By Chandan Mitra, Daily Pioneer
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: Perpetrator or victim? Will the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad please make up its mind? Till some days back, we were informed by "sources" in the ATS, colourfully played up in sections of the media that the alleged Malegaon bombers' links led right up to the top of the Sangh Parivar hierarchy. In other words, senior RSS functionaries were suspected of hatching the so-called Hindu terror plot, but chose obscure organisations (read Abhinav Bharat) and little known religious personalities to execute their plan. So much so, that the name of a front-ranking RSS leader, namely Indreesh who was active in the Amarnath Shrine agitation in Jammu, was being volubly whispered in various circles as the ATS' next target.
If media gossip is to be believed, a full-proof plot had been hatched by the ATS in collusion with other investigative agencies to systematically implicate the RSS in the entire supposed conspiracy. Since the ATS' vivid imagination has been running riot from October 11 when Sadhvi Pragya was illegally detained, the RSS angle seemed a logical enough part of what most Hindu-minded people all along believed was a totally fabricated, politically directed investigation. But if the alleged Malegaon bombers' links could be traced to the RSS, it would have served the Congress well. Apart from putting the BJP on the back foot in the ongoing State and forthcoming general elections, it could have tarnished the Sangh's image forever.
But since the entire frame-up was a figment of the ATS's imagination anyway, the facts failed to quite add up. Unable to find any substantive evidence against the alleged bombers, the investigators began to lose the plot somewhere. The crude attempt to nail Lt. Col. Shrikant Purohit for the Samjhauta Express blasts evaporated sooner than methylated spirit poured on a saucer. The absurdity of a man first pilfering a whopping 60 kg of lethal RDX from army depots, then lifting it alone to throw the heavy bag into the Jhelum from a railway bridge for his cohorts to pick it up from the river downstream, set the country giggling in sheer disbelief. The Army, though, was not amused. Not only did it indignantly rebut the charge of pilferage, but also pointed out that the security forces neither stock nor casually throw around vast quantities of lethal explosives. Further, assuming that the RDX had indeed been pilfered wouldn't the Army itself raise a hue and cry and track down the thief?
Red-faced, the ATS quietly dropped the Samjhauta Express charge, penitently arguing that it was merely "exploring" such a possibility. By the time this retraction came, the Pakistani media went to town shouting from roof tops, "We told you so!" The Pakistanis were entitled to this jubilation for an Indian agency had ended up absolving them of the accusation of promoting terror in India. South Block was in jitters because the Government had cited the Samjhauta Express bombing as a definite instance of Pakistani hand in terror operations in this country. ATS had thus successfully made a laughing stock of India before the entire world, which now found Islamabad's insistence that jehadi terror in India is purely home grown more credible than New Delhi's claims in the past.
Even as the ATS was grappling with this self-goal came Sadhvi Pragya's affidavit in a Nashik court. Her account makes chilling reading and every Indian must hang his head in shame at those revelations. Although widely publicised in the Marathi media, the affidavit was predictably blacked out by the sneering, secularist national media. The Pioneer was the only English newspaper to reproduce it in full. The document outraged not only our regular subscribers but millions world over. Our website in fact crashed that day because of the relentless downloading of the affidavit not just in India but also by the Indian diaspora.
Her credible narrative pointed to unbelievable violations of human rights -- physical and psychological violence, disregard for the frailty of her medical condition, illegal detention for a fortnight before her formal arrest (which is when most of the excesses were committed) and denial of her right to legal aid as well as flouting of the Supreme Court's directive requiring a woman constable's mandatory presence during a woman suspect's interrogation. Human rights groups and bleeding-heart NGOs who feign so much outrage over Gujarat, allege Batla House was a fake encounter, and breast-beat over other so-called atrocities on minorities, did not even whimper. Had LK Advani not raised the issue last Tuesday and followed it up by referring to it in every public forum he attended, the unspeakable brutalities perpetrated on Sadhvi Pragya may never have come into the public domain.
Steadily cornered by a succession of boo-boos, the ATS has finally hit upon a new theory. Its latest leak suggests that the alleged Malegaon bombers actually intended to liquidate senior RSS leaders. The list includes the very same pracharak, Indreesh, who till a week ago was the supposed ideological fountainhead of the Hindu terror conspiracy! According to the new yarn, the "Hindu terrorists" decided to eliminate Indreesh and Mohan Bhagwat, RSS sarkaryavah (General Secretary) and No 2 in the organisation, apparently because of their "soft line" towards Muslims. This leads us squarely back to the question posed at the outset: Was the RSS masterminding this so-called terror plot, or was it the plotters' intended target? Surely, it couldn't be both. But then official investigative agencies are skilled at the art of concocting the most extraordinary tales. For example, the UC Banerjee Committee on the Godhra train attack happily concluded that the kar sevaks had become so possessed with the idea of committing mass suicide that they themselves set two bogies of Sabarmati Express on fire!
Although there seems not an iota of truth in the daily litany of (shifting) charges levelled by ATS "sources", it is possible that some hotheads are upset that the RSS has not called for a retributive counter-jihad against Islamists. The fact is that the RSS does not do such things and usually engages only in social service, specialising in education and disaster management. Are we supposed to believe that some people, part of the extended saffron parivar, had no understanding of the RSS' character and got agitated because the Sangh did not want to raise a standing army of Hindu vigilantes? The day may not be far off when demands for brain mapping of some officials of various investigative agencies and their political masters will start to be raised.
The ATS' objective, howsoever misplaced, is clear. Now that the BJP has decided to unmask the Government's conspiracy and the case of Sadhvi's torture has outraged public sentiment, it wants the BJP to back off. ATS thinks the BJP will be horrified that the ultra-Hindus wanted to kill RSS leaders and drop the issue like a hot potato. One is reminded of screen villain Ajit's inimitable dialogue in Yaadon ki Baraat: "What a bunch of fools!"