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B Upendran | HENB | Hyderabad | April 16, 2018:: After 11 years as it was happened, a special anti-terror court acquitted accused Swami Aseemanand and four others in the Mecca Masjid blast case, holding that the prosecution failed to prove “even a single allegation” against them. The Mecca Masjid attack was allegedly carried out by a group of right-wing named ‘Abhinav Bharat’ on May 18, 2007.
Justice K Ravinder Reddy, the judge at the NIA special court in Nampally, Hyderabad on Monday acquitted all the five accused in the related case.
The explosion ripped through the mosque during an assembly of Friday prayer. The blast was caused by a cellphone-triggered pipe bomb placed near the Wuzukhana, a spot where ablutions are performed. Though the blast was occurred in the open area of the Mosque, there were over 10,000 Muslims inside the Mosque assembled for Namaj. Two live improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also recovered by police and defused. Fourteen people were reported dead in the immediate aftermath, of whom five were killed by the police firing after the incident while trying to quell the mob.
Though the then Telengana State Home Minister K Jana Reddy said the blast, which injured over fifty people in addition to the death toll, could be the act of foreign elements; the Central Congress Party started accusing Hindu groups for the blast.
In January 2013, the then Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde accused Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party for setting up camps to train Hindu Terrorism including planting bombs in 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, 2006 Malegaon blasts and 2007 Mecca Masjid blast. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav responded to this allegation by accusing Shinde of pandering to Islamist groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Lashkar-e-Taiba. In February 2013, after BJP threatened to boycott the parliament during the Budget session, Shinde apologised for his remarks and said that he had no intention to link terror to any religion and that there was no basis for suggesting that terror can be linked to organisations mentioned in his earlier speech delineating a purported theory of ‘Saffron Terrorism by the Hindu Right Wing Groups’.
There were a total of eight accused in the case. One accused, Sunil Joshi, an RSS spokesperson, was murdered during the course of the investigation. Two other accused, Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra, both RSS activists, still elude the investigators.
Apart from Aseemanand, those acquitted are — Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary.
According to Aseemanand’s counsel Sharma, the court after examining documents and material placed on record found that the charges did not stick.
“This entire case was based on the confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand. Right from the beginning, we had been placing before the court that this is not the statement of confession.
“The defence argued that the so-called confessional statement was forced from Swami Aseemanand in order to create a theory of ‘Bhagwa Atankwad‘ (saffron terror),” he said.
The court, Sharma said, held that the confessional statement of Aseemanand was not voluntary. “CBI had got the statement of Swami Aseemanand recorded in Delhi while he was in police custody during December 2010,” he said.
Sharma claimed the investigating officer of the CBI had “intentionally” implicated the accused to sully the image of ‘Sant Samaj’ (the fraternity of seers) and the RSS, to which those acquitted belonged at some point of time.
He said nothing incriminating was recovered from any of the accused, and that there was no corroboration to the “confessional” statement of Aseemanand.
The media was not allowed in the courtroom where the judgement was pronounced in the high-profile case, which was dubbed by the then UPA government as one of “Hindu terror”, a term that riled saffron organisations, including the BJP, no end.
Soon after the verdict, The NIA had come in for attack by Opposition parties, including the Congress and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
Immediately after delivering the judgement, Special NIA judge K Ravinder Reddy tendered his resignation, citing “personal” reasons.
Reddy said his resignation had nothing to do with today’s judgement, according to a senior judicial officer, who did not want to be named.
“He has sent the resignation letter to Metropolitan Sessions Judge (MSJ)… he has cited personal grounds and it has nothing to do with today’s verdict in the Mecca Masjid blast case,” the senior judicial officer told PTI.
Reddy had apparently taken the decision to resign sometimes back itself, the officer said.
The BJP on Monday launched a sharp attack on the Congress after a court acquitted right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, claiming that the opposition party’s “appeasement politics” of “defaming” Hindus has been exposed.
Reacting to the court verdict, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that the Congress has long “defamed” Hindus for votes and demanded that party president Rahul Gandhi and his predecessor Sonia Gandhi apologise for terms such as “saffron terror” and “Hindu terror”.
__With Agency Inputs.