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Mecca verdict: BJP says Congress' anti-Hindu politics exposed: Top updates

Business Standard Mecca verdict: BJP says Congress' anti-Hindu politics exposed: Top updates

Swami Aseemanand, a former RSS member and Abhinav Bharat ideologue, was among those acquitted today by a special court in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case

BS Web Team | New Delhi Last Updated at April 16, 2 018 16:46 IST

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Mecca Masjid blast, Swami Aseemanand File photo of Mecca Masjid blast accused Swami Aseemanand who was acquitted by a special NIA court in Hyderabad on Monday
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Eleven years after a powerful explosion killed nine people and injured 58 people during Friday prayers near the iconic Charminar in Hyderabad, a National Investigatio n Agency (NIA) court in the state on Monday acquitted all five accused in the 2007 Makkah Masjid case. The fourth additional metropolitan sessions-cum-special court for NIA cases had concluded the trial and last week posted the case for judgment on April 16. The Mecca Masjid attack was allegedly carried out by a group of right-wing terrorists 11 years ago on May 18, 2007.

A lawyer for one of the accused told reporters outside the Nampally criminal court complex that the court held that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges.

Hindu right-wing group Abhinav Bharat members Nabakumar Sarkar alias Swamy Aseemanand, Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajender Chowdhary, who were charged by the NIA, were all acquitted.

The explosion ripped through the mosque on May 18, 2007. Two live IEDs were also recovered by police and defused. Later, five more people were killed in subsequent police firing on a crowd outside the mosque.

There were a total of eight accused in the case. One, 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.

Monday's judgement was about five accused who were charge-sheeted by NIA.

A total of three charge sheets were filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the NIA in the sensational case that took many twists and turns.

The city police, which initially took up the investigation, blamed Harkatul Jihad Islami and rounded up about 100 Muslim youths. All those arrested and jailed were acquitted in 2008 and the subsequent investigations by the CBI in 2010 revealed that the blast was the handiwork of Hindu rightwing group Abhinav Bharat. The case was handed over to NIA on April 4, 2011.

The fact-finding committee of the National Minori ties Commission found that the youths were arrested on charges of terrorism and police kept them in illegal confinement and tortured them.

In 2012, the government of then-united Andhra Pradesh paid a compensation of Rs 300,000 each to 26 people who were acquitted and Rs 20,000 each to 50 people others were let off the police after questioning.

According to the charge sheet, the accused were "angered by terrorist attacks committed on Hindus and their temples" and conspired to "avenge" such acts with attacks on Muslim places of worship and places densely populated by Muslims.

The charge sheet also mentioned that Aseemanand made a confessional statement before a metropolitan magistrate in Delhi.

He had allegedly disclosed the conspiracy behind the bomb blasts in different places, including Makkah Masjid. Aseemanand allegedly retracted the statement later.

Aseemanand was first arrested by the CBI in 201 0 but was granted conditional bail in 2017 in the case. He was earlier acquitted in Ajmer Dargah blast case and also got bail in the Samjhauta Express blast case of 2014.

Here are the top 10 developments around the Mecca Masjid blast case verdict:

1) All Mecca blast accused let off: All the accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case were acquitted by the Namapally Court on Monday.

Police sounded an alert in Hyderabad following the judgement of the NIA court and beefed up the security in the communally sensitive old city. More than 3,000 policemen and personnel of paramilitary forces were deployed as part of the security arrangements.

Senior police officials were monitoring the security arrangements at the historic mosque located near the iconic Charminar.

Deputy Commissioner of Police V Satyanarayana said the police had taken all necessary measures to prevent any untoward i ncident.

He said the police would keep a close watch on the movement of people at sensitive places through CCTV cameras. He said the police would deal firmly with any attempt to disturb law and order.

2) Verdict exposed Congress' appeasement politics, says BJP: 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".

Patra said people will teach the Congr ess "a lesson" in the Karnataka Assembly polls as they had in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when it was reduced to 44 seats.

Hitting back at the Congress leaders for blaming the BJP government for the acquittal of the accused, he alleged that the opposition party has"double standards" and as it had welcomed a court order in favour of accused in the 2G scam case.

Patra also noted that the Congress was in power for seven years after the blasts and asked what it had done during the period.

Mecca Masjid blast

Police personnel outside the Nampally Court during a hearing on the Mecca blast case, in Hyderabad on Monday


3) No justice in Mecca Masjid blast case, says Owaisi: All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Owaisi alleged on a micro-blogging site that most of the witnesses in the Mecca Masjid blast case had turned hostile after June 2014 and the NIA either didn't pursue the case as was expected from it or was not allowed by its political masters to do so.

Asserting that "justice hasn't been done in the case," Owaisi said that "questions would be raised over the criminal justice system (of the country) if such biased prosecutions continue."

The firebrand MP alleged that the Modi government did not even appeal against the bail given to the accused earlier.

4) 'No Hindu terror angle': Reacting to the acquittal of all the accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case, former Under Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs RVS Mani said, "I had expected it." Mani claimed that "all the pieces of evidence were engineered", adding that "t here was no Hindu terror angle". 5) Lt Col Purohit declared hostile witness in Mecca Masjid blast case: Lt Col Prasad Purohit, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, on February 15, 2018, turned hostile while deposing in a Hyderabad court as a witness in the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast case. Purohit had been listed as a witness by the CBI in the case related to the blast at the Mecca Masjid. The case was later taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

6) Aseemanand granted bail in Mecca Masjid blast case: A court on March 24, 2017, granted bail to Swami Aseemanand in the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast case. The court had already granted bail to three others in the case.The court of Fourth Metropolitan Sessions Judge also granted bail to Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai, a co-accused in the case. Special Judge Ravinder Reddy had granted bail to both Aseemanand and Rateshwar with the direction to produce two local sureties of Rs 50,000 each. Aseemanand had been directed by the judge to not leave Hyderabad without the court's permission and remain present for the trial when required.

7) Mecca Masjid blast case's brief chronology: The blast at the historic Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, during Friday prayers had claimed nine lives and left 58 others injured. After initial investigation by local police, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI), which filed a charge sheet. Subsequently, the NIA took over the case from the CBI in 2011.

8) Who were the accused in the case? Ten persons allegedly belonging to right-wing organisations were named as accused in the case. However, only five of them -- Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Swami Aseemanand (alias Naba Kumar Sarkar), Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar (alias Bharat Bhai), and Rajendra Chowdhary - were arrested and faced trial in the case. Two other accused -- Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra -- are absconding, while another accused Sunil Joshi died. Investigations were continuing against two other accused.

Before being acquitted, Swami Aseemanand and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar were out on bail, while three others were lodged in the central prison in Hyderabad under judicial remand.

In March 2017, a court in Rajasthan had sentenced Gupta and another convict to life in jail in the Ajmer Dargah blast case.

9) Who is Swami Aseemanand? His real name is Naba Kumar Sarkar. Swami Aseemanand was arrested on November 19, 2010, from Haridwar in connection with the blast at the Mecca Masj id on May 18, 2007. On March 8, 2017, Aseemanand and six others were acquitted in the 2007 Ajmer blast case by a court in Jaipur. He was then brought from Jaipur and lodged in a prison in Hyderabad.

Earlier associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he is considered an ideologue of Abhinav Bharat, an extremist organisation involved in Malegaon and Ajmer blasts.

10) Nine people killed in Mecca Masjid blast; five more in police firing: While nine people were killed in the Mecca Masjid blast during Friday prayers on May 18, 2007, five more people were killed in police firing on protesters outside the mosque after the explosions.

RDX, TNT combination used in Mecca Masjid blast: T Suresh, chief scientific officer of the CLUES bomb detection squad of Andhra Prades h, has said that in the Mecca Masjid blasts, "a combination of RDX and TNT was used".

226 witnesses examined by court: During the Mecca Masjid blast trial, a total of 226 witnesses were examined and as many as 411 documents were exhibited.

With agency inputs

First Published: Mon, April 16 2018. 16:42 IST
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