Reports Following this, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which investigated the bombings for around two years. As the involvement of various Hindutva organisations reports in different blasts kept coming out, the CBI pointed to the role of such extremist groups in the Mecca Masjid blast too. It filed a chargesheet against three people, all of whom were linked to the larger Sangh parivar – RSS pracharak Devender Gupta, property dealer and Hindutva activist Lokesh Sharma, and his leader Sunil Joshi.
Joshi’s name had also emerged in the Samjhauta blast case, but before the police could reach him, he was murdered in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, under mysterious circumstances in December 2007.
The NIA took over the case in 2011. Around the same time, it also took charge of the other three blasts in which the role of Hindutva organisations was suspected. All the investigative agencies concluded that the modus operandi in all four blasts were similar – cellphone triggered bombs, use of IEDs, etc. Several people who were investigated, the police Reports alleged, came from Madhya Pradesh and operated from Indore.
The NIA named Aseemanand, a former RSS activist, as the kingpin of the Mecca Masjid blast and accused ten people in the case: Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange and Ramachandra Kalsangra (both former RSS activists who are still absconding), Sunil Joshi (murdered in 2007), Aseemanand, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar (an employee in a private firm), Rajender Chowdhary (a farmer), Tejram Parmar and Amit Chouhan Reports
Out of the ten, five – Gupta, Sharma, Aseemanand, Rateshwar and Chowdhary – were arrested. Recently, in March 2017, Gupta and Joshi were held guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment by a NIA special court in the Ajmer Dargah blast case. However, both of them were acquitted in the Mecca Masjid ruling that came out today.
Aseemanand and Rateshwar were granted bail in 2017, while three others were put under judicial remand. It is being said that 226 witnesses and 411 documents were examined during the trial. Before the NIA took over, the CBI had examined 68 witnesses in the case, 54 of whom, including Defence Research and Development Organisation scientist Vadlamani Venkat Rao, turned hostile.
With witnesses turning hostile, it appears that the court could not find enough evidence to put the accused in the dock. Aseemanand was also acquitted in the Ajmer blast case. With him walking free without punishment in the Mecca Masjid case too, the role of the NIA under the Narendra Modi government is back under the scanner.