The 2006 Malegaon bomb blast case has achieved the uncanny distinction of being probably the only case of its kind in the country—13 have been arrested, of them, 9 are Muslim youths, who allegedly belong to an Islamic terror group; the other 4 are Hindu youths, who allegedly belong to a right wing Hindu terror outfit.
This serious botch up, which has placed the lives of 13 youngsters on the edge of uncertainty for the past so many years, is the result of an ugly face-off between two of India's premier anti-terror agencies—National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). While, NIA insists that the four Hindu youths they have arrested are the real culprits, ATS is adamant in its contention that the 9 Muslims it had taken into custody are the real terrorists.
In the past eight years, the case has been handled by three different investigating agencies at different stages, and every agency has come up with its own theory, leading to the arrest of several men. It was first handled by ATS, then by CBI and finally by NIA, which rubbished the investigations of both ATS and CBI.
Theories of ATS and CBI
Hours after the blast in 2006, the local police imposed curfew in Malegaon town, and began investigation. However, the govt immediately transferred the case to the anti-terrorist squad (ATS), which arrested as many as nine Muslims. According to ATS, the motto behind the blast was to trigger a riot in the city and then blame Hindus.
The squad accordingly charge-sheeted 13 Muslims, of which 4 are shown as absconding. ATS had claimed that the accused had managed to get RDX for the explosion from Pakistan, and had brought the material to Mumbai in July 2006. The charge sheet further claimed that the accused had fitted the timer in the blast as IED within 12 hours of the blast.
After arresting the 9 accused, ATS claimed it had the recorded statements of all the accused confessing to their individual roles in the crime. The agency also claimed that one of those arrested, Abrar Ahmed Gulam Ahmed, had pleaded in the court to make him an approver.
However, a year after ATS began investigating the case, those it had arrested approached the Bombay high court pleading with it to transfer the case to CBI. The central agency thus came into the picture in Feb 2007. But it too supported ATS contentions, and through a supplementary charge sheet, informed the court that it had evidence to prove that the 9 arrested were the culprits.
But things soon changed. In Nov 2010, CBI arrested Swami Aseemanad, a right wing leader accused of involvement in the Mecca Masjid bombing. After investigations he was handed over to NIA, and he confessed to his involvement in the Malegaon 2006 blasts.
After Swami Aseemanand confessed to the involvement of his men in the blast, the case was transferred to NIA. It soon arrested 4 men belonging to a Hindu right wing group and informed the court that 4 others were absconding.
NIA in its charge sheet claimed: "Before this case was handed over to NIA, Swami Aseemanand had made a confession in the Mecca Masjid blast case that one Sunil Joshi (who was dead) had told him that the blast in Malegaon was the handiwork of his boys. In his confessional statements, Swami Aseemanand had said that a meeting was held in June 2006 at the house of one Bharat Rateshwar in Valsad in which he (Aseemanand) had suggested that Malegaon, which has 86% Muslims, be chosen as the site for the first bomb blast. He also said that Sunil Joshi had told him that during 2006 Diwali his men had exploded bombs in Malegaon."