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#SamjhautaBombing: NIA chief gives clean chit to Lt Col Purohit

Catch Team | Updated on: 21 April 2016, 9:16 IST

There is no proof Lt Col Shrikant Purohit was involved in the Samjhauta bombing, NIA Director General Sharad Kumar said Wednesday. "He was never an accused. I wonder why his name is being linked to the Samjhauta blast case."

Purohit was not named as an accused in any of the chargesheets filed by the NIA in the 2007 bombing on the Pakistan-bound Samjhauta Express. At least 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed in the deadly blast, which the NIA claims was the handiwork of a Hindutva outfit. However, Purohit, a serving Military Intelligence officer, was suspected to have provided the explosives.

Read: Hindutva terror cases are stalling: here are the facts. Connect the dots

Several other suspects, including Aseemanand, who the NIA claims orchestrated the bombing to avenge attacks on Hindu temples by Jihadi groups, find mention in the NIA chargesheets.

Interestingly, while the chargesheet names the Hindutva extremists, the NIA chief recently visited the US to seek information about Arif Qasmani, said to be a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba financier, and his alleged role in the blast. The visit is now being seen as an attempt to change the course of the investigation back to focus on the Pakistan-based terror outfit. NIA officers, however, reject this claim, saying the visit had been on the cards for long as the agency had first requested information about Qasmani back in 2011.

Lt Col Purohit to Parrikar: My report on SIMI and ISI clearly mentioned LeT's role in Samjhauta blast

The agency had earlier decided against contesting Aseemanand's bail plea in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. It was Aseemanand's confession which had revealed the hand of Hindutva extremists behind not just the Samjhauta bombing, but also the blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer, and at Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid. And it was Aseemanand who had revealed that Purohit was involved in these terrorist acts.

It would be interesting to see if the NIA changes tack and claims the train was bombed by Jihadi outfits, not the Hindutva extremists named in three chargesheets the agency has filed so far. The chargesheets, based on NIA's interrogation of the accused, meticulously detail how the conspiracy was hatched. The trial in the case began in 2014.       

Maze of terror

While the NIA chief has given Purohit a clean chit in the Samjhauta blast case, he remains an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, which is also being investigated by the NIA. The Maharashtra ATS under Hemant Karkare, who was later killed during the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, had told the court Purohit had stolen 60 kg of RDX which was then used in Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts. While the army officer has been charged in the former case, the NIA claimed in 2011 that it had no evidence linking him to the train bombing.

Also read: 5 cases of 'saffron terror' and what the term means

Not just the Samjhauta bombing, the NIA seems to be doing re-think on its line of investigation into the 2006 Malegaon blasts as well. A few days ago, the agency opposed the discharge petition of nine Muslim men accused in the case even though it has long maintained that the blasts were the handiwork of Hindutva extremists. The NIA's intentions had come across as suspect when Rohini Salian, the special prosecutor, claimed that the agency had asked her to go soft on the Hindutva radicals.

Meanwhile, Purohit, who claims he had successfully infiltrated terror outfits like the Indian Mujahideen and even the Naxals while in service, has written a letter to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, asking that his services and honour be restored. Curiously, the letter followed the NIA chief's visit to the US.

Purohit stole 60 kg RDX from the army for use in Malegaon and Samjhauta blasts, as per Hemant Karkare

In the letter, Purohit reportedly claimed, "My report on SIMI and ISI had a clear mention of the role of LeT in Samjhauta blast.''

Purohit has also claimed that his superiors in the military intelligence were aware of his activities. "The Court of Inquiry papers now with the Sessions Court also prove beyond any doubt that the meetings which are termed as 'conspiracy meetings' were duly reported by me before, during and after they were conducted. Sources were developed and later even officer intelligence units of MI benefited in this regard," he wrote to Parrikar.

"As for these 'conspiracy meetings', I have been booked in a bomb blast case which as such is a fabricated one.'

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

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First published: 21 April 2016, 9:16 IST