Interview Of Abrar Ahmad
Abrar Ahmed, the sole approver in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts case, was released in 2011, after five years in jail. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, his first since then, he tells a damning story of the shadowy investigation, allurement and intimidation. Excerpts:
Q: How long did you work for the ATS?
A: I never worked for the ATS. I was caught in a situation where I found myself at the mercy of the ATS officers. I was forced to implicate innocent people into the terrorism cases. I destroyed a number of lives. I am ashamed of myself. I became a toy in the hands of the ATS. They misled the investigation.
Q: You were the ATS’s approver in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blast case. Who did the crime?
A: I don’t know who carried out the bomb blasts. All I know is that after the series of bomb blasts in Malegaon on September 8, 2006, I visited the Medicare Hospital. While I was coming out of the hospital I heard some people talking in a room about the bomb blasts. Someone was praising the bombers and was saying that our people did the bomb blasts. He mentioned the names of some Rajinder Amin, Bipin Parik and some Patel.
Q: Did you see those men?
A: No, I didn’t see anyone. I immediately left the hospital. I spoke to my brother-in-law, Farooq Wardha [a police informer in Bhiwandi, Thane], about what I heard at the hospital. A day later he came from Bhiwandi and told me not to speak about it to anyone. Five days later, I was picked up by the police and taken to the superintendent of police of Malegaon, Rajwardhan [Sinha]. He took me to Nashik. A few days later, he told me that some local newspapers had carried news reports that I was a police informer so it would be dangerous for me to visit Malegaon. Then my wife [Jannatunissa] and I were taken to Jaora, Madhya Pradesh. After a brief stay there we were taken to Indore and then Ujjain. During that time we were kept in guest houses and different temples. Rajwardhan had placed a cop for my security. His name was Arun. Arun later introduced me to Pragya Singh Takhur in a temple in Dewas. There were a number of people with her. Later I met her in Byculla prison. We were in the same prison. Then I was taken to Saputara [in Gujarat] and then to Deolali, where I was introduced to Lt-Col Purohit.
Q: Where did you meet Purohit?
A: I met Purohit on October 22, 2006 in Deolali. I remember it was an old building. He was sitting at a table. He told me that whatever promise the ATS had made to me would be fulfilled. He said, ‘You will be given land and property anywhere in India except Kashmir.’ I don’t know whether the building where I met him was in a military cantonment, but there were some other people in uniform.
Q: You appeared in court in 2006. Why didn’t you tell the court all these details?
A: My brother [lawyer Jalil Ahmed] had filed a complaint against the police that they had kidnapped me and my wife. The cops threatened me not to disclose anything, otherwise my family would be killed. [After appearing in court] I was taken to the ATS office in Byculla. I was first taken to the office of Subodh Jaiswal [then additional commissioner of police; now joint secretary at cabinet secretariat]. He told me that I didn’t need to worry about the news reports about me. Then I was taken to the office of K.P. Raghuvanshi [then chief of ATS; now Thane police commissioner]. He put Rs 5 lakh in front of me and said that it was my money. He said if I wouldn’t take it my brother-in-law Farooq would get it. Meanwhile, Rajwardhan brought Farooq, and he was given that money. After that the cops took me to Nashik, where I was kept at Muktidham temple. Inside the temple some people were making a video film of all those who were present there and I was not comfortable getting filmed. Later, on December 13, 2006, I was taken to Bhiwandi and we stayed there. I met Farooq at the ATS office in Kalachowki the next day. He told me that the ATS had kept their promises. They had given us all the promised money. But I was shocked when he and my wife left me at the ATS. After they left the cops suddenly started thrashing me. I realised that they had got all the money and they played a double game with me. I was produced in court on December 22, 2006 as an approver in the Malegaon case.
Q: You are saying that an ATS officer gave money to Farooq?
A: He was given Rs 25 lakh and plots and a flat in the Sagar tower. (THE WEEK has not been able to verify this claim.)
Q: During the trial you alleged that some ATS cops met you in jail?
A: Yes, some ATS officers visited me. I also received some money orders from the ATS while I was in Byculla prison. It was a kind of pocket money. The ATS’s Sachin Kadam, Mahesh Kadam and Sadashiv Abhimanyu Patil used to send me the money order.
Q: Is there any proof that you received money from the ATS inside the Byculla prison?
A: Yes, there is an RTI [filed by his lawyer, but that reveals only the name of Patil, a constable at the Nashik unit of the ATS].
Q: How long did you receive money orders from the ATS?
A: In 2009 the ATS stopped sending me money because they realised that I was not going to follow their line. My brother had convinced me that if I didn’t stop meeting the ATS cops my life would be in more trouble. After that I approached a court and the ATS cops were subsequently prevented from visiting me in prison.
Q: You implicated 11 men in the bomb blasts. When did you first meet them?
A: I met them for the first time in a police van when we all were taken to the court. There was a person called Shabir Ahmed. I asked him how he was. He got very angry and said, ‘you implicated us and now you were saying salam’.
Q: After your release in 2011 has anyone from the ATS met or threatened you?
A: No one from the police or the ATS met me after my release
Interview Of Thane Police Commissioner, K.P. Raghuvanshi
“I’ve never given money to anyone”
Thane Police Commissioner K.P. Raghuvanshi was the chief of ATS when the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts happened. He led the investigation initially and arrested nine suspects. Excerpts from an interview.
Q: Abrar Ahmad, who was a police approver in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case, has alleged that you offered him Rs 5 lakh to implicate innocent people.
A: [Laughs] This is an absurd claim. I’ve never given money to him or anyone. We arrested him because we had evidence that he was a part of terrorist cell.
Q: Wasn’t he the police approver in the case?
A: Yes, he was. He gave the details about the other people who conducted the bomb blasts.
Q: If he was a police approver why did he turn against the ATS?
A: I don’t know. He appeared before the court. He confessed before the judge that he was a part of terrorist conspiracy to conduct bomb blasts in Malegaon in 2006. He gave a detailed account of the plot and the terrorists who were part of the conspiracy. He served some five years in jail and now he is making all these nonsense allegations. All I want to say is that we have done our job honestly and with full responsibility. We’ve not implicated anyone in the case.
Q: There are a lot of loopholes in the investigation.
A: The case is now with the NIA. If you have any questions about the investigation, you please contact the NIA. I will not be able to give you any comment on it
September 8, 2006: A series of bomb blasts rips Malegaon apart, killing 31 people and injuring 300. The Maharashtra ATS starts investigation.
December 21, 2006: Maharashtra government asks the CBI to take over the probe. The ATS files the chargesheet against nine Malegaon residents the same day.
September 29, 2008: Another series of bomb blasts rocks Malegaon. Similar blasts happen in Gujarat. The ATS, now headed by Hemant Karkare, blows the lid off a conspiracy. Eleven members of Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu right-wing organisation, including Lt-Col Purohit, a Military Intelligence officer, and Pragya Thakur are arrested.
November 19, 2010: Swami Aseemanand is arrested and confesses that a team of RSS pracharaks exploded bombs in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, on the Samjhauta Express in 2007, in Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan 2007 and in Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad in 2007.
April 2011: Government transfers the case to the NIA. Seven people, whom the ATS initially arrested get bail.
November 2012: Abrar Ahmed, the sole approver in the case, tells THE WEEK that some senior officers of the ATS knew the real culprits and they deliberately misled the investigation.
The ATS did not investigate the mysterious death of Mohammad Azhar, who had claimed to have seen one of the bombers. His body was found in his house compound. The police registered it as a case of suicide.
Shabbir Masiulla, whom the ATS depicted as the mastermind behind the blasts, was in prison when the blasts took place.
The cell phone interceptions of the ATS’s approver Abrar Ahmed, which could have established many important aspects of the case, are missing.
The reply to an RTI query revealed that ATS cop Sadashiv Patil used to send money to Abrar when he was in Byculla jail in Mumbai.
If the ATS investigation in the 2006 Malegaon blasts had gone the right way, many other terrorist attacks could have been prevented, as the bombers of Malegaon struck in several other places.
Samjhauta Express 2007: Bombs went off in two coaches of the cross-border train, killing 68 people. Investigations revealed that Abhinav Bharat activists were responsible for the attack.
Mecca Masjid 2007: Bomb blasts at the Hyderabad mosque killed 14 people. Swami Aseemanand of Abhinav Bharat, who was arrested later, confessed his and the outfit’s role in the strike. In March 2011, however, he retracted the statement.
Ajmer Sharif 2007: Bomb explosion at the Sufi shrine killed three persons and injured dozens. Aseemanand said Abhinav Bharat’s Sunil Joshi conducted the blasts to avenge Islamist terrorists’ attacks on Hindu temples.
Malegaon 2008: A series of bombs struck Malegaon again. Investigation led to the arrest of several members of Abhinav Bharat, including of Pragya Singh Thakur and a serving Military Intelligence officer, Lt-Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit.
The Anti-Terrorism Squad is an elite counter-terrorism body of the Maharashtra Police. It functions under the police commissioner of Mumbai. While the ATS has been functional for a while, it was formally created only in 2004. A distinguished force, its officers have won 23 gallantry awards. They fought bravely against the Pakistani terrorists during the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The Squad is credited for preventing several terrorist attacks in Mumbai and elsewhere in the country. Its mandate include:
Get information on anti-national elements working in any part of Maharashtra
Coordinate with Central information agencies, such as IB and RAW, and exchange information
Track and eliminate activities of organised crime syndicates
Detect rackets of counterfeit currency and smuggling narcotic substances
((November 25, 2012, THE WEEK)