Nanded Blast: Court rejects former RSS man’s request to give witness against VHP leader

19 February 2023
Yashwant Shinde’s hearing listed at the Nanded court. Shinde’s petition offering witness against VHP leader Milind Parande in a string of bomb blasts was dismissed by the court.
Yashwant Shinde’s hearing listed at the Nanded court. Shinde’s petition offering witness against VHP leader Milind Parande in a string of bomb blasts was dismissed by the court.

On 17 January, the Nanded district court rejected a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member’s application requesting he be made a witness in an ongoing trial pertaining to the 2006 Nanded bomb blast. Yashwant Shinde, the former RSS man, had earlier argued before the court that he had “personal knowledge of the conspiracy” that led to the blast, which was “hatched by the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal.” Shinde also accused Milind Parande, the current general secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, of masterminding the blast and requested that he be added as an accused in the case. Since 29 August, Shinde has appeared before the court on five hearings. The dismissal of Shinde’s application weakens the investigation into the larger conspiracy behind several blasts.

Shinde claimed that he was involved in a bomb-making training camp at a resort near Pune, in July 2003, which was attended by several others. The conspiracy led to at least three bomb blasts at mosques in Parbhani, Purna and Jalna, besides the accidental Nanded blast. Until 2006, the previous bomb blasts were treated as isolated incidents that were unconnected with each other. Shinde’s application had claimed the same conspiracy also led to the 2006 Malegaon blast, the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast, the 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast, the 2007 Mecca Masjid Hyderabad blast and the 2008 Malegaon blast. Rakesh Dhawade, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast is also an accused in the Nanded case. If Shinde’s claims are true, the bomb blasts borne out of the conspiracy have killed more than one hundred and twenty people, a majority of whom were Muslim.

The Nanded court, though, dismissed Shinde’s application on the same ground as the prosecution had previously suggested. As the Nanded blast had links with several other bomb blasts during the mid-2000s, the CBI had been the prosecuting agency in the case. The agency investigated the case from February 2007 to December 2020. They had filed two chargesheets by March 2009 and a closure report in December 2020 before the Nanded trial court—all of which is public knowledge only as a result of Shinde’s application.

On 22 September last year, the CBI had opposed the application, on the grounds that Shinde came forward after “a gap of 16 years” and that “he never approached the CBI nor he gave any information to the investigative agency at any point of time.” On 13 December, Shinde had argued that he had been “doubtful whether people would believe him” until the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast, one of the first wherein the involvement of top RSS leaders came to fore. Shinde also argued that from 2008 onwards he personally informed several senior Bharatiya Janata Party, VHP and RSS leaders, either directly or through intermediaries. These leaders included Indresh Kumar, a member of the RSS national executive; Shrikant Joshi, a former RSS national executive member; Venkatesh Abdeo, a former central general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad; Sunil Deodhar, a national secretary of the BJP; Tapan Ghosh, a former RSS leader and founder of the Hindu Samhati; Pramod Muthalik, the founder of the Shri Ram Sena; and Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghchalak—supreme leader—of the RSS. Shinde had submitted before the court that senior RSS leaders including Bhagwat “tacitly supported such terrorist activities.”  

On 13 December, Shinde sought protection under section 311 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that empowers a court to call a witness at any stage of a trial. Shinde quoted the Supreme Court’s judgment in the 2004 Best Bakery case, in which the court had ordered a retrial while transferring the case from Gujarat to Maharashtra. The court order, while rejecting his application, mentioned that, “It is not in dispute that the criminal court has ample power under 311 of the code to examine any person as a witness. However, it is provided in the code that the accused persons shall be given copies of the documents on which prosecution relies. In the instant matter, the applicant never approached the investigating agency which could have recorded his statement and could have made him a witness.”

Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.

Keywords: Yashwant Shinde Nanded Blast VHP RSS Hindu terrorism CBI