Terror, trial, and acquittal
Citing lack of evidence, a special NIA court on Monday acquitted all the five accused, including Swami Aseemanand, in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case. The court said that the NIA could not prove any of the charges levelled against the accused. After delivering the judgement, special NIA judge Ravindra Reddy also announced his resignation from the post citing personal grounds. Nine people were killed and 58 were injured in a bomb blast at the Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers on May 18, 2007. After the blast, the police had to open fire on violent protesters in which five more people had been killed. The police had taken 30 Muslim suspects into custody amid allegations that the police were attempting to frame innocent people. The case was handed over to CBI in June 2007. On Monday, security in Hyderabad was tightened in view of the court order. At least 3,000 security personnel were deployed in the city to contain any untoward incident.
The primary investigation into the blast case was carried out by the police and, later, CBI took over the case in June 2007. In 2011, NIA took over the case and filed two supplementary charge sheets. There were 10 accused in the Mecca Masjid blast case. Five have been acquitted, two are absconding and one was murdered. Investigations are on against the two other accused. Those acquitted included head of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Swami Aseemanand, RSS Vibagh Pracharak Devendra Gupta, RSS Karyakarta Lokesh Sharma, Hindu Vichar Manch member Bharath Mohanlal Rateshwar and Rajendra Chowdhary, a farmer. Gupta was sentenced to life imprisonment last year for his role in the Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast case, while Swami Aseemanand was acquitted in the case.
Swami Aseemanand was arrested by CBI in 2010 and he received his bail in 2017. He was arrested during the rule of the UPA government. He has also been given relief in the other cases pending against him. For the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case, a court in Jaipur had acquitted him in March last year. He is still an accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast case. An important aspect of the police charge sheet was a confessional statement given by Aseemanand in front of a Metropolitan magistrate in Delhi. In his statement, he said that he was angry with the attacks on Hindu temples and he wanted to take revenge by planning similar attacks on the Muslim religious centres. Later, he retracted from his statement and said that the statement was extracted from him under coercion. Aseemanand's lawyer said that after examining all the documents and evidence, the court has reached the conclusion that none of the allegations against Aseemanand have been proved. The entire case was fabricated based on the confessional statement given by Aseemanand. His lawyer had contested the claim that Aseemanand confessed to his crime in his statement. His lawyer further stated that his statement was a part of the UPA government's plan to prove that there were modules working in the name of saffron terror. After the court verdict, BJP has said that Congress had insulted the Hindu religion by coining phrases like saffron terror. The Congress has, in turn, termed the NIA investigations biased. A Congress leader has said that all the investigating agencies have become puppets in the hands of the government. All five accused acquitted by the court on Monday belong to Abhinav Bharat, a Hindutva organisation also linked to the Malegaon bombings of 2006 and 2008, the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts, and the Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast in 2007. The Mecca Masjid blast has often been cited as the first instance of Hindu terror. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, CPM's Brinda Karat and AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi have accused the NIA of conducting a biased investigation. They also said that the NIA has failed to render justice to the victims. Aseemanand, in his confession before a judicial magistrate, had accused top RSS functionary Indresh Kumar of handpicking and financing pracharaks to carry out terror attacks. Sunil Joshi, the RSS pracharak who was shot dead when the investigation was going on, was allegedly deputed by Indresh Kumar to take Aseemanand's help in carrying out terror attacks. Sadhvi Pragya, one of the accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, was tried for his murder. But she too was acquitted of the charges in February 2017.