Kamal Chauhan was part of cell that planted the incendiary devices, NIA sources say
Less than a week short of the fifth anniversary of the firebombing of the Samjhauta Express, detectives of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) have held a Madhya Pradesh resident on suspicion of having participated in the terrorist cell which carried out the attack — the first breakthrough in over a year against a core group of fugitives who have been eluded arrest since 2008.
Kamal Chauhan, NIA sources have told The Hindu, is believed to be one of the four men who planted incendiary devices on the Lahore-bound train on February 18, 2007, killing 68 people.
“We believe Chauhan has critical information that could lead us to the rest of the plotters,” an NIA official said.
The Mhow-born Chauhan, a long-standing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist, is the second alleged perpetrator of the bombing to be held. Lokesh Sharma, an Indore-based Hindutva activist held in June 2010 for having participated in the meeting in which the terrorist attack was planned, will now face fresh charges of having participated in the bombing itself, the sources said.
The bombs, the NIA now believes, were manufactured by fugitive Hindutva terrorist Sandeep Dange, an RSS leader who, investigators say, was the core figure in the planning of a series of Hindutva terrorist attacks that began in 2002. Ramchandra Kalsangra, another RSS activist from Madhya Pradesh who served as Dange's alleged lieutenant, is also being sought by authorities in connection with the case.
Much of the details of the Samjhauta attack planning has come from Naba Kumar Sarkar, a leader of the Gujarat-based, RSS-affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. In December 2010, Sarkar confessed to a Delhi magistrate that he was present at a June, 2006 meeting in which the firebombing and a string of other terrorist attacks were planned against Muslims.
The idea of firebombing the Samjhauta Express, he claimed, was conceived by Dange as part of a series of terrorist strikes, which included bombings in Malegaon, Hyderabad and the Ajmer Sharif shrine.
Later, Sarkar sought to withdraw his confessional statement, saying it had been made under threat to his life. A final legal determination on its status is yet to be made.
Many members of the group, NIA investigators say, were long-serving RSS activists who became disillusioned with the Hindu right-wing's refusal to replicate the 2002 communal killings in Gujarat nationwide.
Harshad Solanki, who the NIA believes participated in the bombing of the Ajmer Sharif shrine in October, 2007, was given refuge by Dange when he fled Gujarat to avoid arrest after evidence surfaced of his role of in the 2002 massacre.
Keywords: Samjhauta Express bombing