The National Investigation Agency, when it took over the probe of the Malegaon blast in April 2011 at the instructions of the Home Ministry, then headed by P. Chidambaram, believed that there was no credible evidence to link Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit to the 2008 blast. Their view, which contradicted what the ATS had claimed in its charge-sheet, was the outcome of a diligent study of relevant documents and evidence submitted to it by the Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad (ATS), followed by their own investigation. The NIA’s view had been revealed to this newspaper by a very senior NIA officer in 2012. The officer had said at the time that their investigation had not revealed either Purohit’s complicity or the existence of what was then being debated in the media as a “larger Hindutva terror plot”.
“After our own investigations and after we went through the charge-sheet filed by the ATS, it was very clear that Purohit was not acting as a ‘Hindu terrorist’. It also became clear that there was no ‘larger Hindutva terror plot’ being carried out to target the Muslims, as the political dispensation has been claiming. We have shared our observations with the ‘bosses’,” the officer had told this correspondent in mid-2012.
The information on Purohit being involved in a “Hindu terror plot” was first communicated to the Indian Army chief by the then Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief, P.C. Haldar on 22 October 2008, days after the Malegaon blast.
The Maharashtra ATS, according to the NIA officer, at the time was unable to do an impartial inquiry, despite having some of the best officers in the country. It is alleged that it was being guided by political hands ruling at the state and the Centre.
“The ATS’ 4,500-plus-page charge-sheet had many loopholes that were clearly visible when we took over the case from them. Confessional statements were taken under duress, by threatening and torturing. They would not have passed judicial scrutiny. The blast took place on 29 September 2008; the ATS took over the case on 26 October and Purohit was arrested on 5 November, followed by filing of the charge-sheet on 20 January 2009. It took the ATS less than three months to crack the case, which according to them was spread across different states. It is to be noted that at that time the ATS was also grappling with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks investigation. It appeared as if the whole investigation followed a pre-decided script; it was a tainted investigation—SC too remarked so,” an officer who is aware of the investigation told The Sunday Guardian.
According to the officers who were involved in the investigation, the Ministry of Defence was aware that Purohit was working as an undercover intelligence officer, but the documents that would have proved this, were not given to Purohit, allegedly under the directions of the political leadership of the time.
“The fact that he was working as an undercover officer, which was revealed by the subsequent replies and documents that were submitted by the Ministry of Defence, was one of the major reasons for granting him bail. Purohit was sharing every detail with everyone as he was required to,” the officer said.