Obsessed with 'Hindu terror', NIA flounders
by Sandhya Jain on 25 Feb 2014 4 Comments

‘Hindu terrorism’ maybe the UPA’s grand denouement. The Congress’s most maligned monster got a clean chit in the riots of 2002; his Minister of State for Home was not named in the CBI chargesheet in the Ishrat Jehan encounter case; and nemesis is now hunting their former prosecutrix. Now, Army intelligence officer Lt Col Prasad Purohit, arrested in a ‘Hindu conspiracy’, has urged Union Home Minister SK Shinde not to discriminate between Muslims and others while providing relief in false cases. His wife recently met President Pranab Mukherjee to complain about lack of movement in the case despite five years in jail, and the refusal of bail.


Others languishing without bail in cases of alleged Hindu terror include the cancer-stricken Sadhvi Pragya, Swami Aseemanand, and the Sharadapeeth Sankaracharya. However, the principal accused in the Israeli diplomat car bombing case was given bail by a bench presided over by the then Chief Justice of India.


The National Investigation Agency (NIA) that was set up after the November 2008 assault on Mumbai to investigate terror-related crimes and given several high profile cases, has failed to distinguish itself. In a case largely ignored by the mainstream media, six persons accused in the Margao bomb blast of October 16, 2009, in which two persons died, were released by the Special NIA Court for Goa on December 31, 2013, for complete lack of evidence – or even a credible motive. The NIA sleuths claimed that the blasts were the handiwork of members of a social organisation, Sanatan Sanstha, based at Ponda, Goa, who disliked a local cultural event based on Narakasur, an asura killed by Krishna the day before Diwali!


Briefly, the NIA case, argued by the prosecution, was that Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik conspired with nine others to hatch a criminal conspiracy to strike terror in the minds of the organizers, participants and spectators of the Narakasur Vadh Competition in October 2009. The Sanatan Sanstha promotes the proper performance of Hindu rites; it objected to the glorification of the asura and smaller size of the Krishna effigies. As the competition was held at several places in Goa, the Sanstha planned to cause explosions at these places. During the trial, a witness said the Sanstha’s main opposition to the event was due to children drinking alcohol, extracting money from people, and eve-teasing, and many local persons opposed it for the same reasons.


According to the NIA, Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik (who died) conspired with Vinay Talekar, Vinayak Patil, Dhananjay Asthekar, Dilip Mangaonkar, Prashant Asthekar and Prashant Juvekar (who were released) and Jay Prakash @Anna, Rudra Patil and Sarang Akolkar (declared absconding) to wage war against the nation and terrorism. They purchased materials necessary for making a bomb and assembled Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) at the residence of Yogesh’ brother Laxmikant Naik, at Talaulim, Ponda-Goa, and conducted test blasts on the hillock behind the house.


Their alleged plan was to blast IEDs at five places in Goa on October 16, 2009. Accordingly, Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik went to plant the IEDs at Madgaon behind Grace Church, near the venue of the function, where a large crowd, the Chief Minister, local MLA and other VIPs were present. But when the accused parked their Eterno scooter (No. GA-05-A-7800) near Reliance Trade Centre, the IEDs in the dickey exploded; they later died in hospital. Vinay and Vinayak allegedly planted IEDs in a lorry (no. GA-08-U-0029) ferrying Narakasur effigies at a temple in Sancoale; these were noticed by an alert driver who tossed the packet out of the vehicle; it was later defused by experts.


But the Solid Party Trust which organises the competition told the court that the blast site was 300 metres away from the route taken by the effigy processions, on an isolated road. The blast was heard at the function and the Chief Minister received a telephone call and left, but the competition continued. The organisers continued to hold the function at the same venue in subsequent years; the police never suggested there was any threat to peace. Moreover, they testified that the Sanstha members had never complained directly to them, but to the Collector. They would come with placards prior to the competition, but never created any problems for the event. The organisers did not recognise any of the accused in court.


Police witnesses confirmed that a letter produced by the prosecution contained no threat of any kind. The letter, addressed to the Ponda Police Station, said that Krishna slew Narakasur on ashwin vadya chaturdashi and granted a boon that whoever took a holy bath at dawn would never suffer in hell. In Goa, a custom developed of burning effigies of Narakasur to commemorate Krishna's victory. But recently the practice has become distorted with people participating the whole night and unable to wake up for the holy bath, which is an important spiritual aspect of this festival; they end up forgetting Sri Krishna.


The Special Judge observed that persons peacefully opposing an activity on moral and ritual grounds will not take such extreme steps; he concluded that the prosecution failed to establish motive. This means that Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik were victims, not conspirators.


Three of the accused (Vinay, Vinayak and Dhananjay) were allegedly identified by persons who sold electronic items to them. But an engineering college student testified that Dhananjay was the main coordinator of a national level competition in electronics, and preparing circuits was part of the academic curriculum. The Special Judge observed that there was no evidence to show that the accused had purchased the detonators used for the blasts, which is the key to the crime.


Nor was there any evidence to suggest that the Sanstha or its members intended to overcome the armed or other personnel deployed by the Government and attain a commanding position from which they could dictate terms to the Government. This negates the charge that the accused were waging war against the State Government (section 121-A IPC).


As the trial unfolded, the Special Judge doubted the veracity of the FIR and held that the facts seemed to be manipulated with the intention of roping in the Sanatan Sanstha. Neither the evidence nor the witnesses supported the prosecution case. The case simply collapsed; the ‘Hindu terrorists’ were freed and the NIA’s reputation tarnished. The new government must seriously address the training and professional standards in this premier institution. 

The Pioneer, 25 February 2014 

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