Praveen Swami

Madhya Pradesh blast probe was put on ice

NEW DELHI: Authorities in Madhya Pradesh had evidence that members of Abhinav Bharat (not the charitable trust by the same name) — the Hindutva terror group responsible for a string of recent bombings targeting Muslims — were preparing for a nationwide bombing campaign as early as 2002.

However, government sources told The Hindu, political pressures allowed members of the terror cell, including two suspects now being investigated by the Maharashtra Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad, to walk free.

In December 2002, police in Madhya Pradesh discovered an improvised explosive device at Bhopal’s railway station. A second IED was found exactly a year later in Bhopal’s Lamba Khera neighbourhood. Both devices were made with commercial TNT cased in a four-inch tube-well pipe, linked to a detonator controlled both by a cell phone and a quartz alarm clock.

Investigators determined that both bombs were intended to attack delegates arriving in the city for the annual convention of the Tablighi Jamaat — an event that attracts about 5 lakh people.

Arguably the world’s largest proselytising order, the Pakistan-headquartered Tablighi Jamaat is doctrinally hostile to politics and has been criticised by radical Islamists for its pietist posture.

However, some numbers of jihadists are known to have been drawn to terrorism after spending time in Tablighi Jamaat-linked missionary cells.

Madhya Pradesh police, the sources said, soon developed information linking the attempted bombings to local Hindutva activists, Ramnarayan Kalsangram and Sunil Joshi. Both men — now alleged by the Maharashtra Police ATS to have occupied command positions in Abhinav Bharat — were questioned, along with several other suspects linked to the Bajrang Dal’s activities.

Later, then-Chief Minister Digvijay Singh announced that he had evidence of the involvement of Hindu nationalist groups such as the Bajrang Dal in terrorism.

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