Years after the National Investigation Agency arrested leaders of extremist Hindu groups in connection with the Samjhauta train blasts of 2007, its Director-General Sharad Kumar says the agency has requested the U.S. for information on a key financier of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the case.
Mr. Kumar said he had gone to the U.S. “to pursue pending requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The case of LeT financier Arif Qasmani was one of them, and we have asked them [U.S. authorities] to send further details of Qasmani’s role in the Samjhauta blasts.”
Mr. Kumar’s statement comes on the heels of a series of moves by the NIA to review cases of “Hindu terror” between 2006 and 2008. Sixty-eight people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed in the >Samjhauta train blasts in February 2007, and the explosives were traced to Indore. In the 2008 Malegaon blasts, the NIA opposed the discharge of nine Muslim youths last week, despite its charge sheet having named Abhinav Bharat, an extremist group.
However, officials The Hindu spoke to denied any move to soften the case against RSS leader Aseemanand in the Samjhauta case by making enquiries about Arif Qasmani, who was designated a global terrorist by the U.N. 1267 Sanctions Committee.
“The first request on Qasmani was sent by us in 2011 and we are following it up with the U.S. authorities,” Mr. Kumar said.
A U.S. charge sheet in 2009 and the U.N. citation in 2010 accused Qasmani of funding the Samjhauta blasts as well as the 2006 train bombings in Mumbai.
Even after the U.S. named him, the NIA filed a charge sheet in 2010 in the case against eight accused, including Aseemanand.
He was granted bail on August 28, 2014, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The government decided not to challenge his bail. But he remains in Ambala Jail as he is also an accused in the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah blasts in 2007.
S.K. Handa, public prosecutor, NIA, told The Hindu on the phone from Panchkula in Haryana that it would be “difficult” to shift the blame from Aseemanand to the LeT at this point. “We have not been given any new information; but at this point of time, it would be difficult to wipe out the evidence on record. Only a few witnesses, who were close friends or relatives of the accused, have turned hostile, while much of the material evidence remains uncontested.”
According to a charge sheet by the NIA, “Aseemanand, with an intention to give a fitting reply to the perceived persecution by Hindus by the members of the Muslim community, propounded a bomb ka badla bomb theory.”
The case is under trial at a court in Panchkula, and 19 witnesses have turned hostile so far.