DeQoded: The 2008 Malegaon Blasts Case
Here’s what you need to know about the Malegaon Blasts investigation.
Seven people were killed in two bomb blasts in a busy market area in Malegaon, Maharashtra on 29 September 2008. Two bombs were planted on a motorcycle parked near a hotel in the Bhiku Chowk area of Malegaon. Another blast occurred in Modasa, Gujarat around the same time, and killed a 15-year-old boy.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad began an investigation into the Malegaon blast, led by then ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, who was later killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike. The ATS got its first breakthrough in the case by tracing the owner of the motorcycle used in the blast. The links from the owner of the motorcycle led to the arrest of three accused on October 24, 2008. The ATS arrested Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra, and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu.
Hindu Group Links
The investigation found links to Hindu extremist groups like Abhinav Bharat, Rastriya Jagran Manch, Sharda Sarvagya Peeth, and the Hindu Rashtra Sena. All of the accused arrested or named in the chargesheet belonged to either of these organisations. The ATS probe also found links to these groups with respect to the 2006 Malegaon bomb blast, the Ajmer Dargah blast, the Mecca Masjid and the Samjhauta Train blast.
The Malegaon blast case investigation was handed over to the NIA on April 13, 2011 by the Union Home Ministry.
The NIA has not been able to file a chargesheet in the case. In July, 2009, the trial court dropped the MCoCA charges against the accused. But the Bomby High Court in 2010 had restored the charges under MCoCA against the key accused. A small reprieve came in last April when the Supreme Court directed the trial court to consider the bail pleas of the accused. The Supreme Court on April 30 directed the trial court in Maharashtra to begin hearing on the bail pleas of the seven accused, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Shrikant Purohit. The Supreme Court held that there was no prima facie evidence against the accused under the stringent MCoCA.
The first chargesheet was filed by the Maharashtra ATS in the MCoCA court on January 20, 2009. Another additional chargesheet that was filed on April 21, 2011 named Pramod Mutalik as the key conspirator behind this attack. So far 14 accused have been named in the chargesheet including Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, among others.
The Key Accused
- Col Shrikant Purohit: A serving army officer, Col Purohit was arrested in November 2008. He was said to be the brain behind the conspiracy of the Malegaon blast and one who had made the bombs for the blast. He is in judicial custody since his arrest.
- Praveen Mutalik: ATS arrested Mutalik from Gokak, Karnataka on January 31, 2011. Muthalik had allegedly worked as the personal secretary to Lt Col Shrikant Purohit. He was responsible for assembling bombs and their fuses at the behest of Col Purohit. He has been in judicial custody since his arrest.
- Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur: A former ABVP office bearer, she was arrested in October 2008 by the Maharashtra ATS. She was accused of hatching the conspiracy. She is now in judicial custody.
- Dayanand Pandey: Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey, a self-styled godman who was running an ashram in Jammu was arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in November 2008 from Kanpur. He was suspected to be the key conspirator behind this attack. He first met with Lt Col Purohit in Jammu in 2003, and both of them had drawn out the plan for the Malegaon blasts, according to the investigating agency. He has been in judicial custody since his arrest.
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