Friday, October 31, 2008

Retd Major had been arrested twice earlier

Malegaon blast 2008 suspect retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay would harasse a woman

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Retired Major R a m e s h U p a d hyay (60), accused of imparting training to the Malegaon bomb blast suspects, had been arrested twice three years ago— once by Bandra’s Nirmal Nagar police and on another instance by the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) of the Mumbai police.

Upadhyay, who retired from the army in 1998, was accused of stalking a di
vorcee he had met on a matrimonial portal. When arrested in connection with the case, he retaliated by posting an obscene profile and contact number of the woman on the internet.

According to sources in the ATS, Upadhyay, a Pune resident, had posted his profile on a matrimonial website. He met Tina Malhotra (not her real name), a divorcee, on the portal and the two exchanged several messages. He told Tina that he was 35 years old even though he was 58 then. However, his bluff was called when he met Tina (36) in person. Appalled that Upadhyay had lied to her, Tina told him never to contact her again.

Upadhyay then started stalking Tina and would call her up at odd hours. Fed up, Tina lodged a complaint and had him arrested. However, this didn’t stop Upadhyay from harassing her. Upon his release, he posted her photograph and number on an adult website.

As a result, Tina started getting phone calls from unidentified persons asking for sexual favours. Once again, she filed a complaint. Upadhyay was arrested but granted bail soon. Sources said Upadhyay, who stayed in Pune, would come to Mumbai and stand outside Tina’s building for hours.

Upadhyay had also posted the contact number of Tina’s employer, also a woman, on the adult website. Tina and her employer then lodged a case of harassment against Upadhyay at the MIDC police station. “We had handed over the case to the crime branch and sent all the documents related to the case to them,’’ said Inspector Pascal D’- Souza of the MIDC police. The CCIC started investigating the case and arrested Upadhyay.

Sources said that Upadhyay had also posted defamatory comments against Tina on an internet blog. In a comment posted on February 17, 2006, Upadhyay wrote, “I found that she uses the dating and marriage sites on the internet and marriage bureaus in the city to find men for sex. She later blackmails them as well.’’

In the blog, Upadhyay also claimed to have filed a defamation suit against Tina on May 2, 2003. During the course of investigation, the police found out that Upadhyay had three daughters.

Upadhyay, facing murder and conspiracy charges in connection with the September 29 Malegaon blast, will be subjected to a narcoanalysis test in Mumbai on Friday.

The Times of India, October 31, 2008

Serving Lt-Col brought to city for questioning


Mumbai/New Delhi: A serving lieutenant-colonel who is wanted by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) for interrogation for his suspected links with saffron radicals arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast is now in Mumbai on “temporary duty’’ to facilitate investigation.

According to a statement from the army headquarters on Thursday, “the officer was moved from the army cantonment at Pachmarhi (Madhya Pradesh) to Mumbai to facilitate interaction with the police at a mutually convenient place’’. TOI is withholding the name of the serving officer in the absence of official confirmation.

Promising “all assistance’’ and “full cooperation’’ to the investigating agencies, the army said “further action’’ against the officer, if required, would be taken “based upon the outcome of the interactions and clarifications’’ with the police.

TOI had first reported on Wednesday that the ATS had sought army permission to quiz the officer. This is the first instance of a serving armed forces officer being suspected of links with a terror plot to unleash havoc through blasts, and that too, by targetting minorities. In 2006, three jawans of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry had come under the scanner for being in touch with Lashkar-e-Taiba militants.

The lieutenant-colonel, who will now be questioned by the Maharashtra ATS, is said to be close to Ramesh Upadhyay, the retired major detained in connection with the September 26 Malegaon blasts that killed six persons.

The lieutenant-colonel, who was commissioned in 1994 and is taking a course at the Army Educational Corps Training College and Centre at Pachmarhi, apparently knew Upadhyay before he joined the army.

Lt-Col may have links with Bhonsala School

Mumbai/New Delhi: Retired major Ramesh Upadhyay, arrested in connection with the September 29 Malegaon blast, is associated with the Bhonsala Military School, a right-wing institution in Nashik that claims its alumni are highly placed in the armed forces.

Sources said the serving lieutenant-colonel under the scanner had probably gone to the Bhonsala School—founded by B S Moonje, an admirer of Lokmanya Tilak who joined the Hindu Mahasabha after becoming disillusioned with the Congress—to give “self-defence training’’ to students in clear violation of service rules.

The army said “some inputs of possible linkages of the lieutenant-colonel with other suspects had come to light’’ during investigations by the Maharashtra police.

“While there is no formal application to question the officer under detention, the police have sought to interact with him to seek clarifications from him, so as to proceed with further investigations,’’ it added.

Upadhyay’s role may force the authorities to run a check on some defence personnel working with the Bhonsala School, as well as to probe the possibility of Hindu radicals scouting for recruits for their cause among NCC cadets and members of civil defence.

The Times of India, October 31, 2008

Retd Major had three meetings with Pragya

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Nashik: Retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, arrested in connection with the Malegaon bomb blast, had at least three meetings with sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and her accomplices before the explosion in the textile town that killed six. They had met at Bhonsala Military School in Nashik.

This was disclosed by public prosecutor Ajay Misar in the court of Justice P G Patil in Nashik where Upadhyay and Bhopal printing press employee Sameer Kulkarni were produced on Wednesday. The duo has been sent to police custody till November 10. Pune-based Upadhyay, who once headed the BJP’s Mumbai unit of the ex-servicemen’s cell, was picked up on Saturday. Kulkarni is accused of transporting the explosives and attending the meetings.

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has so far arrested five persons in connection with the blast in Malegaon on September 29. Pragya and her two
associates, Shamlal Sahu and Shivnarayan Singh, were picked up on October 23. All the accused have been booked for murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy for a terror act, unlawful assembly and making bomb under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Explosive Act.

Pragya, who was an active member of the ABVP a decade ago, was also the national executive secretary of Durga Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s women’s wing.

“Upadhyay, who was posted in the artillery department of the Indian Army, is suspected to have guided the arrested persons on how to assemble bombs and procure RDX,’’ said Misar. He also moved an application, seeking permission to subject Upadhyay and Kulkarni to polygraph, lie-detector and narco analysis tests “to find out the missing links in the larger conspiracy’’. The court granted permission for forensic tests.

Sukhvindar Singh, additional commissioner of police, ATS, said, “We have arrested the two on several charges such as murder and attempt to murder. We are trying to find out the role of these accused in a larger conspiracy.’’

“We have evidence that the accused had had at least three meetings at Bhonsala Military School in Nashik prior to the blast. The telephonic conversation also shows links among all the accused,’’ added Misar. However, he did not clarify if the plot was hatched during their meetings.

Umesh Welzare, an advocate, who tried to help Upadhyay, was disappointed when the latter rejected his offer. Upadhyay said, “I don’t know him (Welzare). I will defend myself.’’ The retired major, who looked nervous in court, said, “I have served the country and can never commit such a heinous crime. I am a heart patient and need a daily check-up. I am ready for a narco test and to cooperate with the investigators but the only thing I want is that the police should behave with me humanely.’’ Upadhyay admitted that he had met the sadhvi once and had shared a dias with her thrice. Upadhya, who is currently into transport business, also said there were injuries on his body, but he did not attribute it to any kind of police “torture’’.

Kulkarni, who is the head of “social outfit’’ Abhinav Bharat, did not say anything in court. Popularly known as Chanakya, Kulkarni had shifted from Maharashtra to Bhopal a few years ago.

The Times of India, October 31, 2008

Retd Major had been arrested twice earlier

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Retired Major R a m e s h U p a d hyay (60), accused of imparting training to the Malegaon bomb blast suspects, had been arrested twice three years ago— once by Bandra’s Nirmal Nagar police and on another instance by the Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) of the Mumbai police.

Upadhyay, who retired from the army in 1998, was accused of stalking a divorcee he had met on a matrimonial portal. When arrested in connection with the case, he retaliated by posting an obscene profile and contact number of the woman on the internet.

According to sources in the ATS, Upadhyay, a Pune resident, had posted his profile on a matrimonial website. He met Tina Malhotra (not her real name), a divorcee, on the portal and the two exchanged several messages. He told Tina that he was 35 years old even though he was 58 then. However, his bluff was called when he met Tina (36) in person. Appalled that Upadhyay had lied to her, Tina told him never to contact her again.

Upadhyay then started stalking Tina and would call her up at odd hours. Fed up, Tina lodged a complaint and had him arrested. However, this didn’t stop Upadhyay from harassing her. Upon his release, he posted her photograph and number on an adult website.

As a result, Tina started getting phone calls from unidentified persons asking for sexual favours. Once again, she filed a complaint. Upadhyay was arrested but granted bail soon. Sources said Upadhyay, who stayed in Pune, would come to Mumbai and stand outside Tina’s building for hours.

Upadhyay had also posted the contact number of Tina’s employer, also a woman, on the adult website. Tina and her employer then lodged a case of harassment against Upadhyay at the MIDC police station. “We had handed over the case to the crime branch and sent all the documents related to the case to them,’’ said Inspector Pascal D’- Souza of the MIDC police. The CCIC started investigating the case and arrested Upadhyay.

Sources said that Upadhyay had also posted defamatory comments against Tina on an internet blog. In a comment posted on February 17, 2006, Upadhyay wrote, “I found that she uses the dating and marriage sites on the internet and marriage bureaus in the city to find men for sex. She later blackmails them as well.’’

In the blog, Upadhyay also claimed to have filed a defamation suit against Tina on May 2, 2003. During the course of investigation, the police found out that Upadhyay had three daughters.

Upadhyay, facing murder and conspiracy charges in connection with the September 29 Malegaon blast, will be subjected to a narcoanalysis test in Mumbai on Friday.

The Times of India, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scanner on armyman, retd major arrested in Malegaon case

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Retired major Ramesh Upadhyay and Bhopal printing press employee Sameer Kulkarni, who had been picked up earlier for their suspected roles in the Malegaon blast that killed six persons on September 29, were arrested on Tuesday.

Sources also said that the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has sought permission from the military to question a serving armyman, posted at Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, in the same case.

According to the ATS, Upadhyay, who had served in the intelligence wing of the army, had trained Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and her two associates, arrested last week in the Malegaon case, in the art of making bombs. Upadhyaya was picked up on Sunday from Akurdi in Pune. Upadhayay and Kulkarni will be produced in a Nashik court on Wednesday.

“Upadhayay could not give satisfactory answers when we were corroborating his statement with those of the other acccused. We suspect that he taught the arrested accused to assemble a bomb,’’ said an ATS officer.

Upadhyay once headed the BJP’s Mumbai unit of the exservicemen’s cell. Sources said that he was removed by higher authorities.

Upadhyay’s name cropped up during the interrogation of Pragya, Shamlal Sahu and Shivnarayan Singh.

In The Dock

Pragya Singh Thakur (38) |
A former member of Durga Vahini, BJP’s women’s wing. A masters degree holder in history, her bike was used to plant the bomb in Malegaon

Shamlal Sahu (42) |
He is suspected to be one of the bomb planters. Sahu has a mobile phone shop and also acted as a realty broker. According to the MP PWD minister, Sahu is a BJP member

Shivnarayan Kalangasara Singh (36) |
He works as an electrician and is also an LIC agent. He is suspected to have assembled the timer device while making the bomb

Sameer Kulkarni (32) |
A former member of ABVP who moved from Maharashtra to Bhopal a few years ago. He is supected to have bought chemicals used in making the bomb

Rtd major Ramesh Upadhyay (64) |
A resident of Pune, he worked in military intelliegence. He is suspected to have provided training to the planters for assembling bombs


Malegaon probe opens can of worms

‘UP blast victims were in touch with two in city’

Mumbai: The Uttar Pradesh special task force (STF) has sought the help of Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in probing the August 24 Kanpur bomb blast that claimed two lives. The two were killed while they were assembling the bomb.

According to STF officials, the deceased Bajrang Dal members—Rajiv Sharma and Bhupendra Singh—had frequently called up on two mobile phones in Mumbai, two months before the blast.

STF personnel had raided the houses of Mishra and Singh after the explosion and seized three mobiles. The cellphone call records did not help the police in achieving any breakthrough. However, when the investigators asked the service providers to furnish the details of two landline phones used by the deceased, the police came to know that the duo had made frequent calls on two mobile numbers in Mumbai. “However, when we tried calling the numbers, they were ‘out of order’. Mishra and Singh were in touch with someone in Mumbai in April and May this year,’’ said an officer.

The Kanpur bomb contained ammonium nitrate, lead oxide and sulphur to create a deadly mix of explosives for manufacturing powerful bombs with timers. Incidentally, Sharma was working with a leading private telecom company in Uttar Pradesh at the time of the blast that occurred in Kanpur’s Rajivnagar area.

ATS officers said that they had tried to locate the men who were using the mobile numbers in Mumbai but claimed that “the SIM cards were obtained on fake identity’’. The police have now asked the service provider to furnish details of calls made and received on these Mumbai numbers.

Police said that large quantities of chemicals recovered from the house of Mishra could have caused huge destruction like the ones in Gujarat and Bangalore where the Indian Mujahideen suspects had also used a mix of ammonium nitrate, lead oxide and sulphur to cause blasts.

The Times of Inida, October 29, 2008

Pragya’s ‘friend’ involved in murder: Cops

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Investigations into the Malegaon blasts have revealed that Manoj Sharma, who sold blast accused sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s bike, was involved in a double murder in February 2003 in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, said sources. He was subsequently shot dead by his rivals.

“Sharma had sold Thakur’s bike for Rs 23,000 four years ago. This bike was used to plant a bomb in the textile town on September 29 this year which killed six persons,’’ said an officer.

According to sources, Sharma alias Joshi, a RSS member, was named in a sensational murder case in which a local Congress leader, Pyarsingh Nemama, and his son, Dinesh, were killed in Mhow fives years ago. It is learnt that RSS office-bearers expelled Sharma from the organisation after his name cropped up in the case.

“As of now there is no evidence to indicate that the sadhvi is involved in the case. But we are examining her files to see if she had any role to play in the double murder. Sharma was very close to the sadhvi,’’ an officer said.

Pragya, a former Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) national executive, and her two associates—Shamlal Sahu and Shivnarayan Singh—are in custody in connection with the blasts. Pragya was also a member of Durga Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s women wing. A masters degree holder in history, Pragya has been sent to police custody till November 3. Pragya’s father Chandrapal Singh, an ayurvedic doctor from Bhind district of MP, shifted to Surat in 2003.

It is learnt that Sharma had sold Pragya’s bike (GJ-05 1920) on her instruction. The arrested suspect had also changed the number plate and replaced it with a plate bearing the registration number MH 15 P 4572.

Minister vouches for blast accused Sahu
Madhya Pradesh PWD minister Kailash Vijayavargiya on Tuesday said that Shyamlal Sahu, one of the three arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast case, is a BJP worker.

“Sahu is an old BJP worker and he had also sought party ticket to contest the civic body elections about four years ago. I know him personally. He cannot indulge in the serious acts like blasts and terror. I am fully with his family members,’’ Vijayavargiya said after meeting Sahu’s family members.

Without naming the Congress, he alleged that a conspiracy has been hatched to defame the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in view of the coming assembly elections in six states. Vijayavargiya rejected charges that sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who was also arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast, has close relations with MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the state’s senior BJP leader Anil Madhav. AGENCIES

The Times of India, October 29, 2008

Sadhvi in cop custody till November 3

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The ATS on Tuesday arrested retired major Ramesh Upadhyay and a printing press employee in connection with the Malegaon blast on September 29. Upadhyay’s name came up during the interrogation of sadhvi Pragya Singh, Shamlal Sahu and S Singh. The trio have been remanded to police custody till November 3.

ATS sources said Kulkarni, along with another person whose identity has not been disclosed yet, was picked up on October 26. According to sources, Kulkarni, also known as Chanakya, came to Bhopal from Maharashtra two years ago and started a social outfit, Abhinav Bharat Sansthan. He also ran an NGO while working for a printing press at MP Nagar in Bhopal.

Apart from educating Hindus about festivals through pamphlets, Kulkarni used to raise Hindutva issues either through his Abhinav Bharat Sansthan platform or from other podiums, sources said.

The Times of India, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ATS hunts for notebook with bomb formula

A Month After A Bomb Went Off In Malegaon, Permission Sought To Conduct Forensic Tests On Sadhvi, Aides

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) now wants to locate a notebook in which Shamlal Sahu, an accomplice of Sadhvi Pragya Singh, had jotted down a formula for making a bomb, which was later planted in Malegaon. The ATS has been granted permission by a Nashik court to conduct a series of forensic tests in this case.

Public prosecutor Ajay Misar moved an application before judicial magistrate A N Kadse seeking permission to conduct the forensic tests on three arrested accused, including Pragya and Shivnarayan Singh. “The trio will be subjected to forensic tests at the laboratory in Kalina,’’ said an ATS officer. TOI had first reported about the police’s plan to conduct forensic tests in its October 27 edition.

The suspects will be subjected to polygraph, brainmapping and narco analysis tests as they are trying to confuse the police and the officers find that they are frequently changing their statements.

The three were arrested for engineering the Malegaon September 29 bomb blast that killed six. “Two ex-army men who have been detained told us that they had given some guidance to the suspects in handling explosives and firearms. We have come to know that Sahu was in possession of a bomb-making formula but we are yet to recover it,’’ said an ATS officer. Moreover, the ATS suspects that the accused were trained in bomb-making and were imparted commando training on the outskirts of Nashik and near Indore.

The police want to match the formula in the notebook with the one found in the possession of the accused arrested for the April 6, 2006 Nanded bomb blast.

The ATS had last week arrested the 38-year-old Pragya, a former member ABVP, the BJP’s student wing, Sahu (42), a commerce graduate and Singh (36), a BSc graduate, who was an electrician and LIC agent. The three were also members of two radical groups Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti and Rashtra Jagran Manch.

The police said that on April 6, 2006, a bomb exploded in Nanded while it was being made at the house of a Bajrang Dal member. It killed the bombmakers, Naresh Rajkondwar and his friend Himanshu Panse on the spot. The police
arrested 16 Bajrang Dal activists in 2006. The then inspector general K P Raghuvanshi, ATS, had said, “The explosives and the other weapons show that they were trained in making bombs and operating firearms.’’

In the latest case, RDX was used for the first time by a radical Hindu outfit. “We have found traces of RDX in the Malegaon blast. It’s difficult to assess the quantity of the explosive. The RDX was used as a booster to enhance the intensity of the blast,’’ said R Krishnamurthy, director of the state forensic laboratory.

The Times of India, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Malegaon blast suspects keep changing statements: Cops

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Two of the alleged perpetrators of the Malegaon bomb blast have told the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in their statements that they visited the powerloom town on a “business trip’’. The three accused, from two different Hindu outfits, have changed their statements frequently, according to a police source.

The ATS on October 23 arrested sadhvi Pragnya Thakur, 38, a former national executive secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and her associates Shamlal Bhavar Sahu, 42, and Shivnarayan Singh, 36. They have been accused of plotting and planting a bomb in Malegaon on September 29, which killed six people.

Two of the accused reportedly told interrogators that they visited Malegaon in mid-September for business. When questioned what business they wanted to do in the textile town, they changed their statements frequently.

Sources indicated that the three accused are likely to be given narcoanalysis, psychological profiling and polygraph tests soon. “The sadhvi has been heavily indoctrinated and it’s difficult to get information from her. She keeps changing her statement and it’s delaying our probe,’’ said an officer.

Meanwhile, the ATS collected dozens of audio and video CDs of Sadhvi Thakur’s fiery speeches and was examining them. The Kalachowky unit of the Mumbai ATS raided Thakur’s house in Madhya Pradesh over Saturday and Sunday but could not seize anything incriminating. ATS chief Hemant Karkare said, “Our teams have made several raids across the country.’’

Interestingly, the MP police said they raided the house. “The Mumbai ATS wasn’t involved in a raid at Sadhvi Thakur’s residence. Residents of Gorakhpur went to the police and said she stayed in a house for two years but the house has been locked for the past six months. In her absence, three to four men stayed in the house once. The Jabalpur police raided the house and found nothing incriminating,’’ said S K Raut, DGP, Madhya Pradesh. The Sadhvi lived as a tenant in the residence of Sadeep Gupta, owner of a book stall, said police.

On Sunday, a plain-clothed Maharashtra DGP A N Roy arrived at the Mumbai ATS office to discuss the case with Karkare. The car in which Roy came did not have his DGP’s threestar sign or a red beacon. Speaking to TOI, Roy said, “Our investigation is at a crucial stage and further developments are likely.’’

When asked about the two exarmy men’s detention and whether they could be arrested soon, Roy was non-committal. The ATS was tightlipped about the ex-army men’s alleged role in the Malegaon terror attack. They are suspected to have provided training for handling explosives and operating firearms. The police were also examining if they had any affiliation to the Bajrang Dal members arrested for the April 6, 2006 Nanded blast, where a bomb went off while being manufacutred.

It is worth noting that a cameraman known for taping the statements of the accused visited the ATS office, but no statement was taped.

Another arrest?

Some television news channels reported around 9 pm on Sunday that Shashikala Shastra, executive president of the Durga Vahini (Indore unit), the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had been detained in the case. However, the ATS did not confirm it.

The Times of India, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

ATS detains two ex-armymen

Retired Major, Jawan May Have Helped Malegaon Blast Accused With RDX: Cops

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: After the arrest of a feisty sadhvi with links to saffron groups, the Malegaon blast case has taken another serious turn with the possible involvement of ex-armymen, one of them a retired major.

Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) which is probing the blast that killed six persons just ahead of Id on Saturday detained three people, including the retired major and a retired jawan. The duo is likely to be arrested early Sunday morning and produced before the holiday court in Nashik. Police are trying to ascertain whether these men provided assistance to those who set off the motorcycle bomb in the communally sensitive textile town.

The ATS is investigating the source of the RDX used in the blast and how the accused acquired the expertise to execute the blasts, an officer said. “It’s not easy to procure RDX for a layman and use it to cause an explosion. One needs some training and it’s being investigated,’’ an officer said.

ATS senior officers, however, were tightlipped about the detention. No information was available on the third person.

“One of the armymen was posted in the North-East for almost eight years before his retirement. They have been brought to Mumbai and are being questioned. We want to find out whether they provided training to the prime accused in operating firearms and handling explosives,’’ an officer said. The bomb that went off in Malegaon contained RDX and ammonium nitrate.

The ATS on Thursday arrested three suspects, including sadhvi Prayga Singh Thakur (38), a former national executive secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and her associates Shamlal Bhavar Sahu (42) and Shiv Narayan Singh (36). They were accused of plotting the terror attack as well as planting the bomb at Bhikku Chowk in central Malegaon, metres away from a local police chowky.


Within a week of the Sept 29 Malegaon blast that killed six persons, a 15-member Maharashtra

ATS team left for Indore

After questioning 60 people, they zeroed in on seven. Two were released and five brought to Nashik. Three formally arrested on Oct 23, fate of other two unclear

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur owned the blown-up bike. Shivnarayan Kalsangara Singh is an electrician. Shamlal Sahu owns a mobile phone shop

Sadhvi’s speech floored ex-soldier
An ATS team is camping in Pune and another team has left for Jabalpur, Bhopal and other cities of Madhya Pradesh to trace more suspects whose names have cropped up during interrogations in connection with the Malegaon blast.

Sources said one of the retired soldiers detained had met sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur (38), a former national executive secretary of the ABVP, during a religious lecture and was impressed with her speech.

According to ATS chief Hemant Karkare, the motorcycle in which the bomb was planted had been traced to Pragya. The sadhvi, who had a Masters in history from MGS College in Bhind, had been a member of the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. She had been delivering “religious lectures’’ for more than seven years, said sources.

Pragya’s aide Shamlal Bhavar Sahu, a commerce graduate from Christian College in Indore, owned a mobile phone shop and also acted as a realty broker. The other person arrested with her, Shiv Narayan Singh, a BSc graduate from New Science College in Indore, became an electrician and was also an insurance agent.

The police have described Singh and Sahu as “mechanical and electronics experts’’. They are suspected to have assembled the bombs. The ATS suspects the accused had tested the bomb on the outskirts of Indore.

Meanwhile, ATS officials took the sadhvi to J J Hospital on Saturday for treatment of fever. Pragya was treated in the out-patient department, hospital officials said, after she complained of fever and chills.

‘Re-investigate ’06 Malegaon blasts’

Muslims in the state have demanded that the 2006 Malegaon cemetery blasts, which killed 31 people, be re-investigated. “We had been insisting that the boys arrested were not involved in the blasts and the police had booked them wrongly. We demand that the inquiry be reviewed and those arrested be released,’’ said Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari, a resident of Malegaon.

The Times of India, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Malegaon blast: Hindu ultras wanted revenge

Mateen Hafeez and Santosh Sonawane | TNN

Mumbai/Nashik: Revenge against ‘jehadi’ terrorism was the driving force behind the three right-wing Hindu activists, including a woman, who have been arrested in connection with the September 29 bomb blast in Malegaon which killed six and injured 89 others. TOI had reported their detention in its Friday edition.

The state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Friday produced them before a Nashik court which remanded them to police custody till November 3. The three have been charged with murder, attempt to murder and unlawful assembly under the IPC and terror acts under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, besides several sections of the Explosives Act. The woman has been identified as Pragya Singh Thakur (38), a ‘sadhvi’. ATS chief Hemant Karkare said the motorcycle in which the bomb was planted was traced to her. The other two, Shamlal Bhavar Sahu (42) and Shivnarayan Singh (36), have been accused of plotting and planting the bomb outside the sealed office of the SIMI.


‘First instance of reverse terrorism’

Mumbai: Two more suspects—Dilip Nehar and Dharmendra Bajrangi—have also been detained by the ATS.

Those arrested are reported to have given the names of their collaborators. An ATS team will soon go to MP to make more arrests. “They (the suspects) were driven by their desire to retaliate against ‘jehadi’ terrorism and to avenge the killings of Hindus,’’ said a source in intelligence. Security agencies are alarmed by the clear evidence of the beginning of radicalisation of the majority community. This, they say, is the first instance of reverse terrorism resulting in killing.

According to sources, Thakur, a resident of Gwalior, was a popular leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP, till 1997. The ABVP, though, has denied the allegation. She quit the ABVP and took ‘sanyas’ in January 2007 after becoming a disciple of religious guru Avdeshanand Giri. Thakur, who was in the state executive council of the ABVP, was known for her fiery speeches. “In 2002, she had formed the Jai Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti. We have seized some pamphlets and are conducting investigations. She had also launched the Rashtriya Jagran Manch in Indore,’’ Karkare said.

Shivnaryan is an electrical contractor in Indore while Sahu runs a cell-phone repairing shop in Tukogunj in Madhya Pradesh. He is also a smalltime property broker. Shivnarayan attends RSS ‘shakhas’ and has a shop in the Bengali Chauraha area.

According to the ATS, Thakur, Singh and Sahu are members of right-wing Hindu radical organisations. Karkare said that the motor bike used in Malegaon bomb blast belonged to Thakur who is now a sadhvi and regularly visited Surat to deliver “religious lectures’’. Thakur and Sahu had spoken to each other for 400 minutes on the cellphone over several days after the Malegaon blast, an ATS officer said. Shivnarayan and Sahu have been termed by the police as “mechanical and electronics experts’’. They are suspected to have assembled the bombs. “We want to know who taught them bomb making and whether there is any training camp for such destructive activities,’’ said an officer requesting anonymity.

The police is also probing the exact connection of the accused with saffron outfit, Hindu Jagran Manch of Madhya Pradesh. The ATS produced the three suspects amid tight security in chief judicial magistrate K D Boche’s court at Nashik around 3.45 pm on Friday. Their faces were covered with burkhas and the veils were not removed in the court in the presence of the media. Thakur, who was wearing a salwarkameez, spoke to the magistrate after the journalists left the courtroom. The police had to resort to mild lathicharge to disperse the crowd outside the court.

The bomb went off at around 9.35 pm just two days prior to Eid in Malegaon. Six persons, including a 10-yearold girl, Farheen Shaikh, were killed while 89 others were injured. The blast was followed by clashes with the police and firing. The bombs contained RDX, ammonium nitrate and shrapnel. The police began its investigation with the motorbike (LML Freedom) and found that some of its parts had been taken from other motorcycles. The accused had attempted to erase the chassis number with chemicals, Karkare said. However, the forensic experts managed to get the real chassis number which led the investigators to Indore where they made the first detention in this case.

Singh is believed to be a former member of the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. “We want to find out from where the accused procured the deadly RDX which was used in the bomb. We have to question them about the fake number plate of the bike and their sources of funds,’’ argued public prosecutor Ajay Misar in the court.

“Thakur was associated with the ABVP since her college days and we want to find out her association with the RSS. The mastermind is still at large and the arrested persons’ investigation will help us find out the whereabouts of the prime suspect,’’ said Misar in the court.

The Times of India, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Malegaon blasts: Young woman with VHP links among 3 detained

Prafulla Marpakwar & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Nearly a month after motorcycle bomb blasts killed six in the textile town of Malegaon, the state home department is in possession of specific clues that point to the involvement of rightwing Hindu organisations near Indore. Detained in Indore, three suspects, one of whom is a young woman, have been brought to the city.

“We have clues as to the involvement of people in the Malegaon bomb blasts. Our teams are still camping in Madhya Pradesh. We are working very carefully. We are sure we are near the target and our exercise will be over in a day. If we are satisfied we will detain them immediately,’’ a top IPS official told TOI on Thursday.

According to reports, the state police had initially detained five persons. After a preliminary probe, two were let off. What came as a shock to investigating officials was that of the three detained one was a woman, Pragya Singh, aged between 25 and 30 years. Singh is believed to be a former member of the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The motorcycle used in the bomb blast allegedly belonged to her. Details such as the registration and chassis numbers had been removed with the help of chemicals, but with the help of forensics, investigating officials succeeded in retrieving the numbers. It’s learnt that two suspects came to Malegaon from Indore and checked into a lodge.

“We don’t know if these persons were directly involved in the blasts, but preliminary investigations have revealed that at the very least they played a peripheral role,’’ he said. The ATS team (Nashik unit) led by inspector Rajan Ghule has been camping in Indore for three weeks and returned on Tuesday. Sukhvindar Singh, additional commissioner of police, ATS, said, “The investigation is at a crucial stage and we will disclose details at an appropriate time.’’

Uproar in RS

New Delhi: Claims and counter-claims about the role of right-wing Hindu groups in the Malegaon and Modasa bombings rocked the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. When CPM member Brinda Karat demanded a ban on Hindu outfits during zero hour, BJP members made a strong pitch for action against SIMI for a number of terror attacks in the country. P 14

Security beefed up in Malegaon
Mumbai: The state government has obtained information that indicates the role of right-wing Hindu outfits in the Malegaon bomb blasts on September 29.

A day after the blasts in the communally sensitive town, a number of prominent Muslim leaders had alleged that pro-Hindu organisations were directly behind the killings. In fact, when deputy chief minister R R Patil, who also holds the home portfolio, visited the affected areas, this suspicion was specifically brought to his notice.

When asked directly if activists of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad or the Indorebased Hindu Jagran Manch were suspects, the IPS official was noncommittal, saying it was too premature to name organisations at this juncture. In the immediate aftermath of the blasts, several former members of banned outfit SIMI were called in for questioning. Dozens of Bajrang Dal members were also questioned since the residents of Malegaon alleged that the Dal and the RSS could have been involved.

Meanwhile, following reports that pro-Hindu organisations were involved in the blasts, security has been tightened at Malegaon. Besides deploying senior officers, five companies of the state reserve police force and a company of rapid action force have been rushed there. “There is no immediate law and order problem, but we are not taking any chances,’’ he said.

The bike loaded with the bombs was parked outside the SIMI’s office and hardly 25 metres away from a police chowky in Malegaon’s Bhikku Chowk, a Muslim locality. The bomb went off at around 9.35 pm killing four persons on the spot. Two others died in hospital and at least 89 were injured. The blast was followed by clashes with the police and firing.

Storm in RS over ‘saffron terror’
Row After CPM Seeks Ban On RSS Outfits, Cong Tries To Corner BJP
New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Thursday witnessed furore over demands for a ban on the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagran Manch when members resorted to claims and counter-claims about the reported involvement of extremist Hindu groups in blasts in Malegaon (Maharashtra) and Modasa (Gujarat) on September 29.

The issue rocked the upper House when CPM member Brinda Karat demanded a ban on Hindu outfits during zero hour. Karat’s demand was countered by BJP members,who pitched for strong action against the SIMI which, the government claims, is behind several terror attacks in the country.

Karat said though the country was united in the fight against terror, there should not be different yardsticks for dealing with the menace. Whenever there was a terror attack, only a particular community was branded as terrorists, she said while demanding ban on the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagran Manch.

This provoked BJP members who asked why Karat was not talking about the SIMI, triggering noisy scenes. Subsequently, amid much shouting, the House was adjourned for 10 minutes.

Outside the House, the Congress asked the BJP to clarify its links with the RSS outfits, which have been involved with handling explosives in the past. Spokesman Shakeel Ahmed pointed out that the indication of saffron role in the Malegaon and Modasa blasts was a police finding and not a political charge.

The Congress also asked the BJP to snap ties with the Shiv Sena after it claimed credit for the recent attacks on north Indians in Mumbai. Ahmed said the claim tied in with events of the past when Bajrang Dal men died making explosives in Kanpur and in Maharashtra.

He said it was a matter of concern that a political party was behind the blasts to polarise society on communal lines with an eye on Lok Sabha polls.

“BJP has to clarify what relation it has with ABVP, Bajrang Dal, RSS and if they have a hand in blasts,” he added.

We are not involved in Malegaon blast: ABVP
New Delhi: ABVP leaders claimed that their outfit had no links with the blasts in Malegaon this September at a press meet on Thursday. It is a political conspiracy to defame the ABVP and Hindu outfits, they said. “First ATS mentioned the possibility of Vidyarthi Parishad and the VHP being involved. But ABVP is in no way involved,’’ said Sunil Bansal of the BJP’s student’s wing.
“...ATS should come out with evidence and not talk without any basis. They don’t have any proof against any ABVP activist,’’ he said.

Bansal said the name of ABVP came up after a bike was found near the blasts site. “The bike belonged to Pragya Singh, who was an ABVP activist in 1997 and is now a sadhvi. She had sold the bike before she turned a sadhvi,’’ Bansal said. TNN

The Times of India, October 24, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brilliant teen falls off train, loses both legs

INCONSOLABLE: Raushan Jawwad had scored 92.15% in her SSC exam

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The city’s cattle class train commute has put a big question mark over the future of a brilliant sixteenyear-old girl. Raushan Jawwad, who scored over 92% in her class X examination a few months ago, lost both her legs after being pushed out of a crowded local train near Andheri on Tuesday. Raushan, who was returning to her Jogeshwari home after writing her college exam papers, had her lower limbs severed at the ankle and the thigh when she was trapped under the wheels of the same train.

“Allah meri dua kyon nahi sunte? Dard kam nahi ho raha hai (Why doesn’t God ease my pain?),’’ has been her inconsolable refrain since she regained consciousness in the Millat Nursing Home in Jogeshwari late on Tuesday. While she is still unable to speak coherently, her elder brother Abu Talib (18) told TOI that the loss of her legs has left Raushan devastated. “Her two mangled
limbs have been amputated. What should we do to stop her from crying?’’ he asked.

Raushan is studying in class XI (science faculty) at Anjuman-e-Islam’s Dr Ishaq Jamkhanawala college in Bandra. She is the third among four siblings. Her father, Jawwad Ahmed, sells vegetables near Ismail Yusuf college.

Ansary Khatoon, who has been glued to her daughter’s bedside, said, “Her exams began on Monday. She left home at around 6.30 am
on Tuesday and after finishing her second paper, took a train to come home. When she neared the door at Andheri station, she could not control her balance when the other women commuters started jostling. She fell onto the tracks and her legs came under the moving train.’’

Hearing Raushan’s screams, some commuters pulled the chain and the train was stopped.

Aged man helped girl while crowd looked on
Mumbai: Raushan Jawwad, a bright 16-year-old girl who lost both her legs after being pushed off a local train near Andheri on Tuesday, reportedly got no help from the public initially. “My daughter told me that a crowd quickly gathered around her but was content to merely look on. An elderly man came forward and offered water to my bleeding daughter and even informed the police. May Allah bless him,’’ said her mother Khatoon. She added that despite her obvious trauma, Raushan called up her brother-in-law and asked
him to rush to the spot along with her mother. “She then fell unconscious,’’ said Khatoon. Raushan was initially rushed to Cooper Hospital and then shifted to Millat Nursing Home.

Family members said that Raushan has been a
brilliant student throughout her school life and is very determined in her studies. “An NGO awarded her a laptop after she scored 92.15% in her SSC exam this year. Raushan wants to become a doctor and would study almost 10-12 hours a day. We are very poor... The accident has changed our lives and we don’t know what will happen now,’’ said Raushan’s brother Abu Talib, a school dropout who works as a salesman in a mall on a monthly salary of Rs 4,500.

The family is finding it difficult even to bear Raushan’s medical expenses. Teachers from Anjumane-Islam and the Farooque high school for girls, from where Raushan completed her schooling, have come forward to help her. A donor has offered to bear all the expenses and even promised to help her get fitted with artificial legs.

The Times of India, October 17, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Malegaon blasts: Cops still groping in the dark

(WHODUNNIT: More than 200 people have been questioned in the case)

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Investigators probing the Malegaon bomb blasts are still struggling to establish the role of any specific outfit in the explosion that killed four and injured 89 others on September 29. Haroon Shah, 60, who had sustained 80% burns in the blast succumbed to his injuries on Sunday. With this the death toll has risen to 6.

While over 200 people have been questioned, the special teams formed in Malegaon and the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) which are camping in the textile town are yet to come to a conclusion. Senior officers said that there were some leads in the case and they were working on the information. “There is no big breakthrough as such, however, we have got some leads and are exploring all aspects. There is no indication of the involvement of any specific group or outfit in the blasts so far,’’ said A N Roy director-general of police.

The bomb, planted on a vehicle (MH-15 P 4572), went off just below the SIMI office and the blast site was hardly 25 m from a police chowky. The residents alleged that the cops at the local chowky were informed about the unclaimed bike but the police did not act on this information, which caused the blasts, said sources. A mob then attacked the cops for not taking cognisance of the in
formation. Eight police personnel and 22 homeguards were injured in the alleged mob attack.

Sukhvindar Singh, ATS’ additional commissioner of police was tightlipped about the investigation. “We have questioned many people but cannot divulge anything. We have got some leads. However, we cannot share them as they would hamper our investigation,’’ said Singh.

Personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed in the powerloom township after the
situation went out of control. Meanwhile, the Malegaon police were busy with the Dussehra bandobast. “Everything has returned to normal. The situation is under control,’’ said superintendent of police S P Gupta.

The police have registered a case of attempt to murder, rioting and stealing a policeman’s service revolver containing 10 rounds against 15,000 unidentified persons. A ragpicker, Rehman Chause, has been arrested on charges of stealing the revolver.

The Times of India, October 14, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Conscience call put them off terror track

Interrogation Of Indian Mujahideen Operatives Gives City Cops Key Leads

C Unnikrishnan & Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A group of youngsters, who attended indoctrination camps in India and Pakistan and was being readied to carry out blasts, backed out at the last minute because it “pricked their conscience”, the police claimed.

The youths could not come to terms with the fact that innocent people would lose their lives in such attacks. According to the police, they have identified at least 10 of them from Mumbai, Azamgarh and Pune.

The police learnt about this during the interrogation of some of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives in their custody. A senior police officer told TOI that Riyaz Bhatkal, one of the co-founders of IM, took the lead in organising the training. “Some of them attended the training in Bhatkal, Karnataka, while a few others participated in the indoctrination sessions in Pakistan,’’ the officer added.

The indoctrination was done over a period of three years, said the police. Most of them had been approached by Bhatkal because they regularly went to religious centres. “Some of the youths were being indoctrinated since 2005,’’ said crime branch chief Rakesh Maria. He, however, refused to elaborate.

TOI learnt that the training was done in three stages. “In the first ses
sion, they were told about the atrocities on Muslims across the world, including India. In the second session, they were shown CDs containing provocative material to arouse a feeling of hatred,’’ an officer said.
In the last part, the youths were told about the attacks to be carried out. “In most instances, we found that
they dropped out at the last stage as it pricked their conscience,’’ said additional commissioner of police (detection) Deven Bharati.

The youngsters were even told that they would have to fight for the cause as “Muslim politicians were only interested in furthering their prospects”, the police said.

The police got
the first breakthrough about the trained youths while the cops were grilling Sadiq Shaikh. “He told us about some youths who refused to take part in the bomb blast conspiracy saying it was not correct killing innocent people and they drifted apart from the Bhatkal and Shaikh’s group,’’ said a source.

The Times of India, October 11, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cops claim Bhatkals misled the techies

Nitasha Natu & Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) suspects have confessed that they were misled by mastermind Riyaz Bhatkal and are now regretting being part of the outfit, the police claim.

Techies Mohammad Mansoor Peerbhoy, Mubin alias Salman Shaikh and Atiq Iqbal led comfortable lives with hefty pay packages, till they came into contact with Bhatkal. “The Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal, impressed upon the boys’ minds that they had renounced all their worldly possessions, their money and their apartments for the cause of jihad. The boys were shown provocative CDs on atrocities on Muslims across the world, instigating them to join the outfit,’’ a senior police official said.

But after their arrests, the accused were shown a slice of reality. “We showed them the opulence in which the Bhatkals were living — their bank statements and their properties. The accused realised that they had been taken for a ride,’’ joint commissioner Rakesh Maria said.

Quoting the accused, a crime branch official said, “We have made a mess of our lives, swayed by our emotions. The Bhatkal brothers manipulated things to their own advantage. We regret being part of the outfit and realise that we were used.’’

Peerbhoy’s mother, who came to meet him in the police lock-up, could not believe her well-educated son was an IM operative. “Why didn’t you ask me about the concept of jihad in Islam?’’ was the first thing she asked her son, in the presence of police officials. “Why don’t you understand that killing innocents is not the teaching of Islam? You should have asked me about the concept and teaching of Islam,’’ she told him. To this, Peerbhoy had no answer.

Later, while sitting in the police van, Peerbhoy saw a Ganesha idol installed near the windscreen and took objection to it. “He told us idol
worship was wrong. When we told him that he had betrayed the country with his acts of terror, he was dumbfounded. He muttered that he was no traitor,’’ an officer said.

According to sources,
Peerbhoy was against the killing of children in terror activities and had pointed this out to Bhatkal on one occasion. Bhatkal had convinced him that children killed in blasts would go straight to Jannat (heaven). Peerbhoy had then continued to edit the terror emails which were later sent to various news channels.

“When we confronted him with the list of extortion and criminal charges registered against Bhatkal, Peerbhoy was shocked. He had no idea that Bhatkal was a criminal, and had believed that he was a religious person,’’ an official said. Bhatkal was known to the boys as Ahmed bhai. Peerbhoy had met Bhatkal in Pune where they had offered prayers together. Bhatkal introduced Peerbhoy to Asif Bashir Shaikh, a mechanical engineer, who then started imparting him “teachings of Islam’’, sources said.

“Peerbhoy held Shaikh in high regard for his knowledge of the religion, but was unaware that most of what he was taught was against the tenets of Islam,’’ a source said.

The Times of India, October 9, 2008

Banks instructed to freeze IM operatives’ accounts

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The crime branch has asked several banks to freeze at least seven accounts belonging to the alleged operatives of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The police are now trying to ascertain the amount stashed in the accounts and hunting for local fund raisers, said sources.

A special team has been formed to investigate the transfer of funds to the suspects’ accounts. The crime branch, which claimed to have unearthed the nation-wide conspiracy, is also taking help from some officers of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to scrutinise the bank ac
counts and the flow of funds.

“The amount in their account was meant to fund their activities. The diabolical plot of bombing Mumbai was busted and the suspects were caught before they could execute their conspiracy,’’ said a crime branch officer. The suspects’ accounts are maintained with several multi-national banks and net banking was mostly used in transferring the money, the police claimed.

“We have written to the banks to freeze the bank accounts of these suspects,’’ confirmed crime branch chief Rakesh Maria. “Moreover, money was sent through hawala,’’ he added. The accounts also include Peerbhoy’s
salary account. Talking about the IM’s plan to recruit its members in several fields, Maria said, “They had plans to recruit men in legal department, media and the corporate sectors.’’

“We have good evidence against these accused and are sure of securing the conviction,’’ Maria said. The crime branch will concentrate mainly on two cases — the vehicles stolen from Navi Mumbai and used in the Ahmedabad blasts and the terror e-mails that originated from Mumbai. “The respective state investigative agencies will file chargesheets in the blast cases. We will hand over the material gathered to them,’’ said Maria.

The Times of India, October 9, 2008

Muslims aided undercover cops

Sleuths Claim A Well-Planned Recce, Support From Locals Helped Them Bust Terror Module

Mateen Hafeez & Nitasha Natu I TNN
Mumbai: Crime branch officials, tracking the terror modules in Mumbai, were sheltered by Muslim families in their homes for a few days. The undercover officers took the families into confidence and used their houses as bases to observe the movements of the terror suspects before zeroing in on them.

“They played a very important role by supporting us in our operation,’’ joint commissioner of police (crime) Rakesh Maria said. Several terror suspects who were picked up from Mumbai and the neighbouring districts stayed in Muslim-dominated areas. For the po
lice, it was a very difficult job moving around all the time there without being noticed.

The police identified some families through their contacts in Kurla, Cheetah Camp, and Mumbra, where the officers were provided shelter by Muslim families. “We stayed there for two days, watched the movements of the suspect and kept passing on the information to the crime branch headquarters where senior officers worked on it,’’ a police officer said. The basic idea was to confirm the identities of the suspects before picking them up.

In one instance, the police claimed an officer shot pictures of a suspect with his mobile phone and sent it to the headquarters where it was shown to one of the arrested accused. “He confirmed the identity, after which the team arrested the suspect,’’ he said.

According to Maria, this mainly worked to their advantage leading to the first set of arrests on September 23. One of those arrest
ed included key IM operative Sadiq Shaikh. “It was Ramzan and the Muslim-dominated areas were milling with people. The officers were continuously interacting with us over the phone, and we verified the information to ensure that we picked up the right people,’’ he said.

In Mangalore, too, where crime branch officials arrested four persons subsequently with the help of local police, they received tremendous support from the locals. “Two teams reached Mangalore on September 30 searching for a house, which was painted pink inside and was adjacent to a mosque. “Mohammed Ali, who harboured some of the terrorists, lived in this house. There are 16 mosques and locating this house was next to impossible. Moreover, we did not want to alert the suspects,’’ a police officer said.

The officers even donned local attire and posed as if they had returned from Gulf. “We even carried huge suitcases and had airline stickers pasted on them to convince the locals,’’ he said. According to a police officer, after gaining confidence of some of them, they disclosed their identities. “They helped us identify Ali’s house,’’ a police officer said.

Meanwhile, a senior crime branch official said that deputy chief minister R R Patil had given them complete freedom to tackle terrorism. “We got some of the best officers to the crime branch. The recent arrests prove that it has not lost its sheen,” Patil said.

The Andhra Pradesh government has announced a reward of Rs 15 lakh to the Mumbai crime branch team that busted the terror module involving members connected to the Hyderabad bomb blasts. Dy CM R R Patil has already announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh to the 35-member team.

The Times of India, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hack attack: Email drafts found, say cops

TROUBLE HITS HOME: The front door of the flat in which Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy was residing in. The home is in Central Park Society, Pune Camp

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The tech-savvy operatives of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), who were arrested by the Mumbai crime branch for alleged involvement in terror activities, deleted the three terror-related emails from the computers used to send them. However, they transferred drafts of the emails to a laptop to show their “performance’’ to other accomplices and fundraisers. Police say they have this laptop in their possession.

The Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) is now trying to retrieve the deleted data from the original computers, said crime branch officers. “These boys got the email text from Riyaz Bhatkal alias Roshan Jamal on a CD. It would be edited by Mansoor Peerbhoy, who would add the IM’s logo and even sign them,’’ said an officer.

Crime Branch chief Rakesh Maria on Monday claimed that mechanical engnineer Asif Bashir Shaikh, 22, computer engineer Peerbhoy aka Munawwar aka Mannu, 31, and computer science graduate Mubin Kadar Shaikh, 24, were responsible for the terror emails. At least three emails were sent to news channels from Sanpada, Khalsa College and Chembur.

“Asif, a Pune resident, would go to Mangalore and meet Bhatkal, where the latter would hand over a CD containing the texts of the emails. Later, Peerbhoy would edit the text and add more material to it. It was Bhatkal who proposed that they should send the emails so that their ‘mentors and fundraisers’ would see their performance and the same emails could also be used as instruction to other accomplices,’’ said an officer.

However, Sadiq Shaikh, an arrested accused who has been termed as the controller of the IM, opposed the email idea since there were chances of being caught. “However, despite Sadiq’s strong opposition, Bhatkal asked Asif, Peerbhoy and Mubin to send the emails. Sadiq had also opposed Bhatkal’s idea of using Afzal Usmani, a car thief, to steal cars from Navi Mumbai that were lat
er used in the Surat and Ahmedabad bombings,’’ the source said.

The IM was the creation of Bhatkal, said a crime branch officer, contradicting the Gujarat police claim that IM is a Simi faction.

Peerbhoy, who speaks fluent English, preferred to talk in Marathi with the police during questioning. Peerbhoy, who worked with Yahoo for a yearly salary of Rs 19 lakh, comes from a respectable Pune family. While his mother is a teacher, his brother is an architect. He is the father of two. Mubin, a senior technical support advisor with a call centre, is also accused of compiling emails.

Police have seized five laptops with wireless routers, six CPUs, three pen drives, WiFi detectors, RF signal detectors and so on. The computers have been sent for cyber analysis. It is learnt that Usmani and Peerbhoy may become police approver

The Times of India, October 8, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Malegaon’s metamorphosis

The Powerloom Town Is Churning Out Doctors, Engineers And Scientists Like Never Before

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
* IAS officer Mohammad Qaisar, who has grown up in Malegaon, is now an assistant collector in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.
* Zubaida Ansari, a scientist who calls Malegaon her home, has worked in Japan and South Korea and is currently delivering lectures in Jamia Millia Islamia.
* Malegaon has churned out doctors, engineers, journalists, IT and software professionals in the hundreds this decade. Less than a dozen students used to get a berth in engineering or medical colleges every year between 1991 and 1997.

Qaisar, Ansari and hundreds of faceless — but education-empowered — youth are now in the vanguard of a social revolution that is forcing the outside world to look at “communally sensitive’’ Malegaon a little differently. They are now in diverse industries like tourism, aviation, bank
ing, pharma and, of course, in the public sector, trying to convince Malegaon that change is possible and happening right now.

“Around a hundred students go for different medical courses and an equal number head for engineering colleges every year now. There is an awareness in the community and we are getting positive results,’’ Abdul Lateef Ansari, director of an MH-CET coaching institiute and Saahil Career Guidance Centre in Malegaon, said.

Everyone in Malegaon agrees that education has been the magic wand that is help transforming the textile town and its profile. The 12.95-squarekm town has 156 Urdu-medium primary schools, high schools and junior colleges that take care of 86,000 students every year; and the Marathimedium institutions are responsible for lighting the world of 35,000 students annually. Malegaon also has the world’s largest Islamic institution for women, the Jamiat-us-Swalehat.

But the town, located 300 km from Mumbai, has been in the news mostly for the wrong reasons. The majority-minority role is reversed here, with about three-fourths of the 7.5-lakh township being Muslim (most of them are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar). The first riot occurred in 1963 — between two processions (one for Ganpati Visarjan and the other for Moharram) — and, since then, it has been a cyclical occurrence: a second in the early 1980s, a third in 1992 and then the worst of all the riots in October 2001, when the army had to be
called in to restore peace.

“But the township is neither ‘sensitive’ nor are the people here ‘communal’. We cannot afford to as both the communities are stakeholders in the powerloom industry,’’ commerce graduate and powerloom unit owner Ishtiyaq Ahmed said. “What the media calls riots are often a violent expression of people’s anger against the police force,’’ he added.

Over two dozen policemen and home guards were beaten up by an angry mob after the blast on September 29. Residents said police had
ignored their tip-off about the bike in which the bomb was planted. This anger, after the four deaths, then singed the men in khaki.

The violence in October 2001 turned much worse after a policeman, who could not read Urdu, snatched a pamphlet from someone; the paper was merely asking for a boycott of USmanufactured goods. An attack on policemen followed and it ended with police firing on a violent mob that led to the death of 12 persons, including a 50-year-old woman; the communal riot came after all this.

Officials admit that a shortage of Muslims in the force has often been a reason for the poor law-and-order situatoin in the town. “We have conducted a training session for recruitment in the police force especially for Muslims and trained around 100 girls and boys. They will now be appearing in the exam,’’ additional superintendent of police Sanjay Patil said.

Ragpicker held for stealing constable’s pistol
Malegaon: The Malegaon police on Saturday claimed to have recovered constable Deepak Borse’s stolen service pistol and 10 bullets from one Rehman Chaus, a 24-year-old ragpicker. “We arrested him on Saturday,’’ said IG (Nashik range) Surya Prakash Gupta.

IPS probationer, Viresh Prabhu, who was injured in a police-public clash after the bomb blast, was shifted to Bombay Hospital on Saturday morning. He condition was said to be stable.

The Times of India, October 5, 2008

Town waits for hosp promised by Sonia Gandhi

Yogesh Naik I TNN

Malegaon: The construction of a 200-bed government hospital as promised by UPA president Sonia Gandhi in 2006 would have eased the troubles of Malegaon bomb blast victims. But the construction has been delayed by six months.

Gandhi had visited the powerloom town after the September 2006 blasts. Narrating their plight, relatives of victims had told her that the absence of a government hospital had made things worse for them. After listening to them, Gandhi had announced that she would urge the state government to construct a 200-bed government hospital.

Soon, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh sanctioned funds and the foundation stone for the hospital was laid in December 2006.

The government had estimated that the construction would be completed in 18 months. Last year, the health department appointed doctors for the hospital. “As there was a delay, we asked the doctors to work at the existing rural hospital in Malegaon,’’ said a Nashik district official.

When blasts rocked Malegaon on Monday night, nearly 140 people, including 39 policemen and homeguards, were injured and five others were killed. Many were taken to the Malegaon Municipal Corporation owned Wadia Hospital,
but it was too crowded.

The patients were then shifted to private hospitals. “Since blast victims had to be rushed to private hospitals, we have decided to foot their bills,’’ said Malegaon sub-divisional officer Ajay More.

A senior doctor at Wadia Hospital said, “Many patients whose condition was serious had to be shifted to other hospitals outside Malegaon. In fact, one Irfan Khan was moved to a hospital in Nashik and then to Mumbai. He later succumbed to his injuries at KEM Hospital.’’

Nashik district officials said the new hospital would be ready by December 2008.

A homeguard who sustained injuries in the blast said that he was shifted to two hospitals before he was sent to Medicare Hospital for treatment. “I was injured and had to be shunted from one hospital to another. It was a traumatic experience,” he said.

The hospital is expected to be inaugurated in January next year since the state is yet to get an appointment from the UPA chief for the inauguration in December.

The Times of India, October 5, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Malegaon men saved cops from death

{MEN OF THE HOUR: (From right)Eidi Ameen Bhikku, Abdul Haleem Siddiqui, the scribe, Ibrahim Seth and Mukhtar Bhikku, who saved the police and Siddiqui from the mob}

Mateen Hafeez I TNN Malegaon: Recuperating in the ICU of Malegaon Medical Research Foundation, assistant superintendent of police Viresh Prabhu can’t stop thanking a Muslim family for rescuing him and his colleagues from an angry mob on Monday night after a bomb went off in the textile town.

An IPS officer of the 2005 batch, Prabhu was beaten up and dragged to a nearby gutter by a furious mob. “I was patrolling the area when I first heard about a blast at Bhikku Chowk. By the time we reached the spot, a huge mob had gathered at the chowkie,” said the Karnataka born officer. “The mob started beating us. Had it not been for the timely and courageous intervention of Mukhtar Bhikku and his sons, my colleagues and I would have been severely injured.”

A journalist, Abdul Haleem Siddiqui, who writes for a Mumbai-based Urdu daily,
Malegaon’s additional superintendent of police Sanjay Patil and his body guard were also beaten up by the mob.

“I saw the mob attack the police personnel and asked my sons to bring the officers inside our house. The angry mob even tried to break open my door,” said 65-year-old Bhikku, a well-known figure in the textile town.

“When we didn’t open the door, the mob started pelting stones at my home,” he said recalling the fateful night. He said it was a “sad incident’’ and the youths should have not
targeted the police.

“The mob was uncontrollable and they were insisting that the blast could have been averted had the police removed a motor bike that was parked at the chowk,” he said. Many of them said the police was informed about the bike but did not take any action, he added. “I asked the men to go home but my plea was turned down. Finally, we had to shut all our doors and windows to protect the police personnel and the journalist,’’ he said.

''We asked Patil and other cops not to fear since they were in our house. We assured them nobody could harm them and we sat with the policemen un
til a police team came to take them,’’ said Bhikku.

Asked what prompted him to risk his live and that of his family members to help the men in uniform, he said, “It is our duty as a citizen to help the police and save their lives.’’

His son, Shahid who runs a textile shop on the ground floor, said, “The mob turned violent after the blast and was assaulting the policemen. We tried to convince them to stop but our pleas fell on deaf ears. We had no choice but to bring the police personnel inside our house.”

But this didn’t stop the mob. “They threatened us for providing protection to the
cops. Women and children in our family were scared. The mob smashed our windows and abused us,” said Shahid.

Ibrahim Seth, who owns National Tours and Travels, was the first to spot the policemen being surrounded by the mob. “I begged the men to go home but they were not ready to listen to me. We took Haleem Siddiqui, Sanjay Patil and other policemen to the Bhikku family’s residence so that they could be safe there,’’ said Seth.

Siddiqui who reached the spot within 15 minutes of the blast was clicking photos of the site when he was attacked.

The Times of India, October 4, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blast victim dies at JJ Hospital

Times News Network
Mumbai: Eid festivities were cut short for the family of Irfan Khan, an autorickshaw driver from Malegaon, who died at JJ Hospital on Wednesday. Khan had sustained multiple injuries during Monday’s blast in Malegaon and had been shifted to JJ Hospital on Tuesday. “He was alright till Wednesday morning. He even told us about how he wanted to offer namaaz for Eid,’’ said his uncle Asfaq, as he waited to claim the body from JJ Hospital’s morgue.

According to the police, 20-year-old Khan had dropped a passenger and stopped for a cup of
tea near the place where the bomb went off. Relatives said his body was ridden with bomb shrapnels when he was hospitalised.

Khan had first been rushed to Farhan Hospital in Malegaon, from where he was shifted to the Nashik Civil Hospital and later transferred to JJ Hospital on Tuesday evening. He is survived by his ageing parents, two brothers and four sisters.

Meanwhile, another victim, 65-year-old Hanif Chand is battling for his life in the civicrun KEM Hospital. “He has suffered head injuries and we are praying,’’ said social worker Irfan Tambole.

The Times of India, Ocotber 2, 2008

Residents cut down on revelry, cancel outings

(SHOCKED: Mukhtar Bhikku (above) says Malegaon is yet to come to terms with Monday’s tragedy)

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Malegaon: While the textile hub is trying to recover from the shock following Monday’s blast, hundreds of locals who had planned family picnics on the occasion of Eid have decided to cancel their outings and stay at home.

Most of the people whom TOI spoke to—including college students as well as those working for MNCs—stated that they had cancelled their plans as, according to them, it was improper on their part to celebrate when the township was trying to come to terms with the tragedy.

“For residents here, Eid is the only time of the year when they get some free time. In Malegaon, which is the second biggest powerloom hub in the state after Bhiwandi employing over five lakh people, units are shut only during Eid for nearly eight days and during Eid-ul-Zuha for five days. This is the time when labourers and loom owners too get leave and hence most of the people plan for picnics,’’ a resident said.

For instance, Mukhtar Bhikku (65) son of late Abdul Aziz Bhikku, after whom an area where the last took place in Malegaon has been named (Bhikku Chowk), said that he along with his friends had planned a 10-day trip to Agra and New Delhi. “But we cancelled our plans. The blast took place in front of my restaurant (Bhikku hotel) which is hardly 20 metres away from my house. I don’t think it is the time to enjoy now,’’ he said.

Similarly, Abdul Lateef Ansari, a retired vice-principal too has cancelled his plans for an outing. “My friends and I planned for family picnic two months ago. Most of them (friends) are associated with the powerloom industry and hardly get time. But
the tragedy has forced us to postpone our plans,’’ he said.

Interestingly, the decision to cut down on the revelry has come as a disappointment for tour operators. “We are finding it difficult to fill up seats in our buses now. But we can’t force people to go ahead with their travel plans. We have even returned the booking amount to those who have decided to cancel their trips,’’ a tour operator said.

Meanwhile, many youngsters are now planning to join hands with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in order to collect money for the blast victims. Residents have also planned to help the victims through fitra (a fixed amount given to poor especially on Eid) and zakat.

The Times of India, October 2, 2008

Eid moon will shine on a scarred town

(FALSE ALARM: A motorcycle parked near Bhikku Chowk (where Monday’s blast took place) in Malegaon created panic on Wednesday. The bike was taken apart by personnel of the the bomb detection and disposal squad after locals alerted them. (Inset) The owner of the bike who returned after attending a meeting was not amused)

Security beefed up in Malegaon, investigations take a backseat

Yogesh Naik & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Malegaon: With policemen being diverted for Eid bandobast duty, investigations in the Malegaon blast have taken a backseat. Admitting this, Nashik (rural) superintendent of police Nikhil Gupta said, “Our priority is to ensure a peaceful Eid and priority is being given to bandobast.’’

With namaaz being offered at five maidans, two platoons of the SRPF and one belonging to the RAF are helping the police. The Centre too has rushed 500 CRPF personnel here. While two companies of CRPF have already arrived, two more would reach soon, said an official.

Meanwhile, the police rounded up a few people for interrogation and also raided a few madrassas in Malegaon and Nashik. Muslims had earlier said that they would wear old clothes and sport black badges on Eid. On Wednesday, Mufti Ismail, the chief Imam of the Jama Masjid, said Muslims could wear new clothes.

The Malegaon police and the ATS are competing with each other, with each claiming that they are the main investigating agency. Nashik range IG S P Gupta insisted that the local police were investigating the case and the ATS was just helping them, while ATS officers claimed vice-versa.

The relief cheques—Rs 8 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured—will be distributed on Thursday. Eighteen injured Home Guards will also be financially compensated.

The Times of India, October 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Angry locals train guns on deputy CM

Mateen Hafeez & Yogesh Naik I TNN

Malegaon: Residents of this textile town had a lot to say about the police probe into Monday’s blast—most of it far from charitable. Residents, in fact, said the blast itself could have been averted if police had acted on their information about a “suspicious-looking’’ motorcycle parked outside a transporter’s office. “I found a bike parked for a long time outside my office and asked an acquaintance to call the cops. He did, but the police never visited the spot,’’ transporter Abdullah Ansari said on Tuesday. Ansari himself was injured in the blast, which occurred just outside the sealed SIMI office.

The four persons who were killed in the blast were identified as Farheen Shaikh, Mohammad Azhar, Mushtaque Shaikh and Rafeeque Shaikh. Police officials said 22 homeguards and eight policemen (including IPS officer Viresh Prabhu) were injured during a subsequent clash with angry residents.

The funeral of the four killed in the blast was held in Bada Qabrastan on Tuesday evening amidst tight security. Several companies of police and paramilitary personnel from the Central Reserve Po
lice Force, Rapid Action Force and Riot Control Police, besides the local police, have been deployed to maintain order.

The probe into the incident has not made much headway and even the contents of the bomb are still to be ascertained. “We have sent bomb samples to the forensic laboratory in Nashik and are waiting for the report,’’ Nikhil Gupta said. An ATS team is also camping in Malegaon to help the local police with the investigations.

Residents said the blast could not have come at a more inopportune time. The powerloom town had been preparing for Eid, but on Tuesday it was trying to limp back to normal after the blast.

Even the textile industry, the backbone of Malegaon’s economy, remained shut as thousands of labourers thronged the blast site. Deputy chief minster R R Patil and state director-general of police A N Roy followed them there and met the victims and their families. Patil announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh from the state government (and Rs 3 lakh from the central government) for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured. ATS chief Hemant Karkare also visited Malegaon and visited the blast site.

But angry residents had several tough posers for Patil. Asif Ali Driver, a well-known social worker, led the tirade. “How long will this continue? Why have your agencies failed to prevent this blast? Muslims have been killed and injured and your police will again arrest Muslim boys after cooking up some new theory. Tell us what you are going to do to stop it.’’ Patil mumbled, “We will crack the case soon,’’ before leaving the scene.

The Times of India, October 1, 2008