An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Free and fair investigation of “cases” against Swami Aseemananda

swami-aseemanand_0.jpgPetition letter addressed to Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil (The Honorable President of India) – by Utsav Chakrabarty

Honorable Madam,

Naba Kumar Sarkar is in the news today. Son of Indian freedom fighter Bibhuti Sarkar, he was a M.Sc.student at Burdwan University in 1975 when the dark days of Emergency Rule, imposed by Indira Gandhi’s regime, crushed Indian democracy, curtailed fundamental rights, gagged the media and unleashed mayhem on civil liberties. An idealist youth, Naba Kumar Sarkar rose to the challenge and plunged headlong into the nationwide grassroots movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) for the restoration of democracy in India.

‘The Economist’, London, (dated: 4-12-1976) described this movement as “the only non-left revolutionary force in the world”. It said that the movement was “dominated by tens of thousands of volunteers, though more and more young recruits are coming”. Talking about its objectives, the newspaper said “its platform at the moment has only one plank: to bring democracy back to India. These volunteers defied the Emergency and thousands participated in Satyagraha (Gandhian-style peaceful protests) against the ban and against the curtailment of fundamental rights.

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After rallying his fellow students and peacefully offering Satyagraha, Naba Kumar Sarkar was arrested without trial, tortured by the draconian authorities and dumped in a dingy prison for three months – all because of his penchant for democracy. Being in prison, Sarkar could not write his M.Sc. final exams that year (1976) and lost one year of his academic life. After the Emergency was revoked in 1977, he graduated with his M.Sc. (Physics) degree but his passion to serve his motherland had only increased. Sarkar decided to take a rigorous vow of bramhacharya (lifelong celibacy) and dedicate his entire life for the service of the poorest people of India.

Naba Kumar Sarkar used his organizational skills and started a youth group in Burdwan town on the bank of river Banka in West Bengal. It was called Rashbehari Saka, named eponymously after the Burdwan-born freedom-fighter (Rashbehari Bose) who had helped organize the Ghadar Mutiny and the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) to fight for India’s independence. During this time, Sarkar inspired many bright young people of that district to start grassroots work selflessly. He began teaching as a science teacher in Burdwan Municipal High School but his heart was set on serving the tribals. He eventually joined Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (an organization working for the socio-economic upliftment and development of India’s tribes in the remote tribal areas) under the influence of Sri Basantrao Bhatt, the then organizing secretary of West Bengal Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.

Sarkar went to Purulia district to organize development work amongst the Vanavasis (local tribals). After starting the first student hostel for tribal children at Bagmundi in Purulia district, he went on to build two more hostels at Balarampur and Kumari in the same district. Satisfied with his work, Sarkar embarked on a spiritual journey of self-development to the Himalayas, where he studied under the tutelage of mystic monks and eventually accepted monastic initiation (Deeksha). He was given the spiritually initiated name of Swami Aseemananda (meaning “One who is blessed with Limitless Bliss”).

Swami Aseemananda then travelled to the remote forests of Chhattisgarh and helped build a hospital there for Ramakrishna Mission for taking care of the tribals. Restless to serve more tribal brethren, he travelled to Andaman, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat and Maharashtra, building schools and hospitals in the remote areas of these regions. By this time, Swami Aseemananda’s life-mission was consolidated into a relentless service of the weaker-most sections of the Indian society, in the remotest corners of the country. And its zenith was the Shabari Kumbh [ ], where 350,000 tribals (from across the length and breadth of India) assembled at Shabari Dham in Dang district in southern Gujarat.

Ever since he made Dang district his home in 1995, Swamiji had become an integral part of the tribal society’s renaissance, and Swami Aseemananda saw himself in service of these poor tribals for the rest of his life. But his passion in social service and the 2006 Shabari Kumbh did not go unnoticed, as selfish political-economic interests in the tribal areas often found Swamiji a towering obstacle in their efforts to target the tribals and inflame social fault-lines that formed their vote banks. It was just of matter time before Swami Aseemananda would be in the cross-hairs of these political parties. Therefore, his arrest and “self-implication” on framed charges of bomb attacks in Ajmer, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid as well as the Samjhauta Express blast, does not surprise many political observers.

During the time Swami Aseemananda was working in the remote corners of India, for nearly two decades, urban centers in India were being bombed and attacked by Islamic groups, both international and domestic. According to the Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi; more than 2000 people were being killed on an average, every year in attacks by Islamic groups throughout India.

Safdar Nagori, an arrested leader of one of the banned groups- Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), has already admitted to the role of SIMI in the blasts in Malegaon (2006) and the Samjhauta Express (2007). The findings of the brain mapping of Safdar Nagori and his associates, Kamruddin Nagori and Aamil Parvez, performed in 2008, shows no involvement of Swami Aseemananda, nor Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, who are the purported co-accused in these cases. The three SIMI operatives have admitted the involvement of SIMI, the Lashkar–e-Toiba and sympathetic Jihadi operatives behind the Samjhauta train carnage and Malegaon blasts of 2006. The narco analysis test reports of the three SIMI operatives were with the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), Mumbai, which had also questioned the trio arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police in March, 2008.

As observed globally, the Wahhabi-Salafist ideology (followed by SIMI) has vitriolic hate for the Sufi-Barelvi tradition of praying at tombs or in Muslim graveyards, which it regards as un-Islamic.Therefore, SIMI set off bomb blasts in 2006 at Malegaon’s Shab-e-Baraat festival (where thousands of Muslims prayed in graveyards for their ancestors’ souls) killing 38 people, with the explicit intention of stoking religious riots in this communally sensitive city, thereby hardening Islamic fundamentalist attitudes amongst the local Muslims that would help in further expanding the SIMI base in Malegaon.

The article (“Laden’s associates may be behind train blasts”, February 21, 2007) by B.Raman, security analyst and former intelligence official, leads us to believe that the bomb blasts on Samjhauta Express were targeted more against Hindus and Indians than anyone else. B.Raman writes, “It seems that while the majority of the 68 passengers killed in the explosions-cum-fire were Pakistani nationals, more Hindus than Muslims were killed.” The article also quotes Marianna Baabar (from an article in The News of February 20): “Pakistan has announced that Indian officials have informed the Pakistan authorities that out of the 68 victims, 49 have been identified among which 22 belonged to Pakistan and 27 were from India.” This selective targeting of Hindus and Indians (with Muslim victims treated inevitably as collateral damage who will be eventually rewarded in paradise as ‘martyrs’) is a hallmark of Jihadi bombers worldwide – which is also concurrent with the narco-analysis admissions of Safdar Nagori, Kamruddin Nagori and Aamil Parvez.

A joint director-level official of the operations branch of the Intelligence Bureau, responsible for the parallel investigation into the Malegaon blasts, once said the Mumbai ATS claims about the involvement of the any Hindu activist are “far-fetched” as SIMI’s involvement in the case is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Apart from the Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts, Nagori and his associates have also confessed to SIMI’s role and involvement of Muslims in terror attacks in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Hyderabad, Ajmer and the shootout at the American consulate in Kolkata.

Nagori told a team of investigators at Forensic Science Laboratory, at Bangalore, in 2008 that, “In the Samjhauta Express blasts, some persons from Pakistan had come and they had purchased the suitcase cover at Kataria Market, Indore. One person from (SIMI) Tanzeem had helped them to get the suitcase cover stitched. SIMI leader Abdul Razak had helped the Pakistanis in the Samjhauta Express blasts.” Nagori also revealed that Razak had informed him beforehand about the Samjhauta Express blasts. Razak had sought the help of West Bengal SIMI president Misbah-ul-Islam for the Samjhauta explosions. Razak has a number of relatives in Pakistan, according to Nagori’s revelations. Kamruddin Nagori also concurred about Razak’s involvement in the Samjhauta Express blasts. Kamruddin said during drug interrogation, “There were good relations between Safdar Nagori and Abdul Razak. Abdul Razak had discussed the Samjhauta Express blasts with Safdar Nagori.”

The banned outfit’s commander revealed that meetings were held by SIMI at Kurla, Kapadia Nagar and Mira Road in Mumbai for executing the terror attacks on Samjhauta Express and other blasts in the country. During the drug interrogation, Nagori revealed that SIMI has a strong presence in Maharashtra, including Malegaon, and he was “aware of the complicity of Muslims in the 2006 Malegaon blasts”.The 32-page narco analysis test report of Safdar Nagori, Kamruddin and Aamil Parvez quotes Nagori as having said, “In the Malegaon blasts (2006), some of the Muslim members were involved and that he (Nagori) was aware of it. SIMI members were involved in the Samjhauta Express train blasts.”

Nagori said, “The Maharashtra SIMI members were to take houses on rent to take shelter and to complete the tasks and targets given to them… They were often changing their hideouts.” He admitted that some terrorists from Pakistan had also come to Mumbai and the entire SIMI network in Maharashtra was involved in the Samjhauta Express blasts. The report states, “He (Nagori) said Asif Khan from Maharashtra is his (Nagori’s) friend and that he is involved in the Mumbai train blasts and the blast at Aurangabad. After the blasts, Abdul Subhan alias Tauqeer and Asif Khan had gone to Hafeez’s house for hiding but did not find him at his place. Asif Khan met Tanvir and Yasir of Sholapur and they both arranged a hideout at Belgaum. Later, Asif was arrested from Belgaum.” The chargesheet in the Malegaon blasts (2006) case filed by the ATS, Mumbai, concedes the “extensive presence” of SIMI in Malegaon and the outfit’s anti-India designs for waging a war against the Government.

Most importantly, the reports of the United States Treasury Department, as well as the United Nations, also confirm the role of Islamic groups in the Samjhauta Express blast. A contradiction of such a gargantuan scale raises serious doubts on the veracity of claims being made by National Investigation Agency (NIA). In 2009, the US Treasury department imposed sanctions on four Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba (LeT) operatives for organising the Samjhauta blast. The four named were Arif Qasmani, Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al-Peshawari, Mohammed Yahya Mujahid and Nasir Javaid. The US Treasury stated: “The designated individuals have provided direct support to Al Qaida and LeT and have facilitated terrorist attacks, including the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai.”This is not all. The UN endorsed the US Treasury findings on the basis of the evidence collected.

On 29 June, 2010, the 1267 committee of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which mandated sanctions on the Al Qaida and the Taliban, froze assets, banned travel and imposed an arms embargo on Arif Qasmani, a Karachi businessman who it described as the “chief coordinator” for the Lashkar’s links with outside groups. It claimed that Qasmani provided “significant support for LeT terrorist operations.” In its Press release, the 1267 committee stated: “Qasmani has worked with LeT to facilitate attacks, to include the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing in Panipat, India. Qasmani utilised money that he received from Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian crime figure and terrorist supporter, to facilitate the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India…Arif Qasmani has also provided financial and other support to Al Qaida.” According to the UN in return for providing support “Al Qaida provided Qasmani with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing in Panipat, India.”

The above assertions by the UN seem to be explicit enough.

So what do these assertions make of Aseemananda’s confession?

One presumes that the NIA and sections of the Indian media are interested in uncovering the truth about the Samjhauta blast. However, the NIA appears to be proceeding with its probe on the basis of the Swami’s confession without a second thought. And many in the Indian media appear to be equally comfortable with the probe as it unfolds.

If the United Nations, the United States Treasury Department and the admissions of SIMI activists were correct, ergo, it follows that Swami Aseemananda’s purported confession is suspect.

Can such a glaring contradiction be ignored in any credible investigation?

Which brings us to the next question: Did Swami Aseemanand actually “confess”?

For those unfamiliar with the history of Swami Aseemananda’s case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had moved an application on January 13, 2011 before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate for recording the statement of Swami Aseemananda. The statement was recorded under section 164 of the CrPC was supposed to have been kept by the court under wraps.

However, lawyer Manvir Rathi, who represents Aseemananda in the Samjhauta blasts case, said he had a one-to-one conversation with Aseemananda on January 3 when he was produced before special NIA court in Panchkula. Rathi says, Aseemananda told him that the CBI had recorded his statement in Panchkula court, but that statement was not voluntary.

Finally, why are important documents in this investigation being selectively leaked to the media?

Is the media acting as a cheerleader for political vindictiveness against a grassroots activist like Swami Aseemananda who has a large support base amongst tribals – capable of affecting election results in many constituencies of the country?

In independent India’s history, not many people have had the courage to confront the hydra-headed monster of Islamic expansionism- a problem that has plagued South Asia for the past thousand years. Few people have successfully tackled this geo-political malady. That is the reason why there is a huge outrage against the arrest of a purported “counter-terrorist”, viz. Swami Aseemananda.
That brings us to the paramount question- Is the massive mobilization of the investigative agencies for the benefit of a single political party’s agenda, justifiable?

As Swami Aseemananda is shunted from prison to prison in judicial custody, and as every word he says, every word he is forced to say and every word he does not say, is selectively reported in the media, civil society’s anguish will hopefully give an opportunity to both the investigators and the political forces behind them, to introspect.

To bring justice and freedom to Swami Aseemananda, we, the undersigned, draw inspiration from the many voices of support within the civil society. While public opinion against this travesty of a case is rising, the silence of the major mainstream political parties as well as some ‘Human Rights groups’ has been deafening.

As the poor tribals of Dang wait with baited breath for one of their own to return, the words of another inspiring individual of the last century, “Netaji” Subhash Chandra Bose, continue to hold the same meaning today as they did when they were uttered, “The grossest crime is to compromise with injustice and wrong…. The highest virtue is to battle against inequity, no matter what the cost may be”.

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