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Malegaon: Who's Above the Law?

Christophe Jaffrelot ( Christophe.jaffrelot@sciences-po.fr ) is Research Director at CNRS, Paris. 

A comment on the recent revelations by serving army official Prasad Purohit who has been arrested for his involvement in the Malegaon blasts of 2008. 

The recent revelations by lieutenant colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit about the Malegaon case are making things more complicated - as most commentators have mentioned - but they also clarify the general picture.

Hindu nationalists in uniform and RSS leaders indicted

Let’s begin with the new light that has been shed on the Hindutva phenomenon. First, there is now no doubt left about the presence of Hindutva enthusiasts among the Indian army officers - as already evident from the transcripts of the Abhinav Bharat meetings I have used in a recent article1. Purohit is not apologetic about his ideological commitments. He merely argues, in an interview with Outlook magazine: “Having a particular ideology does not make me a terrorist or anti-national”. Incidentally, Purohit was not the only army man who has been investigated by the specially instituted court of inquiry of the army because of their implication in Abhinav Bharat, the group responsible for the Malegaon blast. - there were four others (another lieutenant colonel, a captain, a major and a subedar).

Second, while the role of RSS foot soldiers - including pracharaks like Sunil Joshi - in several bomb blasts have been ascertained, the implication of senior leaders has not been proved so far. In an hand written letter dated 15 Oct. 2008, Purohit emphasises the part that Indresh Kumar - a member of the Nagpur-based executive body of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh - played in connection with Abhinav Bharat people. He even mentions, referring to the Gujarat blasts of July 2008, that he was “instrumental in carrying out these actions”. These words reconfirm the confession of Swami Aseemanand2.

Purohit, an infiltrator?

In contrast to these - disturbing - clarifications “L’Affaire Purohit” is becoming “murkier and murkier” to use former security official and current commentator B. Raman’s words.

In his Outlook interview, Purohit claims that he has inflitrated Abhinav Bharat as a member of the army intelligence : “I have done my job properly, have kept my bosses in the loop and everything is on paper in the army records”. Indeed, he gave the name of Sadhvi Pragya as one of the persons responsible for the Malegaon blast only one week after this event - and he wrote to no one else but major Bhagirath Dey, the Jabalpur-based intelligence officer and colonel Vinay Panchpore, the commanding officer of southern liaison unit.

Then the question is: why did the army hand him over to the Anti-Terrorism Squad - and so quickly?

Given the opacity of the whole affair, we can only speculate. But two hypothesis - at least! - can be made. First, the army preferred to let Purohit appear as an Hindutva zealot turned terrorist rather than admitting that it was collecting intelligence in a place where it was not supposed to do so - Madhya Pradesh is not Jammu and Kashmir or the North East. The military institution preferred to sacrifice Purohit if this theory is right.

Or the second hypothesis could be that Purohit, who might have been an infiltrator first (something we need to corroborate on the basis of other testimonies), had become part and parcel of Abhinav Bharat and, therefore, a turn coat like David Headley vis-a-vis the US intelligence. This theory is well in tune with Purohit’s discourses during the Abhinav Bharat meetings.

Hopefully, a proper investigation will take place and its conclusions will be made public - since nobody should be above the law in a vibrant democracy like India. But neither the clarifications we’ve just received, nor the hypothesis we can make are comforting.

1 C. Jaffrelot, “Abhinav Bharat, the Malegaon Blast and Hindu Nationalism”, Economic and Political Weekly, Sept. 4, 2010, vol. XLV n° 36, pp. 51-58.

2 C. Jaffrelot and M. Maheshwari, “Paradigm Shift by the RSS? Lessons from Aseemanand’s Confession”, Economic and Political Weekly, Feb., 5, 2011, vol XLVI, n° 6, pp. 42-46.  

 

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