Has Isi Infiltrated Into India’s Intelligence Networks & Political Parties?
If India’s human rights community had not become addicted to the advantages that come with playing partisan politics, Lt. Col. Purohit would not be languishing in jail today without trial. His lawless incarceration, brutal torture and denial of due process would have bothered our human rights community had they developed proper protocols for adopting cases of rights abuse
Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit has been in jail as an under-trial for over five years under the stringent MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act) for the alleged crime of having masterminded the Malegaon bomb blasts on 29 September 2008. It had led to seven deaths and several injured. Malegaon is a communally sensitive textile producing town in Nashik district of Maharashtra. As per 2011 Census, the population of Malegaon is 471,006. Muslims comprise nearly half of its population concentrated mostly in the eastern part of the city. By all accounts, it has been a communally charged and divided town for some decades now.
The investigation of these blasts was initially handled by the Maharashtra ATS (Anti-Terrorism Squad). This notorious agency officially announced the arrest of Purohit on 5 November 2008 but he was actually abducted and brought to the illegal custody of ATS on 29 October 2008 by a fellow officer of Indian Army, Col. R.K. Shrivastav. However, despite the NIA (National Investigation Agency) taking over the Malegaon blast case for investigation in April 2011, till date no charge sheet has been filed by the NIA against Purohit.
If India’s human rights community had not become addicted to the advantages that come with playing partisan politics, Lt. Col. Purohit would not be languishing in jail today without trial. His lawless incarceration, brutal torture and denial of due process would have bothered our human rights community had they developed proper protocols for adopting cases of rights abuse.
SPINE CHILLING STORY OF MAHARASHTRA ATS LAWLESSNESS
Thus even the bare facts of Lt Col. Purohit’s case make a spine chilling reading. I appeal to the readers to judge for themselves whether or not the treatment meted out to Purohit deserves our attention. At the time when Malegaon bomb blast case investigation was in progress, Purohit was undergoing a course in Arabic language in the AEC (Army Education Corps) Training College and Centre at Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh. He had specifically requested this 18 months long course in writing and the same was strongly recommended by the Commanding Officer of Southern Command Liaison Unit of Military Intelligence, based on his service profile, experience and performance. Before that he was posted in Devlali in district Nashik as an Intelligence Officer of the Southern Command Liaison Unit, Pune. Purohit was deputed to the Intelligence Wing of the Indian Army after he suffered a serious knee injury during anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir. His knee had to be reconstructed and the doctors advised him not to undertake any serious physical activity such as running or mountain climbing. That made him unfit for resuming his earlier job in the Infantry Division of the Army.
Even while undergoing the Arabic Language course at Panchmarhi in MP, he remained professionally active since intelligence gathering is a continuous process. This was recorded in the form of statements by witnesses who have been examined during the court of inquiry conducted by the Army after his arrest. By all accounts, Purohit had developed an effective intelligence network and was successful in putting together useful information about the infamous terror group, SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) and its links with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence). Purohit’s service record shows that he had received several commendation certificates for good performance. The Confidential Reports (CR’s) by his seniors were also consistently positive. To quote a few:
“The officer (Lt. Col. Purohit) has infiltrated the SIMI and other underground outfits in the region through his capabilities and go getter attitude”—Army’s Confidential Report (31 Dec 06)
“He (Lt. Col. Purohit) developed an effective informant network in the AOR [Area of Responsibility] which led to acquisition of Naxal propaganda, Maoists and Terrorists.” -Army’s Confidential Report (15th February 2008)
“My heartiest congratulations to you and all ranks of the battalion for successful operations in Gen Area Rangai on 07 May 02 which led to the killing of two foreign terrorists and recovery of large quantity of war like stores”—Brig. Prakash Menon, Commander, 68, Mountain Brigade (8 May 02)
“I am extremely pleased to learn about the achievements of your Cell in obtaining actionable intelligence relating to the terrorist activities in you AOR.”—Lt. Col. Amitabh Joshi, Offg CO, 31, Composite Intelligence Unit (20 Mar 03)
“I am extremely pleased to learn about the achievements of your Cell in obtaining intelligence relating to presence of hard core terrorists at Thimaran Forest MZ 2980 in your AOR”—Lt. Col. Amitabh Joshi, Offg CO, 31, Composite Intelligence Unit (04 Sep 03)
BEGINNING OF PUROHIT’S INCARCERATION
As per Purohit’s “Statutory Complaint” ( http ://www .scribd .com/doc/ 233132999/) dated 05 August 2009 to his Commanding Officer, Brigadier Sandeep Kumar, the then Commandant at AEC School Panchmarhi, on 24th October 2008, he was called in the middle of the night by a certain Colonel Rajiv K. Shrivastav, who claimed to have been directed by the Army Headquarters to question him about Malegaon blasts. Purohit told him that he had already forwarded a handwritten report to Maj. Bhagirath Dey who was then posted as Intelligence Officer of the team at Jabalpur in addition to telephonic information he provided to Col Vinay Panchpore, Commanding Officer of Southern Command and Major Praveen Khanzode, Intelligence Officer Southern Command Devlali Unit where Purohit was posted prior to his move to Panchmarhi for the Arabic course.
From 1 AM to 3 AM, in the thick of night, Purohit was questioned about his alleged involvement in Malegaon Blasts of 29 September 2008 in the presence of Brigadier Sandeep Kumar at the VIP guest room of the AEC Training College. Thereafter, Shrivastav questioned him alone till 8 AM. Before the interrogation began, Shrivastav took away Purohit’s mobile phones so that he could not inform anyone what was happening to him. It is noteworthy that all these proceedings took place without Shrivastav showing any written order or instructions by higher authorities to interrogate Purohit.
Between 8 AM on 25 October and 9 AM, 29 October, 2008, Purohit faced no further interrogation. In fact, Shrivastav came to meet Purohit at his residence twice and also met him at a social get-togethers at the officers institute. However, on 29 October, 2008, at about 9 AM, that is four days after grilling him an entire night, Purohit was called by Lt. Col. G.C. Mohanta, Adjutant, Army Education Corps College to his office and informed that he had to accompany Col. Shrivastav to New Delhi. Since no army officer can go from one place to another without an official “movement order” which specifies to which destination the person is being sent and to whom he has to report, Purohit was handed a written order that he had to report to Integrated Headquarters of the Army (Ministry of Defence) for interaction with Military Intelligence20, There are 2 witnesses, namely Lt. Col. Mohanta and Lt. Col. Sanjay Kumar to Shrivastav handing over this order to Purohit. (See Original Movement Order: http: //www. scribd.com/ doc/233131904/ )
When Purohit was about to leave for Bhopal from Panchmarhi from where he and Shrivastav were to board a flight to New Delhi, Purohit was ordered not to carry any mobile phone with him. The one he was carrying was taken away and deposited with the Adjutant AEC Training College. This order was blatantly illegal and a sign of things to come.
Purohit says, at the Bhopal airport, Shrivastav did the check-in for both of them and summarily informed Purohit that they were going to Mumbai instead of New Delhi. This amounted to gross violation of army conduct rules because no officer is allowed to change the route or his destination in defiance of the “movement order”. Purohit had not only been deprived of his mobile phone but also not allowed to inform his wife or mother about the change in destination. Shrivastav prevented him from accessing even a public phone by threatening Purohit with physical violence if he tried to use a public phone facility. This too amounted to illegal detention of an army officer. Any civilian would have created a ruckus at the airport if the police or any other authority had acted so high handed. But Purohit had to keep quiet since Shrivastav was his senior and obedience to a senior’s command is inculcated as a quintessential requirement in the army hierarchy.
What followed is a hair-raising story best told in the words of Purohit himself as narrated in his“Statutory Complaint”:
We reached Mumbai Airport late at night at around 2230 or 2300 hrs on 29 Oct 2008. Immediately, I was taken in a civil TATA Sumo vehicle (which purportedly was of Intelligence Bureau) which drove approximately for two hours. We arrived at an unknown place at the end of the journey. Immediately, I was taken [for interrogation] to a room having no windows. A team of interrogators were already present there. This team comprised of Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra Police and Intelligence Bureau officials. Though all of them were in civil dress, I got to know the names, designation and appointments of all these officials in due course of time.
I was interrogated by this combined team for almost two hours on the night of 29/30 Oct 2008. Till then all the members of interrogating team was talking to me with a respect deserved by an army officer. After initial two hours of questioning, it was Colonel Shrivastav (Director Military Intelligence—9) who suddenly sprung from his chair and initiated a brutal physical assault on me. He slapped me on my face at will and continued slapping me and started kicking me all over the body with his shoes on. Colonel R K Shrivastav then started pulling my hair on head and chest as well. At this stage the other interrogators, including the Indian Police Service cadre officers of Anti Terrorism Squad and Intelligence Bureau officers, joined him in physically assaulting me. My face was totally swollen then. Colonel R K Shrivastav’s actions of physical assault on me made the Police and Intelligence Bureau officers shed their inhibition of carrying out physical torture of mine, a serving army officer. Colonel R K Shrivastav then stood on my feet and legs as I was tied to a chair and inhumanly started twisting my nipples and my private parts (genitals) with all his strength. Colonel Shrivastav once again started hitting me on my face and even boxing me with tight fists on my back. Colonel Shrivastav was holding and pulling my hair on head while the other Indian Police Service officers tortured me. I was in absolute state of shock and totally shattered by this physical assault carried out by Colonel R K Shrivastav, (Director Military Intelligence—9).
This nightmare of physical assaults hitting, slapping, twisting of private parts, tying me to a chair, standing on my legs, feet coupled with dirtiest possible abuses on my mother, wife and sister continued unabated. After four days of continuous beating and torture, on 02 Nov 2008, Colonel Shrivastav ordered the Police to handcuff me. This was breach of privilege for a serving army officer and it was not police officers but insistence of Col Shrivastav which caused the same. I was handcuffed and remained in that condition till 04 Nov 2008.
The sequence of beating and brutal torture was intermittently on with Colonel Shrivastav abusing me about my mother, wife and sister. He kept on threatening me that if I don’t own up my involvement in the Malegaon Bomb Blast, he (Colonel Shrivastav) would strip my mother, wife and sister and make them parade naked in front of me. Police officially arrested me on 05 Nov 2008 and the legal process commenced.
Thus, from 29 October to 4 November 2008, Lt. Col. Purohit was illegally detained by the ATS in an unknown private establishment in the hill town of Khandala near Mumbai. On 5 November 2008, he was officially declared as Accused No. 9 by the ATS and was shown to be officially arrested. It was alleged that he was part of a “saffron terror” group- meaning, a radical Hindu group oriented towards the ideology of Hindutva. Since then Purohit has suffered inhuman torture and been incarcerated in jail without trial for nearly six years now. To quote again from his “Complaint”:
From 29 Oct 2008 to 04 Nov 2008, I was not allowed to talk to my family members even once over the telephone. I was confined to the same unknown location with round the clock Police guard guarding me while I was in handcuffed condition. I was totally broken down and traumatized, both physically and mentally. It was not any state police but Col Shrivastav, who led me into the trap of illegal detention and torture. Colonel R K Shrivastav kept on insisting that I should own up my involvement in the Malegaon Bomb Blast and should give it in writing, to which I asked him how I could own up something which I am not even aware of. The only possible explanation I could assign to his malafide actions is his efforts to boost his career prospects in the most un-officer like manner.
Once I was arrested and lodged in the Police Custody, on 14 Nov 2008 my father in law and my advocate had come to meet me at the said Police Station. Colonel Shrivastav was present there. Colonel Shrivastav said that it is his promise that my sons would live in an orphanage hence forth as he would ensure my entire family would be arrested and imprisoned.
Purohit narrated the story of his illegal detention, abduction, brutal torture and diverse forms of coercion to give false statements against himself to his wife Aparna Purohit on 15 November 2008 when she met him during the court hearing at Nashik. Aparna wrote a letter to the COAS (Chief of the Army Staff) on 16 November 2008 describing what she had learnt from her husband. But she has yet to receive a response to her appeal for justice.
SIX YEARS IN JAIL WITHOUT TRIAL
Purohit, who had acquired a key position in the military intelligence network to track SIMI and ISI terror modules, remained in police custody for nearly a month and thereafter was sent to judicial custody. While in police custody, he was not allowed to communicate with either his wife or any other relatives. When In judicial custody, his first response was to demand a medical inspection at a military hospital so that he could get the required treatment for the acute physical agony he was suffering because of the injuries and severe damage inflicted on him on account of third degree torture first by Shrivastav and later by the ATS team headed by Karkare. As he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 31 May 2014:
The worst possible third degree treatment probably which not even an enemy nation would dish out to the prisoner of war was given to me which definitely left me broken, both mentally and physically. My whereabouts were known to none from my family. Attempts from my wife to locate me met with dead end since Lt. Col G C Mohanta the Adjutant AEC Centre claimed his unawareness about the same. His statement in this regard about the same is on record of Court of Inquiry. (Purohit’s Letter to Prime Minister Modi)
Purohit’s medical exam was conducted at INS Ashwini in mid-December 2008 which corroborated the account of injuries he has described in his “Statutory Complaint”. The medical exam confirmed that the nerves of both his hands were damaged in addition to permanent damage caused to his right knee. This was the same knee which had been reconstructed after injuries he had suffered during combat operations against terrorists in Kashmir.
ATS GOT ARMY OFFICER TO DO DIRTY WORK FOR THEM?
In the Statutory Complaint, Purohit also points out the sheer lawlessness of Shrivastav’s action in collusion with the Anti-Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra Police headed by Karkare:
As I understand the legal procedure, if at all I am involved in any criminal activity. The police will seek permission of army authorities for my custody. Probably it was sought and granted but I was not informed of the same initially or subsequently. An army officer cannot be absconding like any normal civilian. Hence the secrecy surrounding the actions leading to my arrest cannot be understood. Thus, I can safely presume that it was handiwork of Col Shrivastav to keep everything under wraps and expose a brother officer to torture and inhuman treatment.
Military Intelligence is not the investigating agency but the intelligence agency and in any case a single member investigation is not desirable in any case for inherent flaws of personal biases and fancies. Col Shrivastav assumed the charge of proceeding single handed and overstepped his mandate (if at all any was specified) in mistreating and torturing me…
Maharashtra police can arrest an individual from Madhya Pradesh only after informing local police. This would not have been possible because Madhya Pradesh police would have asked for warrant or incriminatory evidence to allow Maharashtra police to do so. Maharashtra police took safe way in forcing army authorities completing their not so easy job. Whenever an accused is transported from one state to other a transit remand is required and Maharashtra police were sure of scrutiny by MP police. It was quite evident from the proceedings of the case that no such evidence or foolproof case was with Maharashtra Police ATS. I am claiming so because even while under army law, I am enjoying the status of citizen of India and protected by laws of the land.
SHRIVASTAV’S FORGERY OF “MOVEMENT ORDER”
From 29 October 2008 to 5 November 2008, Purohit was a “missing person” as far as the army is concerned because while he left Panchmarhi on the basis of a “movement order” listing his destination as Delhi, he was prevented from reporting to army headquarters. It has also been established by the Army Court of Inquiry that the “movement order” was forged by Shrivastav who cut out the destination mentioned in the original order which asked Purohit to report to Army Headquarters in Delhi and wrote in his own handwriting that he had to report in Mumbai. (See Forged Movement Order: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233242297/)
However, after arbitrarily changing the destination to Mumbai, Col. Shrivastav did not take Purohit to the army base in Mumbai. Instead, he handed Purohit over to the ATS in charge, Hemant Karkare in Mumbai whose team also subjected Purohit, a serving army officer to third degree torture for weeks on end. Legally, this is something not allowed even to prisoners of war. (See Lt. Col Purohit’s Statutory Complaint against Col. Shrivastav to the Army: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233132999/
PUROHIT’S CHARGES AGAINST SHRIVASTAV ARE SUMMED UP AS FOLLOWS
■ He cheated a brother officer by not informing about the orders of arrest available with him.
■ He wilfully misguided me by getting movement order for New Delhi prepared and forcefully diverting me to Mumbai.
■ He took upon himself the job of Maharashtra police which was not mandated to him (presuming that he was given responsibility to hand me over to Maharashtra police) in detaining, torturing and mistreating me.
■ He wrongly confined me and illegally detained me, initially at Panchmarhi and later on at unknown place in Maharashtra.
■ He did not allow me to contact my wife or mother or any other relative.
■ He physically assaulted me even after knowing full well that I am a serving officer.
■ He forcefully tried to extract a false statement and forced me to give a statement for the actions and acts not done by me. [Purohit’s wife Aparna told me that while he was in ATS custody, Purohit was coerced under brutal torture to read out before a video camera certain self incriminating ‘Confessions”. This “confession” was then broadcast over media. But as per law, confessions made by an accused, while in police custody, are not considered creditworthy unless the person concerned is brought in before a magistrate to endorse the confession—that too after being kept 24 hours outside police custody. This legal precaution is supposed to be maintained so that the police don’t send cases for trial on the basis of false confessions obtained under torture. But in Purohit’s case, his alleged confession was never presented before a magistrate nor presented before the Army Court of inquiry. Therefore, it is totally invalid and indicates mal intent].
■ He tried inhuman methods to extract false confession.
■ He kept on slapping false allegations and accusations against me during my interrogation and thereafter during Court of Inquiry.
■ He used abusive and extremely derogatory language including obscenities and insulting remarks against the women members of my family.
■ He violated the human rights of a brother officer by his actions over that entire period.
Aparna Purohit narrated to me in a video-recorded interview on 6 July 2014 that she too was subject to a most humiliating form of interrogation by Karkare and Shrivastav. When all else failed, they tried to instigate Aparna against her own husband by falsely alleging that he was having extra marital affairs. However, when even that failed, Shrivastav threatened Aparna in the same tenor that he had used with Purohit saying that he would make sure that her children were orphaned.
SUPPORTIVE EVIDENCE FROM EYE WITNESSES
There is a plethora of supporting evidence to indicate that Lt. Colonel Purohit is likely to have been falsely implicated. For instance, there are two eyewitnesses namely Sub-edar Pawar and Major Praveen Khanzode—who have testified before the army Court of Inquiry that they saw Assistant Police Inspector (API) Bagade planting traces of RDX in the house of Sudhakar Chaturvedi who was one of the key links in the Intelligence Network cultivated by Purohit while he was posted at Nashik. Sudhakar Chaturvedi was also arrested as Accused No 11 in this case even though he was a registered intelligence operator and was entered as such in the army’s official records by Purohit. The ATS claimed him arrested on 20 November 2008 and have shown his house, which was provided to him in the cantonment area, searched under panchnama on 25 November 2008. In the charge-sheet the ATS have claimed that the traces of RDX explosives which were recovered from Chaturvedi’s house during the claimed search on 25 November 2008 prove that the bomb used in the Malegaon blast was prepared and assembled at Chaturvedi’s house at Devlali, Nashik at the behest of Purohit who was ideologically motivated to undertake bomb blasts on account of his alleged “saffron” affiliation.
However during the Army’s Court of Inquiry, Major Praveen Khanzode and Subedar Keshav R Pawar, stated that on 3 November 2008, i.e. 2 days before Purohit’s official arrest and 17 days before the arrest of Chaturvedi, that they had caught Shekhar Bagade of ATS red handed while he was planting evidence at Chaturvedi’s house. On getting caught Bagade pleaded with them with folded hands not to report his presence at Chaturvedi’s house to any one as it would create lot of problems for him and may even cost him his job. This incident was reported by Major Khanzode to all his seniors in Devlali and also to Headquarters Southern Command, Pune. (Page 330 of the Court of Inquiry Report of 8 July 2009).
Khanzode told the Court of Inquiry that he had also recounted this incident to a number of officers at HQ SCLU Pune on November 4 and November 5, 2008.
This is how they happened to catch Bagade. On 3 November 2008, Subedar Pawar called Khanzode to say that API Bagade of Nashik ATS had called him on his mobile and asked him for directions and keys to Sudhakar Chaturvedi’s house. Khanzode asked Pawar to convey to Bagade to wait while he took clearance from his Commanding Officer. This was necessary since Chaturvedi was a key informer for the army. This clearance came within 10 minutes but when Khanzode communicated this to Pawar, the latter told him that Bagade had said that he had been recalled to his office and he was rushing back to Nashik. Pawar and Khanzode found this a bit strange since they knew Bagade was in the know of Chaturvedi’s residential address. In any case, since the case was already hyped in the media, Pawar and Khanzode decided to go and check Chaturvedi’s house to make sure everything was in order. Khanzode drove the scooter while Subedar Pawar was riding pillion. He testified that while he was turning his scooter near Chaturvedi’s house, Pawar got down from the vehicle and went in to check on the house. By the time Khanzode came over, he saw Pawar coming out of the open door of Chaturvedi’s house. Pawar had gone in because he was shocked to find the house door open and decided to walk in. There he found API Bagade all alone doing something on the floor. Bagade got nervous seeing him suddenly drop in and pleaded with Pawar to not inform anybody of this incident, especially his seniors or else that would endanger his job and might prove dangerous for him in other ways as well.
It is a mandatory legal requirement that if someone’s house or official premises are to be searched in the person’s absence, there has to be either “panchas” (official witnesses) or a proper panchnama (affidavit testifying on the spot if any evidence of wrong doing has been found or tampered with). But when caught in Chaturvedi’s house by Pawar and Khanzode, Bagade was all alone in that house. He did not even make pretence of preparing a panchnama.
Thus two key eyewitnesses have testified in favour of Purohit and given clear indication that API Bagade of ATS was up to some mischief and that RDX traces recovered by ATS from Chaturvedi’s house were in all likelihood planted by Bagade. ( See Maj. Khanzode and Sub. Pawar’s statements in the Army Court of Inquiry: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233132469/ )
Even Col Shrivastav himself has given a statement in the Army Court of Inquiry that Sudhakar Chaturvedi’s house was searched in the first or second week of November 2008. Shrivastav also said that he knew the contents of Chaturvedi’s house beforehand—that is, before he was ordered to “detach from the case on 20 November 2008.” (See Col. Shrivastav’s statements in the Army Court of Inquiry: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233132469/ )
THIRD KEY WITNESS ALLEGES STATEMENT UNDER TORTURE & BLACKMAIL BY ATS
On the other hand, Captain Nitin Duttatray Joshi, the only witness to have initially testified against Purohit, wrote a formal complaint to the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) on 5/10/2010 alleging that he had been threatened, blackmailed and coerced by the ATS into falsely implicating Col. Purohit. That complaint has till date not been acted upon.
In his testimony before the MSHRC after describing how Bagade tried forcing him into implicating Purohit during interrogations, Joshi says he was taken to Kala Chowki Police Station, the Mumbai ATS office on 12 November 2008. There ATS officer Mr. Dilip Shreerao called him to his office and threatened that ATS would make sure that he stayed in jail for 15 years if he refused to cooperate with them. Their only aim was to extract a confession out of him implicating Lt. Col. Purohit in the Malegaon blasts by building a case that Purohit was an active member of Abhinav Bharat—a Hindu organisation which had allegedly taken to countering Islamic terrorism with acts of terror to be carried out by Hindus.
Joshi writes that they even took him to the ATS headquarters and showed him the torture chamber where Purohit was held captive. He was given a brief glimpse of the plight of Purohit who displayed clear signs of torture in order to convey the message that if a serving officer could be reduced to such a hapless, pathetic state, a retired Captain like Joshi could face much worse unless he “co-operated with the ATS”– a euphemism for becoming an accomplice or else false cases would be slapped against him. Joshi says he was thrown into a dirty cell and put at the mercy of crude constables who abused him in the foulest of language under the guise of “interrogation”. One of the ATS officers told Joshi, “If we can arrest a serving Lt. Col. and a Shankracharya, we can easily do the same with you and your family members.”
Joshi confessed to the MSHRC that with the prospect of “being implicated in false cases and the same happening to his family”, he agreed to give whatever statement that the ATS wanted him to give. Thereafter, he was again taken from Nashik to Mumbai ATS office where Mohan Kulkarni and another officer dictated a statement to Joshi which he had to give before a Magistrate under section 164. Joshi writes that the following lies were dictated to him:
Lt. Col. Prasad gave him (Capt. Joshi) three weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for a month sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him. He saw RDX in a green sack at Lt Col. Purohit’s house at Devlali. Lt. Col Purohit confessed to Capt. Joshi about having supplied RDX for the Samjhauta Express blast.
Lt. Col. Purohit told Joshi in early 2008 that something was planned to be done soon. He further told Joshi that an action was planned in Nashik district in Oct/Nov 2008. Joshi was asked to say that Purohit had confessed to him about planning and executing the Malegaon blast along with his accomplices. He was further ordered to state that on October 2008, one Rakesh Dhawade had come to stay in Bhonsala Military School.
A boy Praveen had come to visit him with instructions from Lt.
Col. Purohit to learn about martial arts from Dhawade.
The said statement was given a final shape in the office of Dileep Shreerao in consultation with Hemant Karkare. During this period, even when Joshi went to spend the night in the house of his relatives in Parel, an ATS Constable accompanied him like a shadow and slept in the same house.
Joshi further adds that on 18 November 2008, the day he had to go and record his statement in front of a magistrate, the I.O. (Intelligence Officer) Mr. Kulkarni took him to a room in the ATS office and threatened him with a loaded pistol in hand saying, “Do not dare to retract in front of the magistrate or else one bullet from this will be lodged in your brain.” A similar threat with a loaded pistol was delivered to him just before Joshi was about to go into the court room.
Joshi adds that after his statement was recorded, it was not sealed as is the mandatory requirement. Instead, it was simply put into an envelope which was then stapled. On 30 November, Joshi was again called to Nashik ATS office where the I.O. again threatened him with dire consequences for him and his family, if he even thought about retracting his statement. All these events led to his estrangement from the Bhonsala Military School and he ended up resigning from there after a few weeks.
Joshi disowned the statement extracted from him by the ATS saying that he could not live with this guilt for long since he fell in his own eyes for having failed to withstand the coercive tactics of ATS despite being a military officer. Therefore, he felt compelled to file a complaint before the Human Rights Commission regarding the illegal and unconstitutional methods adopted by the ATS to obtain “false statements” from him. Joshi appealed to the Commission to protect him from further harm and take up his case as one of gross violation of his human rights. He also sought damages worth Rs. 25 lakhs. It is a sad commentary on the working of our State Human Rights Commission that even though this case was filed on 5/10/2009, no action whatsoever has been taken on it thus far. (Capt. Nitin Dattatray Joshi’s complaint to Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233133040/ )
Purohit made no bones about making the following serious charge against the ATS in his letter to Prime Minister Modi: His [Chaturvedi’s] arrest of 5 November 2008 was timed only after planting of RDX at Chaturvedi’s house, by the Anti Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra Police, on 3 November 2008!The Maharashtra ATS were and are ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hound’ all throughout and are faking the investigation all along by launching scathing media releases and briefing.
Voice Of The Innocent
Another victim of the “secular brigade” under the UPA regime, Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur, in a letter to former President of India, Pratibha Patil, writes that a detailed enquiry of her illegal detention, custodial torture, etc. needs to be done and for which she is ready and willing to get subjected to any such medical test or tests and she also wants the ATS officers, who interrogated her, tortured her, etc. should also be put to the same tests. Excerpts of the letter:
“I received phone call purported to be that of Mr. Sawant from ATS, who asked me to come to Surat as he wanted some information from me. Being altogether an innocent person, I travelled to Surat and reached there on 10.10.2008 early in the morning at about 10 AM and I met officer Mr. Sawant who after asking few questions asked me that I will have to come to Mumbai along with him to meet his senior officers. Accordingly I was carried by Mr. Sawant to Mumbai.
“In Mumbai I was taken straight away to the ATS office at Kalachowkie and was kept in illegal custody for two days and was detained and interrogated by the ATS team in Mumbai. The questions were repetitive and directed at somehow involving me in the bomb blast in Malegaon on 29.9.2008. My answers remained constant throughout.
Torture Of Sadhwi Pragya Singh Thakur “On 12.10.2008 the ATS changed the mode of interrogation and became extremely aggressive with me. At first they asked my said disciple Mr. Bhimbhai Pasricha to beat me with sticks, belts etc., on my palms, forehands, soles, etc. When Mr. Pasricha refused to do so, he was severely beaten by the ATS. Ultimately with the greatest reluctance, he complied with the ATS orders but obviously being my disciple, he exerted the very minimum of force on me. He was then pushed aside by a member of the ATS squad knows as Khanwilkar, who then himself commenced beating me severely with a belt on my hands, forearms, palms, feet, soles, causing me bruises, swelling and contusions in these areas.
“I say that from the 13th onwards, I say that I was beaten during the day , night and midnight. On two occasions I was even woken up in the early hours of the morning at 4 a.m. and questioned about my knowledge of the blasts. On these occasions, I was beaten by a senior officer having a moustache, whom I can identify. In addition I was subject to vulgar abuse and obscene language by members of the ATS team interrogating me. My Guru was abused and my chastity was questioned. I was physically and verbally traumatized.
“I say that as a result of the custodial violence / torture, mental stress, anxiety that were developed in the process, I was subjected to, I developed acute abdominal and kidney pains. I lost my appetite, became nauseous and giddy and prone to having bouts of unconsciousness.
“That both the lie detector test as well as the Narco analysis test were conducted with out my consent. Never the less all these investigative tests have only established my innocence Thereafter, on Friday 14.11.2008 evening at about 04.30 PM, I was given nearly 20 minutes to talk to my said lawyer at length, and it was during this period I could narrate my entire ordeal with the ATS which is reproduced hereinabove During this entire period I was deliberately isolated from my family and denied access to Lawyer. I say that no arrest panchanama was done after my arrest on 23.10.2008 and I was never asked about the names, addresses and telephone / mobile Nos. details to whom I would like to convey my arrest. I say that attention from my illegal detention was sought to be diverted by the ATS by daily leaking information regarding my involvement which was manifestly false and only indicated the malafide nature of the investigation..
“While I was thus painted as a sinister mastermind of the Malegaon blasts, a role which has now been subtly reassigned by the ATS to Lt. Col. Purohit—crippled and vulnerable as I was by the detention, abuse and torture, I could not protest my innocence. Nor was I allowed access to family, friends and Lawyers who could have done so.”
In His Letter To The Pm Narendra Modi, Purohit Wrote
My entire intelligence network which I had developed with my team has been used against me. Three of my registered intelligence operators are my co-accused and at least four of them are witnesses against me. My efforts of three years have gone in vain. I must also mention here sir that the same ATS Maharashtra Police had invited me to impart training to them on subjects of SIMI and ISI (Student Islamic Movement of India and the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan) and letter to that effect were addressed to me and to my higher Headquarters. My performance in the field of Counter Terrorism and Counter Intelligence, both in Kashmir and in Maharashtra is on record now. With regards the counter terrorism, though I thoroughly enjoyed the professional hazards, I feel my acquaintance and overzealous commitment, besides truthful reporting of the intelligence gathered, has acted counter-productive and has made me getting falsely implicated in the case which was meticulously stage managed.”
WHY PUROHIT IS LIKELY TO BE A VICTIM OF A CONSPIRACY
The likelihood of Purohit being a victim of a deep-seated conspiracy is heightened by the fact that:
1) The Army Court of Inquiry did not find him guilty which is why he has neither been suspended nor dismissed from the army despite being in jail for so many years. The army continues to pay Purohit’s wife his full salary. Had there been any evidence of him having played foul, it is highly unlikely that the army would have withheld his dismissal for so many years.
2) Despite severe forms of torture, calumny defamation and blackmail at the hands of ATS, Purohit has successfully withstood all pressure and maintained that he is innocent. In fact, he has argued his case convincingly in the “Statutory Complaint” to the army as well as during the cross examination in the Court of Inquiry.
3) His self-view of being a zealous patriot who goes beyond the call of routine duty to crack terror networks that threaten India has been borne out by the commendation he has received in the “Confidential Reports” from his seniors as well as from the Police officials with whom he was coordinating his intelligence operations.
4) R K Shrivastav’s responses to his cross examination by Purohit and a junior officer like Subedar Pawar are evasive and slimy whereas the questions posed to him by Purohit and Pawar both junior in rank to him are direct and forthright. Not surprisingly, the Army’s Court of Inquiry did not give credence to Shrivastav’s charges against Purohit and Pawar.
5) The two real eye witnesses have testified against Bagade and Shrivastav and in favour of Purohit. Their testimonies clearly point towards a well-planned though clumsily executed conspiracy to falsely implicate Purohit. Eight other witnesses also clear Purohit of all the charges levelled by the ATS. Capt. Joshi, the only witness who implicated Purohit’s name with the Malegaon blasts not only retracted his
statement but lodged a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission alleging coercion, deadly threats and outright blackmail with a view to extract false testimony against Purohit.
6) The circumstantial evidence also favours Purohit and shows ATS in a very sinister light. Its officers acted lawlessly, indulging in abduction, forgery, cheating and misleading the army establishment, indulging in third degree torture of a serving army officer and declaring him guilty even before the trial began.
POSSIBLE REASONS WHY PUROHIT WAS TARGETED
Lt. Col. Purohit is likely to have been victimized in such an ominous manner because of his role in cracking ISI linked terrorist networks. As mentioned earlier, Purohit had succeeded in infiltrating SIMI and other ISI patronised terror modules in India, including their front organisations in the field of education, culture, media, religion, and even political parties. Manushi managed to get hold of two power point presentations Purohit had prepared on the ISI and SIMI relationship as well as their mode of operation. These were meant for briefing his seniors and as training modules. (Purohit’s Presentation on ISI & Purohit’s Presentation on SIMI) He also unearthed SIMI’s patrons and collaborators in mainstream politics. His expertise in the field was so well acknowledged that he was invited by the very ATS which incarcerated him, to train its own officers. This is what Himanshu Roy the Police Commissioner of Nashik District wrote in appreciation of his services:
This is to put in on record, the assistance and co-operation experienced between Nashik City Police and Military Intelligence of Southern Command represented by you for over a period of last one and half year.
You have shared information of vital and sensitive nature with the Police which has proved useful to both the organisations. An educative workshop comprising of … SIMI and ISI conducted by you on 11 Nov. 2006 was also of great help to our organisation. The workshop reflects the depth of your knowledge regarding your specialised subjects of Islam, SIMI and ISI. I am confident that we will continue to get such cooperation in future also.
Such a go-getting officer who is believed to have been doing a competent job of cracking terror networks but also training a whole new generation of intelligence officers understandably proved a major threat for the ISI, SIMI and its allied organisations, including leading politicians in mainstream parties who have developed deep vested interest in patronising these nefarious outfits in pursuit of their narrow partisan agendas. If Purohit’s charges are true, then its implications are very serious. It means that by targeting Purohit, they not only may have succeeded in exposing and counter blasting the entire Intelligence Network and sources he had so assiduously cultivated as informers, but also protected their own men and activities from getting exposed. In addition, they seem to have succeeded in hammering a strong message to others in the Army, Police and even ATS that anyone who messes around with the ISI related networks will be crushed ruthlessly. Would this not demoralize intelligence officers and make them risk averse when dealing with highly influential and deeply entrenched outfits like the ISI?
“SAFFRON TERROR” INVENTED TO UNDERPLAY THREAT OF ISLAM INSPIRED TERROR GROUPS?
However, this high profile arrest has been ably used by the ISI and its allied organisations, including several NGOs in India that knowingly or unwittingly play the role of ISI’s megaphones to build a phobic campaign against “Hindutva” and “Saffron Terror”. If people attribute terrorism to Islam or to the politics of Muslim community even if rabid Muslim groups are involved in terror attacks, the entire human rights fraternity protest wildly We are told that terrorism has no religion and that linking acts of terror committed by this or that group to a whole community amounts to negative profiling which leads to prejudicial treatment against the entire community. However, the very same people flaunt the term “Saffron Terror”, “Hindu Terror” with great glee despite the fact that saffron is considered the most sacred colour by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and even Jains. Moreover, there is no comparable history of mindless violence associated with saffron, unlike with the colour “red” owned by diverse shades of Communists and Marxists. In the Sikh history, saffron is associated with martyrdom of their gurus while they resisted religious tyranny of certain mogul kings.
This is not to deny that some fringe political lunatics among Hindus may have developed aspirations towards terrorist politics as a counter to Islamic terror groups. But they remain less than marginal even among Hindutva inspired groups. In the popular mind, saffron is associated with tapasya, sacrifice, renunciation and sacred rituals of almost all Indic faiths. None of the diverse communities within the Hindu faith groups have ever made terrorism a part of their ideological claims in the way that several rabid Islamic groups have. Moreover, none of the dharmic texts or the temporal authorities among Hindus sanctify violence against innocents or propagate acts of terror as a legitimate response to the existence of other faith groups, or treat them with intrinsic hostility.
While Left oriented NGO’s and parties claiming to be “secular”, have made it politically fashionable to talk of the dangers of “Saffron Terror”, they have also made it politically hazardous to talk of Islamic terror. This is an important reason why the Indian state has been so week-kneed in its response to terror attacks and infiltration by ISI and terror groups. It may well be that ISI has penetrated deep into the army and police power structures at all levels, just as Dawood Ibrahim has found willing accomplices and patrons at the highest levels of our political establishment which allows him to manipulate the police and bureaucracy in India at many levels.
Purohit’s case is not just a matter of inadvertent injustice meted out to an individual officer who got trapped into a plot due to error of judgement or misinformation by a select few. It points to serious internal and external security threats faced by India. Purohit had time and again brought all these facts to the notice of all possible concerned ministers, former PM Manmohan Singh, former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and even the Defence Minister AK Antony. But his appeals went unheeded. Purohit says that the reasons for this non-responsiveness could well be that the ATS Maharashtra Police were not the only players in stage managing and manipulating the case but it involves many other important players. For instance, he had apprised Manmohan Singh of how the case was being politicized by the President of NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) Sharad Pawar whose involvement in patronizing crime syndicates has been an open secret.
In fact, way back in October 1993, the Vohra (Committee) Report submitted by the former Union Home Secretary, N.N. Vohra, had submitted a study report on the problem of the criminalisation of politics and of the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India. The report contained several observations made by official agencies on the criminal network which was virtually running a parallel government. It also discussed criminal gangs who enjoyed the patronage of politicians, of all parties, and the protection of government functionaries. It revealed that political leaders had become the leaders of mafia gangs. The name of Dawood Ibrahim was specifically mentioned as someone enjoying patronage from certain high level politicians. The report states that some of these Syndicates also have international linkages, including the foreign intelligence agencies.
It also said that the “Bombay Blast case and communal riots in Surat and Ahmadabad have demonstrated how the Indian underworld has been used by the Pak ISI and the latter’s network in UAE to cause sabotage, subversion and communal tension in various parts of the country. The investigations into the Bombay blast cases have revealed extensive linkages of the underworld in the various governmental agencies, political circles, business sector and the film world.” As per the Vohra Committee, these gangs had reportedly also made inroads into the military. It officially confirmed how over the years criminals had been elected to local bodies, State Assemblies and even Parliament. The unpublished Annexures to the Vohra Report were believed to contain highly explosive material but were never made public. In 1997, the Supreme Court recommended the appointment of a high level committee to ensure in-depth investigation into the findings of the N.N.Vohra Committee and to secure prosecution of those involved. But nothing came of it thus far.
Keeping all this in view, Purohit’s words to PM Modi need to be seriously heeded, “I feel very strongly, after following the sequence of events, that my apprehension does warrant rumination. Given an opportunity many facts remain eager to get unearthed and unmasked” (sic). Purohit apparently, has a lot to unmask. Therefore, keeping him in jail without trial and not giving him an opportunity to reveal what he claims to know is as dangerous as Government’s wilful inaction on the explosive findings of Vohra Committee Report.
DELAY IN TRIAL AND DENIAL OF BAIL
It is nearly six years that Purohit has been in jail even though thus far he has not been convicted of any offense nor has the ATS managed to get any valid self indicting confession from him in relation to any of the charges despite inhuman torture. No relief of any kind has come his way despite appeals to PM Manmohan Singh, the Army Chief as well as the Home Minister of India. To quote again from his letter of 30 May 2014 to PM Narendra Modi:
From 2008 November the case was ‘pretentiously’ investigated by the ATS till March- April 2011 before getting it handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Ever since March-April 2011 the NIA has apprehended two new accused in the case but have not filed a charge sheet in this regard. Neither have they committed if they, the NIA, are adopting the fabricated line of investigation conducted by the ATS or otherwise. My case for Bail is pending consideration in the Supreme Court since past three years and four months. Also my interim Bail application is yet to get decided upon since past 14 months. With the investigations incomplete the case is least likely to come-up for hearing. And with amount of evidence available of blatant fabrication by ATS I doubt if it would ever come up for the trial. Sir, at this stage what I most urgently need and crave for, is liberty. I have my old mother, wife and two minor sons back home to look after. I mention here with pride that out of 14 years of my active military service, for 9 long years have I stayed away from my family serving our Motherland in active field areas and no doubt, I would continue to do so given an opportunity. However this life of imprisonment due to an ostensibly investigated, but now clearly exposed of its fabrication, case is no less than death to me.
I am confident about my innocence and it remains a matter of time before the same comes to face yet I feel guilty of my proven professional integrity, my undoubted patriotism and my insight and understanding of issues in the interest of our beloved motherland which have led me to land myself behind the bars. I remain the victim of perverted and unethical functioning, declined morality of the ATS, wherein they have even filed the SIMI and ISI presentations of official motive prepared by me as part of the charge sheet there by exposing me to the grave danger at the hands of the anti National Elements.” Indeed we live in a strange world whereby a known terrorist and mass murderer like Ajmal Kasab is convicted after due process of law, but the denial of due process trial to an Army Officer is not given even cursory attention by the ‘Secular Brigade’.
Had our media not lost the habit of carrying out fair and independent investigations into the doings and mis-doings of government and other powerful lobbies, Lt. Col Purohit’s plea for justice and warnings against wilful sabotage of India’s intelligence networks would not have gone unheeded for 6 long years.
By Madhu Purnima Kishwar
(The author is Editor, Manushi, where this article appeared first)