By Sunil Baghel, Mumbai Mirror | May 4, 2016, 03.11 AM IST
Nearly a month after their original statements in the Malegaon 2008 blasts case were reported 'missing' from the special NIA court, two witnesses tendered fresh statements before the court and they are completely contrary to what they said earlier.
While their earlier statements, recorded in late 2008 and early 2009 before two different magistrates in Mumbai, incriminated various accused in the case, the fresh statements virtually give the accused a clean chit. These accused are Dayanand Pandey alias Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Swami Amritanand Devtirth, Lt. Col. Shrikant Prasad Purohit, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Sameer Kulkarni and Pragya Singh Thakur.
The recent statements have been recorded before magistrates in New Delhi. Just as the originals, these statements are also admissible in court as evidence. Mirror is in possession of both sets of statements.
In the earlier statement, one of the witnesses claimed he had heard conversations between the accused at two meetings: one at a temple in Faridabad in January 2008; the other — the main one to hatch the conspiracy — in Bhopal in April the same year. This statement conveyed a detailed account of what was discussed at the meets. "Sudhakar Dwivedi alias Swami Amritanand Devtirth had come to the same temple in my village on January 25. Colonel Purohit, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Sameer Kulkarni were accompanying him. The next day, they had a closed-door meeting. When I went to the room with tea, I heard them talk about Abhinav Bharat. They were discussing how they would be able to take revenge on Muslims in its name, and that the name would help them seek donations as well."
This meeting, allegedly foundational for executing the blasts, was followed by another, said to be the key meeting, in Bhopal. The witness said Dwivedi called him to this second meet, which was attended by Lt Col Purohit, Major Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Pragya Singh Thakur. "All of them held a meeting in a room at the temple. I went there to serve water and heard them talk about creating a base for Abhinav Bharat in Madhya Pradesh. Purohit was talking about executing a plan for taking revenge on Muslims. He mentioned Malegaon as a place with high density of Muslim population and that a blast could be carried out there to avenge atrocities on Hindus. Everyone present at the meeting agreed with Purohit. Pragya Singh Thakur said people would be arranged for carrying out the blasts and that no one should worry about this."
In the fresh statement, though, the same witness said he came to know Swamiji's name from news reports after he was arrested in the blasts case. He further said he was pressurised by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad officials to say what he did in his earlier statement, adding that he knew nothing about the alleged meetings.
The other witness's earlier statement said he was present at the Bhopal meeting of April 2008 when the slogan 'Bomb ka badla bomb' was raised, and a "revenge blast" was allegedly plotted. But he has retracted this in the fresh statement. He had also mentioned a discussion on formulating a "constitution for a Hindu rashtra" and forming a parallel government. The witness has now stated that he left the meeting immediately after he was apparently humiliated by Major Upadhyay for raising the issue of Kashmiris being displaced. The new statement categorically says he never mentioned Purohit saying anything about carrying out any blasts or the 'badla' slogan in any of his statements before this one.
The original statements remain missing. Mirror had reported on April 7 how key witness statements in the case had gone missing from the special NIA court.