Swami Aseemanand and Art of ‘Statement Withdrawal’
Swami Aseemanand emerged as the alleged kingpin in the series of blasts, starting from Malegaon, Makkah Masjid, Hyderabad, Ajmer Dargaah and Samjhauta express blasts, which rocked the nation from 2006 onwards. Just to recall, the initial investigations into series of blasts allegedly done by Hindutva groups, were led by Hemant Karkare, who was later killed in 26/11 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Later Rajasthan ATS took over and the long trail of investigation led to the unearthing the network of the Hindutva activists inspired by the ideology of Hindutva and working for different groups close to or associated with RSS. Many of them are currently in jails. Recently Swami and three others have been formally charged (Jan 25, 2014) in Samjhauta Express blast, Swami being accused number one.
After his arrest he confessed to his crimes in front of a metropolitan Magistrate The confession was voluntary was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Dabas at Tis Hazari courts on December 18. Swami had refused legal assistance and the statement was recorded after 48 hours of judicial custody, to ensure that no sort of pressure or intimidation is working on the mind of the confessor. In this statement he confessed that he and other Hindu activists were involved in bombings at Muslim religious places because they wanted to answer every Islamist terror act with “a bomb for bomb’’ policy. This was a 42 page confession and was widely reported in the media.
A bit later he retracted the statement saying that this was given under coercion. It came as a lot of surprise as one knows that the statements given in front of police authorities can be under pressure or coercion but in front of a judge it is another matter. His 48 hours judicial custody was a time enough to consider all aspects of the issues involved. It seems more of a turning around, an afterthought to protect his associates and the parent organization. It reminds one, of the statement of Nathuram Godse in the trial of Gandhi murder that he had no links with RSS. Later his brother Gopal Godse in an interview said that the denial of their links with RSS was deliberate to protect their colleagues in that organization (http://www.frontline.in/books/the-bjp-and-nathuram-godse/article4328688.ece). Swami after accepting the legal assistance; retracted the statement.
There seems to be a repeat performance from his side. Once his interviews were published in Caravan, a lot of turmoil was created. Immediately Swami went on to retract his content of the interviews he gave to the reporter. The reporter and the editor of Magazine have stood to their version and have also released the parts of the audio tapes to authenticate the interview’s contents. This Caravan story not only reconfirmed most of what Swami had confessed in the Court but added other dimensions also. The said article is very explosive as it takes the terror link right to the top of the RSS organization head. Caravan report points out “..[A]seemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organization’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh…
Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. ..In a tent pitched by a river several kilometers away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”
(The Believer: Swami Aseemanand’s radical service to the Sangh, by LEENA GITA REGHUNATH | 1 February 2014, Caravan Magazine, http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/believer)
In this report the writer, Leena Gita Reghunath tells us that she met Swami for four times over a period of last two years and talked to him at length. This detailed account elaborates about the activities of Swami Aseemanand, who was part of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which is a RSS associate organization. Aseemanand is a trained RSS swayamsevak who undertook the work in the Adivasi areas, was the main person to organize Shabri Kumbh in Dangs. He makes his agenda clear in a very explicit way. His goal was to bring Adivasis into Hindu fold through a process of Ghar Vapasi. He was not interested about their real issues as such. The issues of Adivasis, those related to their welfare, their rights did not matter at all. I too recall that as a member of concerned citizens group, while visiting Swami’s Ashram, one could see the malnourished-semi clothed Adivasi children shouting Jai Shir Ram to our team which was studying the phenomenon of planned Shabri Kumbh. Some parts of the story carried by Caravan, related to his work in Adivasi areas and his being core organizer of Shabri Kumbh has earlier been reported through section of media and the inquiry reports which went in to investigate the attacks on Christians in the area of Dangs. Many of these facts are spilling out from the horse’s mouth now.
The other highlight of the Caravan story is the pride with which Swami tells that all this is a part of his political agenda. He is also proud that he is in the same jail cell in which Nathuram Godse was lodged before his hanging. During the course of his interview he also tells that he hosted planning sessions, selected targets, provided funds for the construction of IEDs, and sheltered and otherwise aided those who planted the bombs. This was part of his confession to the Metropolitan magistrate as well.
As per Aseemanand “Bhagwat said of the violence… If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.”
Now the whole thing will lapse in the quagmire of the authenticity of the interview, the forensic test of the tapes and what not. If Swami could retract the statement given to the Magistrate, disowning the interview is no big game. This aspect of alleged RSS related activities need to be thoroughly and professionally investigated irrespective of the stature of those directly or indirectly involved in the acts of terror.