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Friday, November 5, 2010

TERROR MENACE - About 50 radicals linked to Hindu extremism, say officials

Investigators estimate up to 50 people could be linked with Hindu extremism and in- volved in terror acts such as the blasts at the Ajmer dargah and Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid in 2007 and Malegaon in Mahar- ashtra a year later.They are also widening their probe against radical Hindus to include more incidents of vio- lence that took place over the past four years, such as last month's shootout near Delhi's Jama Masjid, in which two for- eigners were injured.
“Our estimate is that they (Hindu extremists) are around 30 to 50 in number and scat- tered across the country. Many of them have been arrested, but quite a few are still at large.
Also, there are some communal groups, but it is not clear how many of them are terrorists. It should not be more than a handful of people,“ a senior Union home ministry official who is handling such cases, said, requesting anonymity.
This is the first time the home ministry has assessed the num- ber of people who could be in- volved in such anti-national ac- tivities. The phenomenon came to light when the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) ar- rested 11 people for the 29 September 2008 blast at Malegaon, in which six people were killed.
Among those arrested by the ATS were retired Lt Col Prasad S. Purohit, who had floated the Hindu nationalist organization Abhinav Bharat in 2007; Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who al- legedly mobilized foot soldiers; and Dayanand Pandey, said to have motivated the conspiracy.
Rakesh Dhawade allegedly made arrangements for training those who carried out the blasts, and Ajay Rahirkar is sus- pected of raising funds.
Thakur is a former member of the national executive of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Pari- shad (ABVP)--the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is widely regarded as the ideological par- ent of many Hindu social, cul- tural and political organiza- tions, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
RSS spokesman Ram Madhav described it as a political at- tempt to defame his organiza- tion. “We will protest this by launching nationwide protest on 10 November. We deny all charges made against our or- ganization and men,“ he said.
Professor Sudha Pai of the Centre for Political Studies at Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) said the RSS does not have the history of getting into terrorism.
“They may communalize and definitely had a hand in the de- molition of the Babri Masjid.
There could be small fringe ele- ments that could be involved.
There could be a few disgrun- tled people, but the RSS cannot be behind all such activities,“ she said.
“I think (the ) Congress is po- liticizing the issue by using it against the BJP, which has now started distancing itself from such organizations,“ she added.
The investigators of the Malegaon blast realized the same set of people were also behind the Ajmer and Hydera- bad blasts.
Devendra Gupta, a former RSS member who is an accused in the Ajmer blast, confessed to the police that the conspiracy was hatched and executed by Sunil Joshi, Sandeep Dange, Ramji Kalsangra and Lokesh Sharma. While Joshi was mur- dered, Kalsangra and Sharma have been arrested and chargesheeted. Dange is ab- sconding. Gupta was close to Joshi, who had floated the radi- cal outfit Jai Vande Mataram along with Sadhvi Pragya.
According to the Rajasthan ATS chargesheet, a self-styled godman called Swami Aseema- nand from the Dangs in Gujarat has emerged as a key figure in the planning and execution of bombings.
He brought together Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya, who eventually merged their groups.
Aseemanand's arrest, officials say, is crucial to uncovering the entire network of Hindu ex- tremism.
The home ministry official quoted earlier said there is no proof that senior office bearers of the RSS and affiliated organi- zations such as the Vishwa Hin- du Parishad and Bajrang Dal are involved in terror activities.
“We believe that a handful of people in these organizations are hardcore and radicals.“
Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar has also been named in the ATS chargesheet, although some officials close to the in- vestigation say there isn't enough proof to nail him.
“As of now, there is not enough evidence against In- dresh to chargesheet him as an accused,“ said a senior official at the Central Bureau of Inves- tigation (CBI), which is probing the Mecca Masjid blast.
“We are waiting for the ATS to complete its investigation.
We will question Indresh once their investigation is complet- ed,“ the official said, adding that the same group was behind the Malegaon, Ajmer and Mec- ca Masjid blasts.
Kumar denied the charges levelled against him. “The mat- ter is in court. Let the court de- cide whether I am guilty,“ he said.
Home minister P.
Chidambaram had warned top police officers at a conference in August to be cautious with regard to Hindu extremism.
Another home ministry offi- cial, who also did not want to be identified, said: “It is a very disturbing phenomenon that people from the majority com- munity are adopting extremist ideology. But the government believes that once the people who are at large get arrested and trials of other accused start in court, chances are less that these people would regroup.“
An intelligence bureau offi- cial, who monitors radical groups, agreed that once arrest- ed, these people will not re- group. “But there is no guaran- tee that people in future will not take it (Hindu extremism) up. We got up late to such kind of extremism, but are now keeping a close tab on such ac- tivities.“
The official added that some retired military officers and bu- reaucrats are sympathizers of these groups. “They get money through NGOs (non-govern- mental organizations) and groups like Abhinav Bharat acts as a platform for radicals to come together.“
S.D. Pradhan, a former depu- ty national security adviser, said the agenda of Hindu terror groups seems to be revenge against the “minority commu- nity for the terrorist attacks where most of the victims be- long to the majority communi- ty“. He was referring to a series of terror attacks carried out by Muslim groups in recent years.
Probe agencies such as the National Investigation Agency, which was formed to look into terror cases in the wake of the Mumbai attack, are now ex- panding their probe against Hindu extremism.
Indian Mujahideen, a Mus- lim terror group, was initially linked with last month's shoot- ing near Delhi's Jama Masjid.
But some investigating officials said their probe is now leading them towards Hindu radicals.
Appu Esthose Suresh contrib- uted to the story.


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