that time, ATS investigation met with skepticism and disbelief by many NGOs, but the ATS explicitly ruled out the involvement of Hindu right-wing groups although there were leads suggesting Hindu radicals’ involvement in the case. ATS investigation of implicating and blaming Muslims for the bomb blasts at a Muslim cemetery was strongly condemned by Muslim community and who called ATS investigation as illogical and against the victim which was carried out with predetermined and jaundiced perspective.

Malegaon 2006 Blasts: September 8, 2006. The Muslim cemetery after the series of bombs exploded killing at least 37 and injuring 125 people [Photo: Outlookindia]

According to the ATS, the blasts were perpetrated by Noorul Huda Samsudoha (28), Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah (41), Raees Ahmed Rajab Ali Mansuri (35), Salman Farsi Abdul Latif Aimi (40), Dr Farogh Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi (38), Mohammad Ali Alam Sheikh (42), Asif Khan Bashir Khan alias Junaid (35), Mohammad Zahid Abdul Majid Ansari (31) and Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed (38).

The ATS said that some of them had trained in Pakistani camps and that all had conspired to:

(a) Collect arms and explosives.
(b) Wage war against the state and central government so as to overawe them.
(c) Terrorize people through wanton killing and bomb blasts.
(d) Incite communal riots and disrupt public order.
(e) Indoctrinate Muslims into terrorist and secessionist ideology.
(f) Avail assistance from Pakistani terrorists.

For five years, courts denied bail and remanded the accused to custody on the grounds that they were involved in terrorist activities in collaboration with Pakistani terrorists, and that releasing them on bail would endanger national security. The nine accused persons languished in jail, and their families reeled under the stigma of being terrorists.

ATS slapped MCOCA on these accused and submitted charge sheet well in time detailing role played by each accused in orchestrating these blasts.

NIA Investigation absolved 9 Muslim men

The NIA, investigating the Samjhauta Express blast, uncovered evidence connected to the Malegaon blasts. The Malegaon case was then transferred to the NIA which reviewed the evidence collected by the ATS and did its own investigations into the matter. The NIA after its investigation filed its chargesheet confirming that the ATS fabricated evidence against the accused and that a Hindu terrorist group had perpetrated the blasts.
The NIA’s chargesheet debunks the ATS’s claims emphatically. It states that:

(a) ATS witnesses for the alleged seizure of the RDX from the accused denied witnessing these events;

(b) An ATS witness to the alleged seizure of the fake bomb was also shown by the ATS as being present elsewhere simultaneously for the seizure of the deceased’s clothes.

(c) The ATS’s key witness, who allegedly had seen the Accused making the bomb, told the NIA that no such thing had happened and that “his statement was recorded under duress”.

(d) An accused, who the ATS claimed had planted a bomb, was in Fulsawangi about 480 kms away at that time, and another who, the ATS claimed procured explosives, sheltered Pakistani terrorists, assembled the bomb, etc, was in jail.

(e) The Malegaon blasts were a product of a terror conspiracy hatched by Lokesh Sharma, Sunil Joshi, Rajendra Kalasangara, Ramesh Mahalkar, Dhan Singh, Rajendra Chaudhary, and Manohar Narwaria, and were part of a larger plan which included imparting of training in the handling of arms and explosives to commit bomb blasts in Muslim places of worship, incite communal riots, etc. Interestingly, after the Malegaon blats, Lokesh Sharma had contacted various media houses claiming responsibility for these blasts in the name of ‘Dharma Sena’, but this was ignored by the ATS. NIA Investigations revealed the involvement of these accused in extremist activity including bomb blasts, murders, etc.

Following paras from the NIA chargesheet need mention here to point out how thoroughly NIA investigated the case:

‘The planning was precise and this was a beginning of things to come. Joshi and his men had set up training camps in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. They were imparting training in setting up arms and ammunition and combat, among other things, and had planned various other attacks.’

‘This training camp was set up in 2006 and a major part of the planning involved targeting religious places. Joshi’s agenda was to carry out a couple of assassinations, including that of Justice UC Banerjee, head of the Godhra commission of inquiry. A team was formed to go to Kolkata to assassinate him.’

Maharashtra ATS

It goes without saying that no police machinery in the state can dare to charge sheet any person in a high profile case like the present one except with the permission of state home minister, and when it is a case of stringent MCOCA and UAPA then there requires mandatory approval of state government for the prosecution. One can easily make out from the legal procedures followed in a criminal case of such a high magnitude that state Home Ministry is equally responsible for the ill fate of the 9 Muslim men implicated by ATS in the case.

Mr. K P Raghuwanshi was the chief of ATS at the time of investigation of the case by ATS in 2006. He was replaced in 2008 by Hemant Karkare who, despite tremendous political and social pressure arrested 9 Hindu radicals including serving Lt. Col. Shrikanth Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur. After his death in 26/11 attacks K P Raghuwanshi came back as ATS chief followed by Rakesh Maria till his promotion to the post of Mumbai Commissioner. Presently ATS is presided over by Himanshu Roy under whose supervision the ATS filed its reply before special court opposing discharge of 9 Muslim men.

The need of mentioning above chain of replacement is that although ATS chiefs were replaced but the Home Ministry was always with R R Patil who was replaced for short time due to his controversial statement during 26/11 attacks.

The present case was investigated under R R Patil’s supervision and another controversial case of Pune Germany Bakery blast; for which Himayat Baig was convicted; was also investigated under his supervision. Investigations of both these cases by ATS have been blatantly rejected by central agency NIA and have termed ATS accused as innocent.

Even the case of 7/11 train blasts in Mumbai was also investigated by ATS in 2006 under full eyes of R R Patil which has also come to the stage of controversy after the alleged confessional statements given voluntarily by Indian Mujahideen suspects after their arrests by Crime branch in 2008.


Malegaon 2006 blast investigation by ATS may prove to be next Akshardham case