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A bomb must be responded to with a bomb.Swami Aseemanand
That was what Swami Aseemanand reportedly told a magistrate, when questioned about his involvement in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast.
Aseemananad was one among the five persons who were acquitted by a special NIA court in Monday, 16 April, for the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad, that killed nine people.
A self-styled godman and a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker, Aseemanand was born Naba Kumar Sarkar in Hooghly, West Bengal.
Armed with a postgraduate degree in Botany, the Hindutva firebrand was heavily influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekanand, before he took to working for the RSS’s tribal wing in 1977.
He became involved with rightwing groups from school, going on to work full time with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Purulia and Bankura districts in the state.
It was at the Ashram that Naba Kumar Sarkar was christened Swami Aseemanand in 1981.
After working in different locations with the RSS’s Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Aseemanand moved to Dangs in Gujarat in 1993, where he was immensely popular with the tribals. He is known to have re-converted tribals to Hinduism in these areas.
According to The Hindu, Aseemanand is known to have converted many tribals in his places of work. He also began the Shabari Dhan Ashram, which has a ‘long list of followers’.
Apart from the Mecca Masjid blasts case, Aseemanand is also named in the Samjhauta Express blast and the Ajmer Dargah blast, all in 2007.
In the Mecca blast case, only five people – Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Swami Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary – were arrested and faced trial. Two accused in the case – Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra – were absconding while one Sunil Joshi was dead.
Aseemanand’s involvement in the Mecca Masjid blast came to the fore when Rajasthan’s ATS squad arrested Devendra Gupta on 29 April 2007 in connection with the Ajmer Dargah blast.
According to a report on the Indian Express dated 20 November 2010, Gupta confessed to Aseemanand and his aide Sunil Joshi’s involvement upon interrogation.
According to the report, Joshi and Aseemanand reportedly convinced Gupta to carry out the attacks in Ajmer and Hyderabad. Immediately after Gupta’s arrest, Aseemanand reportedly went underground in Dangs, before he was ultimately arrested by the CBI in a Haridwar ashram in 2010.
Upon further investigation, the Rajasthan ATS pinned Aseemanand as the mastermind in the blast cases.
A 2011 Tehelka report recounts Aseemanand’s confession in Delhi’s Tis Hazari Court with regard to the attacks, where he stated that he was confessing to his involvement ‘without any coercion’.
According to the report, Aseemanand said:
I know I can be sentenced to death but I still want to make the confession.
Over the next few hours, Aseemanand reportedly detailed the nexus of Hindutva leaders involved in the planning and execution of the attacks as an act of revenge against the ‘terror acts of Muslims’.
His confession was later given as evidence before the court. However, later in 2011, Aseemanand told the NIA court that he had confessed ‘involuntarily, and under duress’.
Between 2012-2014, in a series of interviews with The Caravan he had hinted at RSS involvement in cases related to “Hindu terror”. He named several prominent names within the RSS who were bent towards carrying out violent activities in the name of Hindutva. He told the magazine that RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had told him in confidence that “it’s very important that it (violence) be done” but without it being linked to the Sangh.
Aseemanand was granted bail in the Mecca Masjid case in March last year, and acquitted by a Jaipur court in the Ajmer blast case.
With Monday’s acquittal in the Mecca Masjid blast case, Aseemanand now faces trial only in the Samjhauta Express case. He was granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana court in 2014 in the case.