Custody of Malegaon bombing accused extended; parties trade charges
New Delhi/Nashik/Hyderabad, Nov 17 (IANS) As a court Monday extended the judicial custody of the eight accused in the Malegaon bomb blast probe and a Hyderabad police team left for Mumbai to question alleged mastermind Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, the political debate surrounding the arrests intensified.
All the eight including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, her associates Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Ajay Rairikar, Ramesh Dhavade and Jagdish Mhatre were produced before joint senior civil judge H.K. Ganatra in Nashik, Maharashtra, and were remanded further till Nov 29.
Ten people, including the serving army officer and a self-proclaimed Hindu seer, have so far been arrested for the Sep 29 bombing in a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in the small Maharashtra town of Malegaon that killed six people.
Investigators are now examining if a Hindu extremist conspiracy was involved in several other blasts.
With his role coming under intense scrutiny and Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) examining if Purohit and the other accused had possibly a hand behind some of the other unsolved bombings, a police team from Hyderabad left for Mumbai to question him on the Mecca Masjid blast on May 18 last year that till date remains unanswered.
In the explosion at the historic mosque 14 people were killed and over 50 injured. The case was investigated by the city police special wing and was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which could not come to any conclusion.
There were some remote indications of the Bangladesh-based terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami's (HuJI) involvement.
'We have not received any confirmation linking the army officer with the blast yet,' Hyderabad's police commissioner B. Prasad Rao told IANS but said a team had left for Mumbai.
He said the team would enquire into two other blasts blasts that rocked the city at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat in Aug 25 last year.
On the political front, parties traded charges with the the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coming out strongly against the arrests of Hindu religious activists and accused the Congress party of politicising the ATS.
BJP's chief ministerial candidate for Delhi V.K. Malhotra accused the ATS of lying and conspiring with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
'Hindus could not be terrorists because it was neither in their genes nor in their character,' he exclaimed.
'So many incidents of terrorism have taken place in the recent months but the government failed to solve any. To hide their failure they have imagined and concocted Hindu terrorism.'
His party colleague Arun Jaitley was more circumspect. He said: 'Let us wait for the final word. How much of it is real and how much is propaganda, we will come to know.'
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) came down hard on the BJP saying its 'rabid communal outlook' had been exposed with its president Rajnath Singh openly supporting 'persons being investigated for the Malegaon blast and other terrorist attacks'.
In a statement, the CPI-M politburo said: 'The BJP leadership is making the dangerous argument that no person affiliated to the Hindutva organisations can be investigated for terrorist offences. This has blown up the BJP's stance against terrorism and exposed its rabid communal outlook.'
It also accused the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP of 'mounting a campaign to pressurise the police and administration not to pursue the cases of terrorism'.
Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir governor Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha threatened legal action against Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for accusing him of having ties with a Malegaon bomb blast accused.
'I do not know this chap (Swami Amritanand alias Dayanand Pandey). The first time I heard about him was about 10 days ago when his name started appearing in media reports (following his arrest). I am thinking of a legal course on this,' Sinha told reporters here.
'It is as absurd as me saying that Mufti meets Osama bin Laden when he goes out of the country,' Sinha added.
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