Many holes in the saffron terror theory have roots in Aseemanand's alleged change of heart

The Great Indian Conspiracy
Book Excerpt 

On 15 January 2011, Aseemanand’s statement was published by Tehelka under the title ‘In the words of a zealot...’. As already discussed, it was in clear contravention of Supreme Court orders. The article was yet another proof of a nexus between the government, CBI and some media houses. Like all other supposed exposés, this news item was also an attempt to drag RSS leaders into the theory of Hindu terrorism.

The NIA chargesheet documents how Aseemanand had scoffed at Joshi after the Samjhauta blasts stating Pakistani terrorists had once again succeeded in their operation while he could do nothing. According to the chargesheet, Joshi had responded by trying to persuade Aseemanand that the Samjhauta blasts were the handiwork of their own men. This clearly indicates the NIA knew Aseemanand had no idea about the conspiracy. He simply believed what Joshi told him.

Besides, Swami Aseemanand has repeatedly alleged torture in custody. Hunger and incessant beatings had pushed him to the verge of derangement. This didn’t prevent police from taking him outside the state for recording his confession. Aseemanand was brought before Delhi’s Metropolitan Magistrate for confession. Ashish Khetan was the only journalist to have accessed a copy of this statement. There were only two of them, one with the court and another in possession of the CBI. All probability indicated the ‘caged parrot’ was speaking for its master. The CBI chose only a few media houses to shower its benediction.

A flurry of information was leaked, immorally, if not illegally as well. The motive behind these selective leaks was indeed political. Nevertheless, they proved helpful in understanding the deeper political conspiracy involved.

With a byline accompanied by Ashish Khetan’s photograph, the report at its outset self-proclaimed to be ‘the first legal evidence of RSS pracharaks’ involvement in the Samjhauta Express and 2006 Malegaon blasts.’

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Khetan’s magazine boasted it had accessed the confessional statement in a day. It was a 42-page document containing Aseemanand’s admission of guilt. The alleged confession embroiled some significant leaders of RSS.

The report noted that the statement was recorded two days after Aseemanand requested the magistrate to record it. It highlighted the fact that Aseemanand was speaking without any ‘fear, force, coercion or inducement’. According to the report, Aseemanand was spent two days in judicial custody—away from any police interference or influence—to reflect on his decision.

The opening of Ashish Khetan’s story addressed an already contested question over the treatment given to this 59-year-old man in custody. But nowhere did it answer why only Delhi’s Magistrate Court was chosen for recording the statement. If it was for secrecy, then how was it that the statement itself was making headlines a day after it was recorded?

The Magistrate had asked everybody except his stenographer to leave his chamber before letting Aseemanand speak. This means only three people were privy to the confession; the Magistrate, stenographer, and of course, Aseemanand himself.

‘I know I can be sentenced to the death penalty but I still want to make the confession,’ the report quoted Aseemanand as saying in the beginning of his statement. For the next five hours, Aseemanand spoke words, which were to intrigue Indian politics for long. The statement was made a basis for a tirade to enforce a ban on RSS.

Aseemanand’s confession can be termed as the connecting thread between all the tenets of Hindutva terror theory. It had only managed to encircle small fries of RSS before this explosive admission of guilt. Aseemanand was indeed a big catch for investigative agencies, a link that could enable take them to more names that are prominent. And his deposition was a big shot in the arm for them. The statement was recorded in Magistrate’s presence under section-164 of CrPC, implying it was legally admissible as evidence. The investigative agencies believed it was the clinching evidence they were looking for. Tehelka, along with a coterie of intellectuals, have been at the forefront of the criticism that mostly Muslims boys are rounded up after every blast. The magazine argued that Aseemanand’s statement, as well as the arrest of alleged Hindu terrorists, have proved this perception as misplaced.

‘The arrest of Sadhvi Pragya and Lt Col. Purohit dented this perception slightly, but they were mostly written off as a small and lunatic fringe. Now, Aseemanand’s confession tears much deeper through this prejudice,’ the news report read.

This part of Ashish Khetan’s story smacks of appeasement of Muslims. The purpose of this leak was clearly not confined to the targeting of RSS leaders. It also catered to a section of the minority community by strengthening the impression that Hindus were equally culpable in terrorist incidents. Digvijay Singh broke all limits of this petty politics by linking the RSS to 26/11 attack.

According to this alleged confession, RSS pracharaks, not Islamists, had exploded bombs in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, on the Samjhauta Express in 2007, in Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and Mecca Masjid in 2007. Based on this claim, Tehelka made a sweeping assertion that the Muslim accused were wrongly picked up in these cases and tortured in jail.

In fact, the reason for Aseemanand’s momentous change of heart leading to this confession was also related to one such youth. Ashish Khetan leads us through the lamentations over the plight of these wronged Muslim youths to describe this ‘momentous transformation’ triggered by Aseemanand’s coming across a jailed Muslim youth.

The same Aseemanand, who was portrayed as the lynchpin of Hindu terror conspiracy, is quoted as saying, ‘Sir, when I was lodged in Chanchalguda district jail in Hyderabad, one of my co-inmates was Kaleem. During my interaction with Kaleem, I learnt that he was previously arrested in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case and he had to spend about one and a half years in prison. During my stay in jail, Kaleem helped me a lot and used to serve me by bringing water, food, etc for me. I was very moved by Kaleem’s good conduct, and my conscience asked me to do prayschit (penance) by making a confessional statement so that real culprits can be punished and no innocent has to suffer.’

A touching story, if true. However, one needs to look through it. Who was this Kaleem and why he was lodged in the same jail as Aseemanand? Some believe he was deliberately planted. Was Kaleem’s courtesy a conscious ploy to make ground for the confession? It is hard to discern how a ‘mastermind’ of Hindu terrorism, with supposedly a pathological hatred for Muslims, could risk walking to the gallows on the inspiration of a Muslim man jailed on charges of terrorism.

This apparent repentance moved the magistrate to the extent that he ordered even his stenographer to leave the room so that Aseemanand could speak without any fear or pressure. The fact is mentioned in Tehelka’s report without explaining how it came to know about it.

The circumstances at the time of recording this confession were corroborating advocate JP Sharma’s claims regarding it. Nobody knew what truly transpired between the magistrate and Aseemanand as it was an emotionally surcharged atmosphere. Except of course the presence of the invisible omnipresent Tehelka reporter, Ashish Khetan.

It was difficult to believe the melodramatic saga of Aseemanand’s penance. It appeared Aseemanand’s confession was a result of an age-old police gimmick. He was made to believe that all the other accused were speaking against him and he must not remain silent to escape death punishment. The same tactics were adopted in the case of others.

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