Monday, December 26, 2011

Malegaon suspect filed 702 RTI queries in 5 yrs

Farog Makhdoomi (centre) got 50 lakh pages of RTI answers

Mateen Hafeez TNN
: Unani doctor Farog Makhdoomi, a 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts suspect, had filed 702 right to Information (RTI) applications during his fiveyear imprisonment in various jails in the state. Makhdoomi, now 38, was released on bail along with six other accused last month. He received 50 lakh pages of RTI answers and references while in jail.

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) had claimed that Makhdoomi, son of a schoolteacher, was one of the prime conspirators in the blast conspiracy. However, claims by the ATS fell short during the course of investigation after Swami Aseemanand, member of a right wing outfit, confessed to his involvement in the blasts. A medical practitioner by profession, Makhdoomi kept filing RTI applications on various issues like food in the jails, Islamic banking, reservation for Muslims, Sachar commission, Mishra commission, the Indian system of medicine, distant education, etc.

Makhdoomi said, “My first RTI application was about the jail canteen’s food. Edibles worth Rs 40 were being sold for Rs 140. When I tried exposing the corruption in the Arthur Road jail, the then superintendent made our lives miserable.” He added that he did not receive a reply when he asked for the procedure followed for filling up the vacancies at the Malegaon civil hospital. The residents of Malegaon had been demanding that victims of the blasts should be given preference when there are vacancies at the hospital. He has also obtained the records of the detention of a co-accused “which prove that he was detained and kept in custody illegally”.

In February this year, Makhdoomi appeared for the PhD Entrance Test. Having completed his Bachelor of Unani Medicine degree in 1997, Makhdoomi studied for his MA in Urdu while in custody in 2009. He has been securing a first class so far and passed the PhD entrance as well. While in prison, he did his post graduate diploma in disaster management through IGNOU. He was also appointed the coordinator for distant education by the jail authorities and helped 80 inmates appear for various examinations.

Speaking about his applications, he said, “The state textile ministry, with funds of Rs 1,100 crore, announced plans for textile parks in 11 cities but ignored Malegaon, which is the second largest textile centre in the state. I realized this through my applications.”

The Times of India, December 26,2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

‘My father is not a conspirator’


Mateen Hafeez & Rebecca Samervel | TNN

“All our relatives have gathered back home in Malegaon to welcome my son. We are just waiting to take him back as soon as he comes out,” said Iqbal Makhdoomi, a senior citizen and father of Dr Farog Makhdoomi, waiting for the gates of the Arthur Road jail to open up on Wednesday.

His son was one of the seven 2006 Malegaon blasts accused who walked out of the Arthur Road and Byculla prisons on Wednesday after being granted bail on November 5.

The seven men came out of the two jails around 5.30pm, much to the delight and relief of the scores of people who had gathered outside. The area around the Arthur Road jail was particularly crowded, with family members of the accused jostling for space with media personnel and curious passersby.

The families had been persistently making the 300-km trip from Malegaon to Mumbai to attend court hearings, never losing faith. On Wednesday, too, that persistence showed as the 63-year-old Iqbal waited outside the jail. Iqbal, a retired schoolteacher, has spent most of his of provident fund money and pension fighting for his son’s release.

Taking time off from school, 13-year-old Osama, who was only eight when his father Raees Ahmed was arrested in 2006, jumped with joy on seeing his father and hugged him. “Our family members have been offering namaaz since morning and my mother has cooked lots and lots of special food.” “No one in our hometown sees my father as a conspirator and I believe he has been falsely implicated by the police,” he added.

Jamil Masiullah, brother of Shabbir Ahmed, said: “We have renovated our house, changed carpets and installed huge lights. We are excited and very happy.”
Fighting off tears, Masood Ahmed, brother of another accused, Dr Salman Farsi, said: “The residents of our town stood by us. We are thankful to the people of Malegaon.”

The Times of India, November 17,2011

5 yrs on, 7 walk out of jail

FREE FOR NOW, BUT LONG WAY TO GO: We Want Our Dignity & Five Years Back, Say 2006 Malegaon Blasts Accused After Being Released On Bail

Mateen Hafeez & Rebecca Samervel | TNN

Wednesday, 5.30pm. Seven men walk out of two Mumbai jails after having spent five years in dark, dingy cells. Free for now, the seven are greeted with hugs, tears, smiles and sweets, as the wait finally ends for them as well as the dozens of people who have lined up to meet them outside the prison gates.

The seven, arrested in 2006 after being accused of planning and executing the Malegaon serial bomb blasts, were recently granted bail by a MCOCA court. “We were framed. We want our dignity and five years back,” a statement by the released men said. The anger at the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) was also evident, with the seven men later alleging that the agency had been biased in its probe.

On September 8, 2006, four bombs went off in Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297.

On Wednesday, six of the accused—Salman Farsi, Mohammed Zahid, Raees Ali, Shabbir Masiullah, Noor-ul-Huda and Dr Farog Makhdoomi—were released from the Arthur Road prison, while Abrar Ahmed stepped out of the Byculla jail.

Two other persons—Mohd Ali Shaikh and Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai—were also granted bail by the MCOCA court, but they would continue to remain behind bars as they are also accused in the 11/7 serial train blasts.

Following their release, all seven men were keen to reach home. But they also knew that the battle was far from over. “I am happy that we have been released. But I will find peace only after I am discharged from the case,” said Farsi, tears in his eyes.

“We want our dignity back. We want an answer as to why the police framed us,” maintained Raees Ali. Zahid said, “The police showed me as a planter, but I was 500 km away from Malegaon. The truth is coming out now.”

“I will be relieved when we are acquitted,” said Masiullah. One of the key questions raised was regarding the ATS’s claims on the involvement of Zahid, an imam from a Yavatmal mosque. The ATS said he planted a bomb in Malegaon and left for Yavatmal the same day. “The distance between the two towns is around 1,000 km. How can you travel 1,000 km in just 12 hours on a state transport bus? The ATS said Zahid was in Malegaon that day and planted the bomb, while more than 250 Yavatmal residents filed affidavits saying Zahid was in Yavatmal on September 8, the day of the blasts,” argued a resident.

Around 500 residents of Malegaon, including politicians, religious leaders, activists, friends and family members of the accused, had been waiting outside the jails, especially Arthur Road, since Wednesday morning. The area around Arthur Road jail witnessed traffic snarls after Jamiat Ulama-E-Maharashtra members assembled to welcome the freed men. Personnel from the N M Joshi Marg police station and the crime branch were called in for bandobast duty even as two armoured vehicles were stationed outside the jail.

Soon after their release, the seven men were taken to the jamiat’s office near Bhendi Bazar. “I am thankful to Allah for this success,” said Gulzar Azmi, general secretary, of the jamiat’s legal cell. “Innocent youths were framed by the ATS and kept in prison for five years.” He also announced that compensation would be sought for the time spent behind bars.

The ATS, then headed by Krish Pal Raghuvanshi, had initially investigated the case and the CBI later took over the probe. The ATS had arrested the nine men claiming that they belonged to the banned SIMI and aided a Pakistani in executing the blasts. The case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency after the probe took a dramatic turn following Swami Aseemanand’s confession that a saffron group was behind the blasts.

The jamiat said it was waiting for the NIA’s progress report.
Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan and Malegaon’s Kul Jamaati Tanzeem had been meeting P Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi, demanding the release of the nine accused.

BLASTS & AFTER SEPT 8, 2006 | Four RDX bombs go off in Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297

DEC 21, 2006 |
ATS files a 4,500-page chargesheet. Case is handed over to CBI the same day
NOV 5, 2011 | MCOCA court grants bail to nine accused
NOV 16, 2011 | Seven walk free, while two others remain in jail as they are accused in 11/7 blasts

Noor-ul-Huda 24
Shabbir Masiullah 34
Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali 35
Salman Farsi 40
Farog Makhdoomi 40
Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majeed 35
Abrar Ahmed Saeed 35

Mohd Ali Shaikh 45 and Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai 40
*Both were earlier arrested in the 11/7 train blasts case

The Times of India, November 17, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

RTI: ATS cop sent money to Malegaon blast accused

Mateen Hafeez TNN

A police constable attached to the Nashik unit of the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) had sent money on three occasions to one of the accused in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts in Byculla jail, a RTI query showed. The blast accused, Abrar Ahmed, had turned approver when he received the money but later turned hostile.
Gulzar Azmi, general secretary (legal cell), Jamiat-ul-Ulema, a socio-religious organization, had filed the RTI. In their reply, Byculla jail authorities said that constable Sadashiv Abhimanyu Patil had sent Rs 1,000 each three times between August and November 2008. The trial concerning the blasts that killed 31 people is underway in court.

The Byculla jail authorities in their reply mentioned Patil’s address as 14/501, police headquarters, Gangapur Road, Nashik, from where the money order was sent to the blast accused. Patil disconnected the telephone line when this correspondent disclosed his identity.

Ahmed’s bro complained to court about constable
The state antiterrorism squad’s Nashik unit had investigated the Malegaon blasts case initially and submitted a chargesheet against nine accused. A CBI team which took over the probe also endorsed the ATS findings.

Following petitions by Malegaon residents, another CBI team began the probe afresh and indicated that those arrested may not be involved. By then the National Investigating Agency (NIA) took over and recently told the court that it has no objection in granting them bail.

The court ordered their release on November 5 once they fulfilled the bail conditions. Abrar Ahmed, now 42, had mysteriously disappeared after the September 8, 2006 bomb blasts outside a mosque and in a residential area. Four bombs, made of RDX, were planted on bicycles in Malegaon. After his disappearance, Ahmed’s elder brother, advocate Jaleel Ansari, filed a habeas corpus plea in the special MCOCA court. On the court’s order, the Nashik police produced Ahmed before the court in December 2006. Ahmed, who owned a battery and inverter shop, is accused of conspiracy, assembling and planting the bombs.

Abrar, in an affidavit, in 2009, alleged that he was offered lakhs of rupees to become an approver. “As family members, Ahmed’s relatives would send money to him through money order. But why was a constable, attached to the ATS sending money? For the ATS Ahmed was a terror suspect, so why would the police send money to a man who has been termed as a conspirator, a bomb maker and a planter? A thorough inquiry should be done in this matter to find out who exactly was behind this?” said Azmi, the RTI applicant.

The then ATS chief, K P Raghuvanshi, said he wasn’t aware of the development.
Advocate Ansari said he had earlier complained to the court about Patil. “This constable would come to meet my brother in jail. After Ahmed turned hostile, Patil met him in jail and threatened him with dire consequences.”
He added, “After I complained to the court, an inquiry was set up and the jail authorities were instructed not to allow Patil to meet Ahmed,” said Ansari.
A senior police officer said he was not aware about the outcome of this inquiry.

The Times of India, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

2 accused stay in custody over train blasts case


S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez TNN

Although the nine suspects arrested in connection with the 2006 Malegaon blast case were granted bail by the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) earlier this week, the Mumbai crime branch on Friday said two of the suspects — Mohammed Ali Aslam Shaikh Aziz and Asif Khan —would remain in custody as they are wanted in another terror related case. Ali and Khan are also accused in the 11\7 Mumbai serial train blasts case.

Ali is an active member of SIMI and in 2005 and 2006, had sent few SIMI members to Pakistan for arms training. “We had arrested two persons Shabbir Mushirullah and Nafiz Ahmed Ansari, residents of Malegaon in Nashik and Govandi in Eastern suburbs in this case. Moreover, they were associates of Indian Mujaheedin founder member Riyaz Bhatkal,” said the police.

The Times of India, November 12,2 011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lawyers of accused made 60 trips to court in 5 years

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

: “This was our 60th trip to the Mumbai court. Each time we came to the city, we hoped we will be successful in getting the accused out of jail,” said advocate Nihal Ansari, a lawyer in the legal cell of Jamiat-ul-Ulema (Maharashtra) on Saturday after the nine youths arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case got bail.

The Jamiat, the Malegaon Kul Jamaati Tanzeem, an NGO, and the residents of Malegaon had been closely following the blasts case. “We stood united and proved the ATS theory wrong,” said Irfana Hamdani, another lawyer. The lawyers played a major role in securing bail for the nine youth, who they insisted had no role to play in the blasts.

“To prove our point, we had compiled a 380-page factfinding report and submitted it to the first CBI team. However, the CBI did not consider it. Later, we submitted the report to Union home minster P Chidambaram and the NIA. The NIA has been taking our help since it took over the probe,” said advocate S S Shaikh.

Jaleel Ahmed, an advocate and brother of one of the accused, Abrar Ahmed, said his son was kidnapped and beaten up by the ATS in 2009. “We have registered a case with the Nagpada police against the police personnel,” said Jaleel.

The Times of India, November 6, 2011

Are loopholes in ATS investigation showing?

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

The bail granted to nine Malegaon youth has left the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) red-faced. Malegaon residents have, over the course of the case, cast doubts over the ATS probe.

The ATS had invoked MCOCA against these accused. “The police had 180 days to file a chargesheet. The agency did it in just 54 days. We don’t understand why the ATS was in a hurry to file it earlier. This raises serious questions on their probe,” said Maulana Abdul Qayyum, a member of Jamiat-ul-Ulema, which bore the legal expenses.

Abdul Malik Bakra, an activist, said the ATS did not even submit the complete forensic and voice sample test reports along with the chargesheet.

K P Raghuvanshi, who was the then ATS chief, was not available for comment.

One of the questions raised is regarding ATS’ claims about involvement of Mohammed Zahid, an imam from a Yavatmal mosque. The ATS said he planted a bomb in Malegaon and left for Yavatmal the same day. “The distance between the two towns is around 1,000 km. How can you travel 1,000 km in just 12 hours in a state transport bus? The ATS said Zahid was in Malegaon on that day and planted the bomb, while more than 250 Yavatmal residents filed affidavits saying Zahid was in Yavatmal on September 8, the day of the blasts,” said a resident.

Thirdly, the police said a Pakistani national, Muzammil, had come to Malegaon and assembled the bombs. But ATS could not provide further information on his visit. Police said that 45 bombs were manufactured in Malegaon. “Surprisingly, they could not recover a single bomb,” another activist said.

Moreover, when the Malegaon blasts took place, Shabbir Masiullah, one of the arrested accused, was already in Mumbai police’s custody, residents said.


September 8, 2006
| Four RDX bombs went off in Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297. The bombs were planted on bicycles and exploded between 1.45pm and 1.55pm. The first three went off outside Hameediya mosque in Bada Qabrastan and the fourth exploded at Mushawerat Chowk in central Malegaon. The bombs contained RDX, ammonium nitrate, nitrite and oil fuel.

December 21, 2006 | The ATS filed a 4,500-page chargesheet against the suspects. The case was handed over to the CBI the same day

Noor-ul-Huda (24)
Occupation | Labourer Charge | Bomb planter at the mosque

Shabbir Masiullah (34) Occupation | Owner of a battery shop Charge | Conspirator

Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali (35) Occupation | Masiullah’s brother-in-law, partner in Masiullah’s battery unit Charge | Conspirator and bomb planter

Salman Farsi (40) Occupation | Unani doctor Charge | Conspirator

Farogh Makhdoomi (40) Occupation | Unani doctor Charge | Conspirator

Mohd Ali Shaikh (45), earlier arrested in the 11/7 train blasts case Occupation | A Govandi resident, labourer Charge | Supplying RDX to Malegaon accused

Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai (40), earlier arrested in the 11/7 train blasts case Occupation | A mechanical engineer from Jalgaon Charge | Supplying RDX

Mohd Zahid Abdul Majeed (35) Occupation | Imam Charge | Planter

Abrar Ahmed Saeed (35) Occupation | Powerloom unit owner Charge | Planter

The Times of India, November 6, 2011

2006 Malegaon blasts: Bail for all 9 accused

MOMENT OF JOY: Activists and lawyers celebrate after the nine blasts accused get bail on Saturday

Mateen Hafeez & Rebecca Samervel TNN

Nine persons accused in the 2006 Malegaon serial blasts that left 31 dead got bail on Saturday. The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad had arrested them claiming that they belonged to the banned SIMI and aided a Pakistani in executing the attacks. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe after Swami Aseemanand’s confession that a saffron group was behind the blasts, did not oppose bail.

NIA reviewed evidence after Swami confessed
Although nine people have been granted bail for the 2006 Malegaon blasts, two of the nine accused, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh and Asif Khan, will remain in custody because they are also accused in the 11/7 Mumbai train blasts case.

Special judge Yatin Shinde of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each and asked the nine to furnish one or more surety. Defence lawyers requested that they be allowed to furnish cash surety in a bid to hasten their release in time for Eid on Monday. The judge declined this request.

The ATS had charged the nine with helping a Pakistani, Muzammil, in carrying out the blasts. They had said Muzammil had travelled
to Malegaon with RDX to assemble the bombs, three of which were planted on the premises of the Hameediya mosque and a fourth at Mushawerat chowk. The bombs went off late in the evening on September 8, 2006, when Muslims had gathered at cemeteries for Shab-e-Baarat prayers, killing 31 and injuring 297.

“In all fairness, in the interest of justice after due deliberation a decision was taken on the basis of the facts and circumstances not to oppose the bail application of all nine persons,” special public prosecutor Rohini Salian told the court on behalf of the NIA.

The NIA did not file a report in the court, saying investigations were not over yet. However, it submitted that after the revelations by rightwinger Swami Aseemanand, who was arrested in the Mecca Masjid blast case, it had reviewed the evidence collected by previous investigating agencies—the ATS and CBI—and also collected fresh documentary and oral evidence.

The 2006 blasts case was first investigated by the ATS followed by the CBI. Both accused the nine youngsters—Noor-ul-Huda (24), Shabbir Masiullah (34), Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali (35), unani doctors Salman Farsi and Farog Makhdoomi, Mohammed Ali, Jalgaon mechanical engineer Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai, Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majeed, and Abrar Ahmed Saeed (35)—of the blasts. Following Aseemanand’s confession about his associates engineering the attacks, a second CBI team looked into the case and said the accused were not involved. Now, the NIA is pursuing this theory.

Since the saffron angle cropped up, residents of Malegaon have been meeting the Prime Minister, the Union home minister and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to emphasize that the youths had been framed. “It’s an Eid gift for all of us,” said Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari of Malegaon after the bail order.

The township celebrated the news with crackers. “The ATS had wrongly booked these boys and we have been agitating for the past five years,” said S S Shaikh, a senior advocate.

The Times of India, November 6, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sadhvi kin to approach court for her safety in jail

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

A relative of the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast suspect, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, will approach the special MCOCA court on Friday to demand protection for her at the Byculla women’s prison. This comes after a suspected Nigerian female drug peddler allegedly abused Thakur and fought with her jail mate.

The application will be moved by advocate Ganesh Sovani on behalf of Thakur’s brother in-law, Bhagwan Bhai Jha. Thakur has been in jail since November 3, 2008. Jha’s application states that African female undertrials lodged in the same jail had created a ruckus on the premises and had gheraoed Thakur and manhandled her jail inmate Rita Jaiswal on October 27. It added that Thakur was repeatedly abused and heckled as well.

The application further stated that when the matter was reported to the jail authorities, even they could not overpower over the African inmates, who were physically much stronger than them. “If the jail authorities send police personnel to sort out the issue, then these African female undertrials try to undress themselves and scream and shout,” Jha stated in the application.

Jha believes that the court may seek a report from the superintendent of Byculla Jail about the incident that took place on October 27, and direct jail authorities to take appropriate steps for the security of Thakur and Jaiswal. The application further stated that a year-and-a-half ago, an undertrial had physically assaulted Thakur.

Assault, fighting and brawls among the jail inmates is not a new thing in city prisons. In April this year, Maria Sussairaj— who was arrested for TV executive Neeraj Grover’s murder—had entered into a scuffle with a South African female drug peddler inside the Byculla prison. The woman constable who intervened was injured. Maria was later acquitted by the court in the murder case.

Sources from the jail said a routine search of all the inmates was on. This practice is carried out in all barracks and cells in jails across Maharashtra. Maria was talking to some other inmate when the South African inmate allegedly pushed her. They had a heated argument before they caught hold of each other, said the source.

The Times of India, November 4, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

‘NIA won’t oppose bail for accused’


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Union home minister P Chidambaram on Monday announced that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) will not oppose the bail plea of the nine accused arrested in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts case.

Meanwhile, NIA officials on Monday informed the special MCOCA court in Mumbai that it would file additional chargesheets against the nine accused on November 4. It will also file its statement on the same day on the bail application of the accused, all suspected SIMI members. “As far as the NIA is concerned, they are not opposing the bail. Whether the bail will be granted or not, it is not for me to say,” Chidambaram told reporters. Asked whether the move not to oppose the bail meant that the nine people arrested by the ATS were innocent, Chidambaram said, “No, until anyother person who is involved is actually found and chargesheeted and until the old chargesheet is revised, we can’t come to any conclusion. The investigation is covering the other directions as well.”

He added, “The NIA has concluded that it is no longer necessary to keep them in judicial custody and, therefore, the NIA will not oppose the bail.” All the accused are in Arthur Road prison since their arrest in 2006.

MCOCA judge Y D Shinde adjourned the hearing till November 19. After Swami Aseemanand’s confession, which pointed to a right-wing group’s involvement, the accused filed bail pleas. Aseemanand was arrested for his alleged role in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts. “From the confession, it is clear that those responsible for the 2006 Malegaon blasts are persons far removed from the current accused,” they said in the bail plea.

The Times of India, November 1, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bail plea of blast accused on Mon


Mateen Hafeez TNN

With the bail hearing in the 2006 serial blasts case in Malegaon to be held on Monday, relatives, friends and supporters of the nine local youths arrested for their alleged role in the attack are hoping that they get relief this time.

Several residents have been agitating against the arrests right from the beginning. “We do not believe the police theory that these boys (all Muslims) engineered the September 8, 2006, blasts. The ATS has wrongly framed them in the case just because they were suspected to be members of the outlawed outfit, SIMI. Now we are hoping that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is getting factual information about the actual culprits who have not been arrested so far,” said a member of the legal cell which is representing the nine accused.

During its investigation, the NIA found that the accused were wrongly implicated in the case and that rightwing groups are allegedly responsible for the blasts.

The bail application was filed before the MCOCA court and will be heard on Monday. Earlier, a CBI special task force which probed the case for two-and-a-half months this year had also indicated that the men were not involved in the blasts case and were wrongly implicated in the case by the ATS.

The Times of India, October 30, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blasts accused to file fresh bail plea

Mateen Hafeez TNN

: While the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is on the verge of completing its probe into the 2006 Malegaon blasts, the suspects in the case are likely to file a fresh bail application within a few days.

During its investigation, the NIA found that the accused were wrongly implicated in the case and that rightwing groups are allegedly responsible for the blasts.

The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) had initially booked nine Muslim youths claiming they were SIMI members. The ATS filed a chargesheet only within 54 days, even though it had 180 days to do the same. Later, the case was transferred to the CBI.

“We are filing a bail application within a day or two,” said Gulzar Azmi, general secretary of the Jamiatul Ulema (legal cell). He added that the Malegaon youths are currently in Gujarat where they are being subjected to narcoanalysis tests. “We have been saying that the youths are framed in the case. We hope they will secure bail,” added Azmi.Earlier, the CBI had found that slain RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi along with an associate had visited Malegaon in July 2006 and conducted a recce. They also wanted to carry out a terror strike in July, however, their plan did not materialize. Samjhauta train blast accused Swami Aseemannd also confessed that his men engineered the Malegaon blasts. “We have submitted all documents to the NIA,” said advocate Irfana Hamdani, who is representing the youths. Four RDX bombs planted near a cemetery in Malegaon went off on September 8, 2006, killing 31 persons.


• The ATS had said SIMI engineered the 2006 Malegaon blasts that killed 31

• Zahid Majeed, a suspect, was in Malegaon to plant the bomb, the ATS claimed. However, witnesses filed an affidavit stating he was 500 km away in Yavatmal

The Times of India, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Malegaon ka superhero gets last wish, dies

Mateen Hafeez & Bharati Dubey I TNN

: Shafique Shaikh, the cancer stricken M a l e g a o n man who starred in
M a l e ga o n Ka Superman, had one last wish: to see his film’s release before his death. The film was released on Tuesday evening and he died on Wednesday morning after watching the final cut. Shaikh (23), father of two, was diagnosed with cancer last year and was being treated at Tata Memorial Hospital.

Nasir Khan, director of the film, said, “Shaikh’s last wish was to watch the film in a cinema hall. He was going through a tough time and we decided to organize a premiere at 6 pm on Tuesday. At 6 am on Wednesday, Shaikh died.” Shaikh was buried at Malegaon’s Bada Qabrastan (cemetery) around 2 pm on Wednesday. Thousands attended the funeral.

“On our request, film-maker Anurag Kashyap and several other Bollywood personalities had come to watch the premiere. Shaikh was brought to Central cinema in a news channel van and taken inside on a stretcher. Though he could not speak, we saw him smiling everytime the audience clapped,” said Khan.

“After the film, the audience shook hands with the actor and congratulated him. He was taken home afterwards. Late at night, he felt acute pain and was breathless in the morning,” said Akram Khan, a unit member who played villain in the film. The spoof, where ‘Superman’ fights the menace of tobacco, was scheduled for a December release. Shaikh, a resident of Gulab Park in Malegaon, used to chew around 40 packets of gutka a day.

“Our movie is against the menace of tobacco. Sadly, our lead hero fell prey to it,” said a unit member.
“Actor Deepti Bhatnagar (producer of Malegaon Ka Chintu) footed the bill for Shaikh’s treatment at Tata Memorial Hospital,” the unit member added. Producer Sunil Bohra, who plans to have a theatrical release of the film in November, told TOI, “We will take care of his wife and children. We have asked his family to open a bank account and we will send them money on a regular basis.’’

The Times of India, September 8, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

‘Patil must quit for Malegaon blasts arrests’

Mateen Hafeez TNN

While NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s statement that Muslim youths arrested for the 2006 Malegaon blasts are innocent was welcomed by a major section of the community, NGOs and lawyers working to secure bail for them demanded party leader R R Patil’s resignation.

Pawar who attended an iftar party at Haj House on Saturday said, “I know that the boys arrested for the Malegaon blasts are innocent. I was the first person to say it one-and-a-half years ago.” Referring to Samjhauta train blast accused Swami Aseemand’s confession, he said, “The real culprits, some of whom have admitted to their crime, should be arrested.”

Reacting to the comment, Fareed Batatawala of Muslim Front said, “When he (Pawar) knows that the boys are innocent, why is he not doing anything for their release? He should seek an explanation from Patil and if needed Patil must resign. We also demand ATS and Malegaon police officials concerned should be suspended.”

The Times of India, August 223, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Team to probe ways to bail out Malegaon blasts accused


Mateen Hafeez TNN

: A delegation of Muslim activists, clerics, advocates and workers from several NGOs met home minister R R Patil at Mantralaya on Thursday and demanded the release of nine men arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case.
Patil agreed to form a team of Muslims lawyers, a national investigation agency (NIA) public prosecutor and the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officer who had filed the first chargesheet in the blasts case. “The team will look into what can be done
to bail these boys out,” said Fareed Batatawala of the Muslim Front. The delegation also told Patil that the Muslim community was angry with the government’s way of handling this case. “When Swami Aseemanand has confessed his role in the blasts, why are the Muslim boys not being released?” asked Batatawala.

To build pressure on the government, a delegation of Muslim MLAs from the state, led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, on Wednesday, met union home minister P Chidambaram. Maharashtra minority affair and Waqf minister Naseem Khan along with MLAs Baba Siddiqui, Aslam Shaikh, Ameen Patel and film-maker Mahesh Bhatt insisted that the government should be fair in delivering justice to minorities. Chidambaram assured the delegation that injustice will not be done to minorities.

The Times of India, August 19, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

‘Malegaon ka Superman’ Eid release a gift for actor

PERSONAL CAUSE: Shafique, who fights the tobacco scourge in the film, was a gutka addict

Leading Man Is In Advanced Stage Of Cancer

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Anxious over Malegaon ka Superman’s deteriorating health due to cancer, the film’s director and producers have decided to release the movie on the occasion of Eid. The spoof, where ‘Superman’ fights the menace of tobacco, was scheduled for a December release. However, it will now be released in three weeks as an “Eidi” (Eid gift) for Shaikh Shafique, the 23-year-old lead actor.

Shafique, a residentof Gulab Park in Malegaon, used to chew around 40 packets of gutka a day. He was admitted toTata MemorialCancer Hospital last year where he underwent treatment for cancer. Today, though, he is said to be in an advanced stage of theillness. The movie’s director, Nasir Khan Prince, said that it is “very tough” for the unit to see Shafique in such pain.

“We aredoing our best. We admitted him to Mumbai’s Tata Hospital and the entire billwas paidby actressDeepti Bhatnagar (who is a producer of the television programme Malegaon Ka Chintu). He underwent an operation and is currently at home,” said Prince.

“Our movie is against the menace of tobacco. Sadly, our lead hero fell victim to it,” said Prince. Fed up with his condition, Shafique even “tried to kill himself” on two occasions.

Shafique had been chewing tobacco and gutka since the age of 13. He got married when he was 19 and his wife, Jameela, was just 17. The couple has two daughters; a three-year-old and a twomonth-old. Today, he can’t eat spicy food and his jaw is very sensitive to the temperature of any food. He finds it difficult to even speak.

The 2009 low-budget Malegaon ka Superman was screened at IFFI in Goa in December 2010. It has won awards at film festivals in Los Angeles, Prague, Italy and Pakistan. Shafique, who played ‘Superman’ in the movie, had earlier played various roles in other films made in Malegaon. The Class-VIIdropouthas actedin Khandesh to Goa, Khandesh ki Baraat, Khandesh ka Qarazdar Master, Malegaon ki Lagaan and Khandesh ka Doctor, among such others.

The Times of India, August 16, 2011

’06 Malegaon blasts case accused kin allege bias

Mateen Hafeez TNN

: Though chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had promised to discuss the arrests in connection with the 2006 Malegaon blasts with Union home minister P Chidambram, the relatives of the accused feel the state is dragging its feet over their plight.

Wives of nine suspects said the government is ignoring their demands since they belong to the minority community. “Though my husband was arrested and charged with conspiracy in the 2006 Malegaon blasts, there is no evidence against him,” claimed Aafiya, wife of Farogh Makhdoomi. Makhdoomi and eight others were arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for planning and executing three blasts in a Muslim cemetery and another blast at a chowk. “The case was first probed by the local police then handed over to the ATS. Later, the same case was transferred to the CBI which sat on the investigation for four years and did not try to find out the truth. In January this year, a fresh CBI team took over the probe. In April this year, the Union home ministry ordered the National Investigation Agency to investigate the case. So far five agencies have changed in one case. Are the government and the investigating agencies making a mockery of the judicial system?” Aafiya asked.

In January this year, Swami Aseemanand, arrested in connection with the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case, reportedly confessed before a magistrate that “his men had engineered the 2006 Malegaon blasts”.

After the Aseemanand’s arrest in the Hyderabad masjid blast case, another suspect, Shaikh Kaleemuddin, who was arrested by the police in Hyderabad, was released based on Aseemanand’s confession. “When the AP government can release Kaleemuddin after the truth was revealed, why has my husband been kept in jail for five years?” asked Qamar Jahan, wife of another suspect. Advocate Irfana Hamdani said, “We have provided all details to the investigators but they are sitting on our report. It’s not just a case of justice delayed but justice denied.”

The Times of India, August 16, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wife of Malegaon blast suspect seeks divorce

Mateen Hafeez, TNN

: Jannatun Nisa, wife of 2006 Malegaon bomb blast suspect, Abrar Ahmed, has approached the Sharia court in Malegaon for Khula (Islamic practice of women seeking divorce).

In her letter, Nisastated that she is fed up of tolerating people making sarcastic remarks against her while her in-laws said that she was trying to escape questioning by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Nisa, who is a resident of Malegaon's Fort area, wrote a letter to Qazi

Abdul Ahad Azhari, the chief qazi (judge) for Maharashtra under the sharia law, seeking separation (khula).

"It has been five years since my husband was arrested. My in-laws ill-treat me and I am suffering for no fault of mine. People term me as a police informer's wife and I have been staying with my brothers since Ahmed's arrest. Looking at the current situation, I have decided to seek khula and stay with my brothers," Nisa stated in her one-page letter.

Ahmed was arrested in 2006 by the Anti-Terrorism Squad for allegedly being one of the blast conspirators. In the chargesheet filed by the Anti-Terrorism Squad, he has been shown as one of the bomb planters. He went missing along with his wife after the blasts and was finally traced and produced in the court by the police when a habeas corpus petition was filed by Ahmed's elder brother, advocate Jaleel Ansari. Ahmed had given a confessional statement before a deputy commissioner but later retracted it saying that it was given under duress. He has, in an affidavit to the court, stated that he was framed by an IPS officer and his cronies.

Ansari said, "Nisa is trying to escape the interrogation by the NIA since she knows how my brother was wrongly implicated in the case. Now we are hoping NIA will question her and that is why she is scared." Nisa could not be contacted.

The Times of India, July 18, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MANMAD MURDER -Nine accused get bail, out of jail

Members of the Manmad oil mafia, who burnt alive Nashik additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane, have walked out of Nashik jail as the CBI failed to file the chargesheet on time

Mateen Hafeez TNN

Nine suspects belonging to the oil mafia in Manmad, who were accused of setting Nashik additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane on fire, were granted
bail by a special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court in Nashik. The bail was granted after the CBI failed to file a chargesheet within the stipulated time. All the accused are out of the Nasik jail.

Another accused, Kunal Shinde (17), was granted bail by the juvenile court on March 23. Ajay Misar, special public prosecutor, said, “The case was transferred from the local police to the CBI. The agency could not file the chargesheet as it was exploring all the angles. The CBI sought an extension for filing the chargesheet, which was granted. Later, the agency again sought extension for a month but the court turned down its plea.”

The Manmad police, which had registered a case of murder and oil pilfering had earlier said eight of the 11 accused booked were not present at the spot when the incident took place. Sonawane was burnt alive on January 25 at Paanewadi near Manmad after being set on fire by prime accused Popat Shinde. Shinde, who also suffered burn injuries, died on January 31.

The Times of India, June 23, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

NIA begins probe in Malegaon’s ‘fake bomb’

Mateen Hafeez/tnn

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday (May 26) began probe into the fake bomb which was found on the staircase of Mohammediya Mosque on September 13, 2006. The bomb did not explode and was defused by the bomb detection officials.

The Malegaon police had, in 2006, arrested two persons; Noor-ul-Huda and Raees Rajjab Ali, for the fake bombs. Later, the duo was also booked for the Malegaon’s serial bomb blasts which killed 31 and injured 297 others. “The NIA team visited Malegaon three days ago and has been roaming in the city go get familiar with the location and is busy in case study,” said a source from the NIA.

Khaleel Abbas, a journalist from Malegaon, was first to alert the police about the fake bomb. “I had called up the police which later cordoned off the entire area and the bomb was defused,” said Abbas. Initially the bomb was termed as a fake one. Later, the Nasik forensic science laboratory said they had found the traces of RDX in the material. A few wires and timers were connected to each other and kept in a box filled with mud. “This is the first time an agency is paying concentration on the fake bomb case too,” said Abbas.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NIA team pays visit to Malegaon

Mateen Hafeez TNN

A five-member team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the investigation of the 2006 and 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts, on Monday visited the Muslim cemetery in the textile town for the first time.

In April, both the bomb blast cases were handed over to the NIA which is already probing the role of saffron groups in various blasts. “The NIA team first did a survey of the cemetery and spoke to the imam of the Hameediya mosque, Maulana Abdul Bari. This case pertains to the September 8, 2006 blast in Malegaon when four RDX bombs had killed 31 people. The police had arrested nine Muslim boys alleging they were behind the blasts. After agitation by local residents, the case was handed over to the CBI which could not make any breakthrough.

The Times of India, May 24, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

MALEGAON BLASTS - NIA asked to submit findings

Mateen Hafeez TNN

The special court hearing the Malegaon blasts case on Saturday directed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to inform the court about the investigations being carried by the agency through a proper notification.

“The NIA sought permission for further investigation into the Malegaon blast case,” said Irfana Hamdani, one of the advocated representing the accused. The court also instructed the CBI to submit its investigation report by May 13. The CBI had in January sought permission for further probe into the 2006 blasts. The case was later transferred to the NIA in April.

The Times of India, May 8, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

NIA takes over Malegaon serial blasts probe

Mateen Hafeez

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials on April 15 approached the Principal Session judge, Sapna Joshi, stating they had taken over the investigation of the 2006 Malegaon serial bomb blasts from the CBI.

Four RDX bombs went off in Malegaon killing 31 and injuring 297 others on September 8, 2006. Three bombs had exploded inside the premises of a cemetery. The case was first probed by the Malegaon police and later transferred to the ATS in October 2006. When the Malegaon residents agitated, the investigation was handed over to the CBI in December 2006.

The NIA sought permission to continue the hearing of the blast cases in the special MCOCA court since a court for them was notified yet. Judge granted their request.

April 15, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NIA to take over 2008 Malegaon blast investigation

Mateen Hafeez TNN

: The Union government has told the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) to hand over investigations into the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

“We received instructions from the Union government to hand over the case to the NIA. We are waiting for NIA officials to take custody of all the papers and the case. They will be handed over to them soon,” ATS chief Rakesh Maria confirmed.

Six people were killed and 101 were injured in the September 29, 2008, Malegaon bomb blast. Twelve members of the rightwing outfits, Jai Vande Mataram and Abhinav Bharat, were arrested. All the accused, including a serving Indian Army lieutenant colonel, Prasad Shrikant Purohit, face action under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA).

Earlier, the government had indicated its willingness to hand over all cases, where saffron groups were allegedly involved, to the NIA. The Samjhauta Express bomb blast, in which 68 persons were killed, is being investigated by the NIA. Spiritual leader, Swami Aseemanand, is an accused in the Samjhauta case.

The Hyderabad Mecca Masjid bomb blast, in which 11 people were killed, and the Ajmer dargah bomb blast, in which three persons were killed, may also be handed over to the NIA.

The Maharashtra ATS had arrested 11 persons for their alleged roles in the Malegaon blasts in October and November 2008. Pravin Mutalik, a member of the Abhinav Bharat, was arrested on January 31, 2011. “The accused wanted to cause a lot of casualties but could not succeed in their conspiracy,” an ATS officer said. Aseemanand, arrested in October 2010, had confessed that the conspiracies of the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast, the Ajmer dargah blast, the Mecca Masjid bomb blast and the Samjhauta train blast, were hatched by the saffron groups. “All cases are interconnected and the accused are mostly common,” said an officer who is part of the Malegaon bomb blasts case.

Earlier, the case of the Malegaon serial bomb blasts, in which 38 people were killed and 297 were injured on September 8, 2006, was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The ATS, which initially probed the case, had arrested 13 youths allegedly belonging to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The case was transferred to the CBI after residents of Malegaon agitated against the arrests.

The Times of India, April 6, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Malegaon bomb blast' book released

Powerloom town's prominent journalist, Abdul Haleem Siddiqui's book, "Malegaon bomb blast" was released in a function last week. The 80-page book focuses on the two blasts the city suffered, first on September 8, 2006 and the September 29, 2008. The two blasts had killed around 37 and injured over 398 collectively. The book is a collection of stories from the victims' families, the survivors, the police investigation and the likely breakthrough. Around a dozen books have been published to Siddiqui's credit. The 42-year-old journalist, father of four, lives in Malegaon and is associated with Mumbai's leading urdu newspaper, The Urdu Times, as well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Court rejects bail plea of nine blast accused

Mateen Hafeez TNN

The Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Tuesday rejected the bail plea of nine persons arrested for their alleged role in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. Lawyers representing the accused told TOI they would approach the Bombay high court against the order.

The suspects, seven of whom belong to Malegaon, had moved the court in January seeking bail on the basis of the confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand, a key accused in the blasts on the Samjhauta train and Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid.

In his confession before magistrate Deepak Dabas of the Tis Hazari court on December 18 last year, Aseemanand said the 2006 Malegaon blasts were the handiwork of right-wing groups.

Soon after Aseemanand’s confession, the nine suspects applied for bail and claimed they had no role in the serial blasts. After adjourning the hearing four times, Justice Y D Shinde on Tuesday rejected the bail application. “We will approach the high court for bail,” said Gulzar Azmi, secretary, Jamiatul Ulema in Mumbai. “The order is unexpected. We will read the order copy and then decide further action,” said senior defence lawyer S S Shaikh. Those arrested include unani doctors Salman Farsi and Farogh Makhdoomi, and mechanical engineer Asif Khan.

Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) had arrested the nine suspected Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) members, alleging they wanted to disrupt law and order in the state. The ATS said that a Pakistani national, Muzammil, had come to make the bombs and stayed in Malegaon for a while. According to the ATS, he left the town before the blasts.

Malegaon’s residents had protested the arrests, claiming that Muslims could not have bombed the town’s mosque. The case was then handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The agency was unable to make a breakthrough in the case and could not arrest three wanted persons over four years.

The Times of India, March 16, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Aguva Committee - The Malegaon matchmaker

India may have taken to matrimonial websites in a big way in the age of the internet but Malegaon remains a rare exception. Neither does it bank upon traditional midwives and barbers to double up as matchmakers for its youth.

The eight lakh people of this town are privileged to have a unique cluster of 40-50 elders who form what is called the Aguva committee. It is this group that personally recommends the right match and takes the lead in the celebrations as well.

The committee goes through each application with a fine comb, meets and interviews each youngster and his family and conducts a thorough background check of the candidate, helped by the fact that its members live in different parts of the city. Having sifted the grain from the chaff, it recommends only those profiles that are suited to one another.
Once the wedding is arranged, the wise men lead the procession like the head of the family, bearing gifts for the bride or groom's party. Each side treats them like guests of honour at the `baraat'. The aguva committee is an informal panchayat few towns can boast of, and one that serves its community well.

March 3, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Malegaon accused takes PhD entrance test

Swati Deshpande & Hemali Chhapia TNN

: Of the 2006 candidates who appeared for the PET (PhD Entrance Test) on Saturday, one did not return home. He went back to the Arthur Road jail—his temporary home. The candidate who took special permission from the court and appeared for the exam was Farooq Makhdoom, one of the accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. He has been in jail for over four and half years. He wrote the exam in Urdu.

Makhdoom’s lawyer Yakub Yusuf Shaikh sought bail for him so that he could appear for the test. The magistrate wanted to see his hall ticket before granting him permission. Makhdoom was taken to his exam centre, Saboo Siddique College in Bandra, under heavy police protection. The blasts in 2006 had killed 31 and six of the nine accused are from Malegaon. They claim they were framed but the CBI has opposed the fresh bail plea filed this January.

The accused has been on a studying streak while in jail. Having completed his Bachelor of Unani Medicine in 1997, Makhdoom studied for his MA in Urdu while in custody in 2009. He has been securing a first class so far and is hopeful of cracking the PhD entrance as well. Even though his hopes of getting bail have been dashed a few times, he and eight others who applied again are still hopeful of getting a release order soon.

The exam was conducted across 12 centres in the city. There were 2174 candidates from the state who had registered for PET. At some centres, said controller of examinations Vilas Shinde, students wanted the question paper in Marathi. They were also allowed to write the exam in Marathi. Shinde said the Mumbai University would consider setting the paper in Marathi next year.

The Times of India, February 27, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2008 Malegaon blast: Mutalik’s police custody is extended

Mumbai: A special Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Monday extended the police custody of 2008 Malegaon blast suspect Praveen Venkatesh Takalki alias Praveen Mutalik to February 21.

Mutalik (32), who holds a diploma in mechanical engineering, was arrested on January 31, after being untraceable for two years. Booked under MCOCA, he was picked up from outside his sim card shop at Gokak town in Belgaum district, Karnataka.

With this, the number of arrests in the case has gone up to 12. The others arrested include key accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit. Seven people were killed in the blast on September 29, 2008, in Malegaon. TNN

The Times of India, February 15, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

‘Sonawane drove Popat to murder’

Slain accused Popat Shinde and his wife, Jijabai

Mateen Hafeez and Prafulla Marpakwar TNN

The arrested family members of Popat Shinde, the prime accused in the murder of additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane, have alleged that the official had been constantly harassing Popat for hafta, which was why the oil pilferer finally got frustrated and killed Sonawane. Popat’s son Vikas Shinde, 19, and son-in-law Deepak Borse have told the police that Popat was under severe mental stress as he could not come up with the bribe money and his wife, who had recently died, had been ailing. Popat had also taken a huge loan for a house that he reportedly was thinking of selling.

Popat’s other son Kunal, 17, made similar statements to the police, but sensationally added that Popat, who is in hospital with 75% burns, burnt himself, while he (Kunal ) burnt Sonawane.

Manmad police said they are looking into the bribery claims. Home minister R R Patil said, “We are probing the entire case at a higher level.” Lens on hafta claims in oil killing

Cops Probe Statements That Sonawane Was In Panewadi To Seek Bribe
Senior police officials said they have begun probing the contradictory statements made in the case involving the burning alive of additional collector (Nashik) Yeshwant Sonawane in Panewadi near Manmad on January 25. Those arrested for killing Sonawane have alleged to the police that Sonawane was in Panewadi to demand a bribe from Popat Shinde, the main accused in the murder case.

Earlier, the complainants in the FIR, Sonawane’s PA Raju Kale and driver Kailash Gawli had said that Sonawane was conducting a raid on oil pilferers when he was murdered by the oil mafia. Officials interrogating the 10 arrested men and Popat, who is in J J Hospital with 75% burns, have said that they have alleged that Sonawane was repeatedly demanding bribes from Popat.

Most notably, Popat’s son Kunal Shinde, 17, who has been arrested, has deviated from the replies of the others and told police that Popat burnt himself in frustration after Sonawane’s demands for hafta, which led to an angry Kunal hitting and burning Sonawane. After Kunal’s sensational statement before the Manmad police, officials said they may ask for permission to do narco-analysis, liedetector and brain-mapping tests on Kunal to establish the truth.

A senior police official said nothing had been established as yet. “What Kunal told the police appears to be the defence’s line. Since he was arrested two days after the death of Sonawane, his lawyers must have briefed him on what he should tell the police. We are probing all aspects,” he said.

Three of the 10 arrested men – Kunal, Vikas, 19, and Deepak Borse – are of Popat’s family. A Manmad police official clarified that the statements of the accused have not been finalized. “We have recorded statements from the 10 arrested men and Popat Shinde. But they are not complete versions. The interrogations are still ongoing,” said an officer involved in the probe.

Nashik superintendent of police Milind Bharambe said that since the case is sensitive and still under investigation, it is not appropriate to comment on Kunal’s statement. Home minister R R Patil said there is no need to take cognisance of statements made by the accused. “We are probing the entire case at a higher level. In my opinion, no importance should be attached to the statements made by the accused,” he said.

A senior official said, “Now Sonawane is dead, while Popat is in critical condition and unable to speak. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to establish the charges against the additional collector.”

The arrested men have alleged to the police that Sonawane had demanded Rs 3 lakh as a bribe from Popat. They claimed that Rs 2 lakh was paid in two installments of Rs 1 lakh each. Popat then asked for more time to pay the rest, but Sonawane’s men kept asking for the money, the accused have told the police. Popat’s elder son Vikas told police that Sonawane threatened to file cases of oil theft and adulteration if he wasn’t paid. Deepak Borse, Popat’s son-inlaw, has also reportedly told the police that his father-in-law faced constant demands for hafta.

Senior police officials in Manmad are shocked over the manner in which Sonawane was burnt. A veteran social worker said that both Sonawane and Popat were known to each other ever since Sonawane was posted in the area in 2003. In fact, the same year, when Popat purchased a house there, Sonawane was there for the house warming.

The rift between them reportedly grew after another oil gang stepped in to take over the business in the Nashik-Manmad-Dhule belt. The cold war between Sonawane and Popat reached its peak when Popat complained to the ACB, which attempted to trap the additional collector twice, on August 30 and 31. “After the traps failed, the district administration concentrated on Popat’s illegal activities,” said an official.

Vikas has told police that his mother, Jijabai, was suffering from several ailments. While her health deteriorated, their father was upset. He told police that his father sold a plot of land to pay for his mother’s hospital expenses. Borse and Vikas said that Popat was nearly bankrupt. He had taken a loan from business friends and a bank to construct a bungalow. Popat was thinking of selling the bungalow, Vikas is learnt to have told the police.

Popat has told the police that he burnt Sonawane himself, which deviates from Kunal’s version. However, the FIR filed by Kale and Gawli corroborates with Popat’s version. Sources said the version of the other accused also matches Popat’s and the FIR’s versions.


On January 25, additional collector Yeshwant Sonawane was burnt alive by members of the oil mafia at Panewadi near Manmad. Here are the varying versions of those who filed the First Information Report and those who have been arrested:


Filed by Sonawane’s personal assistant Raju Kale and driver Kailash
Gawli with the Manmad police

1.30 pm: Sonawane leaves Chandwad after controlling a protest by the Onion Exporters’ Association. Kale is also in the car driven by Gawli

2.00: The three are passing through Panewadi when Sonawane spots a tanker behind Sagar Dhaba, which is owned by Popat Shinde. Sonawane asks Gawli to take the car to the dhaba. Sonawane spots oil being pilfered and asks the culprits to stop. He captures the goings-on on the video camera of his mobile phone. He calls a government official to inform him of the pilferage

2.05: Popat’s employee Rajiv Shirsat calls Shinde to inform him about Sonawane’s arrival

2.20: Popat and his sons, Kunal, 17, and Vikas, 19, and son inlaw, Deepak Borse, arrive at the spot.

2.30: Popat and Sonawane engage in a heated argument that turns into a brawl. Kunal hits Sonawane with an iron rod. The other culprits beat up Kale and Gawli and ask them to leave. The duo escape in Sonawane’s official car. Popat pours kerosene from a container onto Sonawane and gets drenched in the process too. Popat sets Sonawane on fire and himself gets burnt. The culprits then rush Popat to a local hospital, leaving Sonawane struggling for his life

3.15: Manmad police, after receiving information, reach the spot to find Sonawane’s charred body

Police say they are investigating the following allegations that the accused, including Popat Shinde, Vikas Shinde, Deepak Borse and the others, have made during their interrogations. The statements of the accused have not yet been finalized Kunal Shinde, 17, is the only accused with a different version of how the incident ended

2.30 pm: Sonawane insists on his hafta, while Popat promises to pay later. A frustrated Popat pours kerosene on himself and burns himself. Kunal gets angry, hits Sonawane with a rod, pours kerosene on the additional collector and sets him on fire

2.35: Popat’s men rush him to a local hospital, leaving Sonawane behind 1 pm: Family members gather at Popat Shinde’s home in Manmad for rituals on the 10th day after the death of Popat’s wife, Jijabai

2.05: Popat receives a call from one of his employees about Sonawane’s arrival at Sagar Dhaba. An annoyed Popat leaves for Panewadi along with his sons and son in-law

2.20: Popat meets Sonawane and takes him aside to discuss something a few metres from the others. Sonawane demands hafta and the two get into an argument and start pushing each other around

2.30: An angry Kunal hits Sonawane with a rod, causing Sonawane to fall. Popat pours kerosene on Sonawane and some of it falls on himself. Popat sets Sonawane on fire and gets burnt himself

2.35: The men rush Popat to a local hospital, leaving Sonawane behind

The Times of India, January 31, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bail hearing of Malegaon accused postponed

Mateen Hafeez TNN
A special court has adjourned till February 7 the hearing of the bail application of nine suspects arrested for the 2006 Malegaon serial bomb blasts.

The Muslim youths were arrested by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) for conspiracy and planting four RDX bombs in the town on September 8, 2006. But the suspects have all along maintained that they had no role in the blasts and were wrongly framed in the case.

After Swami Aseemanand’s confessional statement that a Hindu right wing group was involved in the blasts, the nine suspects approached the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (Mcoca) court seeking bail. “Based on Aseemanand’s confessional statement, the suspects filed the bail plea. The court has asked us to furnish a certified copy of the confession on February 7,” said advocate Mubin Solkar, who is representing the accused.

“Aseemanand in his confession states how the blast conspiracy was hatched and executed.
“We relied on the confession and submitted a copy, which was available on the Internet. But the court asked us to furnish a certified copy of the confession.”

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a reply in the Mcoca court on Friday, saying that in view of Aseemanand’s confession, the bureau was furthering the investigation after obtaining permission from the court.

“The (nine) accused have not put forward any valid ground for consideration of their bail application and thus it deserves to be rejected,” the CBI said in its reply, adding that it needs more time to investigate the case.

Gulzar Azmi, secretary, legal cell, Jamiat-ul-Ulema, said the organisation was representing the nine accused in the case. “They have been wrongly implicated. We are hoping for speedy bail.”

The Times of India, January 29, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oil mafia burn addl collector alive

Additional collector for Nashik Yashwant Sonawane (L) grabbed one of his assailants when he was set on fire. Popat Shinde suffered 80% burns and was captured with 4 others

He Spotted Fuel Theft In Manmad, Tried To Stop It

Yogesh Naik & Mateen Hafeez TNN

An additional collector was burnt alive on Tuesday afternoon in Manmad, near Malegaon, when he tried to call other government officials to the scene of a fuel theft. The perpetrators doused Yashwant Sonawane (44) with kerosene and set him afire in a development that sent shockwaves across the state.

Sonawane was found dead in a field from severe burns. But before dying he clung on to one of his attackers, Popat Shinde, making it impossible for him to flee. Shinde sustained 80% burns and is critical. He has been arrested with four others.

The gruesome killing led to home minister R R Patil ordering an immediate crackdown on the fuel mafia across the state. CM Prithviraj Chavan ordered an inquiry and announced Rs 25 lakh for the family, payment of the officer’s salary till retirement and other compensation. Furious gazetted officers plan a strike on Thursday. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar called it a blot on humanity.

Sonawane had gone to Chandvad, where farmers had been agitating, and was proceeding towards Nandgaon when he spotted kerosene pilferage at Panewadi village in Manmad taluka, said Nashik divisional commissioner Jayant Gaikwad. Major companies like HPCL, BPCL and IOC have depots in the area. When Sonawane saw kerosene being stolen from a tanker outside the shop of Popat Shinde, he shot of video on his cellphone and called local officials for a raid. Shinde’s servant heard Sonawane calling the officials and alerted his boss. Soon, Shinde’s accomplices accosted the officer and doused him with kerosene after a scuffle and set him on fire.


“Shinde arrived on the scene and got into a heated argument with Sonawane. Shinde’s son Kunal and other servants also reached the spot,” said Gaikwad. “There were two kerosene cans of 20 litres each at the scene. One of the assailants poured the contents of a can over Sonawane and set him ablaze. Sonawane at that point caught hold of Shinde, who sustained nearly 80% burns and is critical.”

The divisional commissioner said fuel pilferage is common in Panewadi village. The oil depots in the area supply fuel to nearly 12 districts in northern Maharashtra and Marathwada.

Gaikwad said Shinde had lost his wife just 10 days ago. “We are taken aback at how he could have committed such a gory crime while in grief,” said Gaikwad. The attacker had a criminal record and was externed once.

Sonawane’s cell phone, with the video, is now with the police. The tanker from which the kerosene was being pilfered has been seized.Shinde, Sitaram Bhalerao, Machhindra Sarvankar, Vikas Shinde and Raju Shirsat have been arrested. Kunal and Ajay Sonawane are wanted.

Nashik collector P Velarasu said Sonawane was low profile and hard-working. “Local police reached the spot within minutes of receiving information. But it was too late. Sonawane had already died,” said Velarasu.

The body was taken to Nashik where the last rites were performed later. A postmortem was conducted on Tuesday evening. Sonawane is survived by his wife, who lives in Nashik, and two sons who study in Pune. Sonawane was a native of Dindori.
He had joined the government as deputy collector in 1994 and was expected to be absorbed into the IAS later.

Food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh, who is visiting Satara, said the government will unearth the adulteration racket. The CM asked revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat to reach the spot. Thorat said, “We will not hesitate to apply MCOCA against the culprits.”

The Times of India, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

‘CBI is toeing ATS line in blasts probe’

BEHIND BARS: Residents stage a demonstration against the arrest of Malegaon youths in the 2006 blasts

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The special CBI team, camping in Malegaon to reinvestigate the 2006 blast case, has irked some residents who said the sleuths were not probing the “rightwing angle” as confessed by Swami Aseemanand.

The CBI team has reportedly asked the imam of a mosque why Muslims in Malegaon are supporting SIMI members, who are allegedly responsible for the blasts.

The twist in the tale came after Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand (59) of the Shabridham Ashram told a magistrate that “his men” were involved in the blasts. Following that, the CBI filed an application in a special court in Mumbai, seeking permission for reinvestigation.

On September 8, 2006, four RDX bombs planted on bicycles near a mosque at a cemetery in Mushawerat Chowk went off, killing 31 people and injuring 297. The Maharashtra ATS had then picked up nine youths and ever since, Malegaon residents have been protesting against the arrests.

A 10-member CBI team arrived in Malegaon on Wednesday. CBI officials met an imam and asked him to come to the government guesthouse in the Camp area for routine inquiry.

The CBI team asked the imam, “Why do people in Malegaon support the absconding SIMI youths who are responsible for the blasts?” The imam told the CBI that the residents did not agree that the arrested youths were behind the blasts. He reportedly asked, “When Aseemanand has confessed to his crime, why are you not investigating the case on those lines?”

Sources said after grilling the imam, the CBI team visited the residences of three wanted accused, Munawwar Hussain, Riyaz Arsalan and Ishtiyaque Ahmed. The officials asked their family members about their whereabouts. “Ask your children to surrender. It is better for them,” the team members told the families. The residents said that the CBI is retracing the ATS probe and not exploring the other side as confessed by Aseemanand.

M V Laad, who is part of the CBI team, refused to comment.

The Times of India, January 24, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nine Malegaon blast accused seek bail

2006 CARNAGE: Thirty one people died and 297 were injured in the blasts

Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: Nine men, arrested for allegedly engineering the 2006 bomb blasts near a mosque in Malegaon, on Monday moved a special Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court seeking bail. The accused have cited Swami Aseemanand’s confession pointing to the involvement of a right-wing group in the explosions.

Pointing out that they have been languishing in jail for the last over four years, the arrested suspects, in their bail plea, said, “From the confession it is clear that those responsible for the 2006 Malegaon blasts are persons far removed from the current accused.”

“There is no direct evidence of their involvement in the said offence,” the one of the lawyers representing the suspects told TOI from Malegaon. Gulzar Azmi, general secretary of Jamiat-ul-Ulema, a socioreligious NGO fighting for the Malegaon men, said, “We have filed the bail application and are hoping our men will be released soon.”

The special court has directed the investigating agency to file its reply by January 28.

On September 8, 2006, three bombs went off inside a cemetery and a fourth one in central part of Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297. Following the blasts, the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) arrested nine persons—Salman Farsi, Shabir Ahmed, Noorulhuda Doha, Rais Ahmed, Mohammed Ali, Asif Khan, Javed Sheikh, Faroogue Ansari and Abrar Ahmed—saying that the men had executed the blasts with the help of two Pakistanis. On December 21, 2006, the case was transferred to the CBI following a public outcry against the arrests. Aseemanand, arrested on November 23 last year for his alleged role in the 2007 blasts at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, in his confession, said, “ Sadhvi Pragay Thakur, Sunil Joshi, Sandeep Dange, Bharat Riteshwar and I gathered in Surat on June 23, 2006. We planned to carry out bomb blasts at Ajmer shrine, Mecca Masjid and in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express. I suggested that we begin by carrying out blasts in Malegaon as it has a large Muslim population.”

Till November 16, 2009, the CBI had neither filed a supplementary charge sheet in the case nor had it produced any evidence against the arrested accused. S S Shaikh, a senior advocate representing the accused, said, “The CBI filed a supplementary charge sheet after the court said that the men could be released on bail.”

Special CBI team will visit the powerloom town next week
Areinvestigating special investigation the 2006 team Malegaon (SIT) of blasts the CBI case , which , will is visit the powerloom town this week in connection with the probe. “The CBI team will visit all the four blast sites and speak to witnesses to collect more information about the accused and their involvement. The CBI team is also expected to meet members of Kul-Jamaati Tanzeem, an NGO comprising all Muslim sects,” said a source. A special court had granted permission to CBI to re-probe the case in wake of Swami Aseemanand’s confession linking Hindu groups to the attacks.

NCP seeks ban on RSS, Abhinav Bharat
New Delhi: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)— a key UPA ally— on Monday demanded a ban on the RSS and the Hindu extremist group Abhinav Bharat for their alleged involvement in terrorist activities in the country.

The demand was put forward by the NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar during his meeting with the Union home minister P Chidambaram here. He also demanded that Muslims arrested in connection with the 2006 Malegaon blast case should be released immediately.

“They (Muslims) should be released immediately as there is ample proof of Hindu radicals carrying out the Malegaon blasts,” Anwar told reporters after the meeting.

Referring to the confessional statement made by Swami Aseemanand about involvement of Hindu radicals in a number of blasts, Anwar said he also asked the home minister to constitute a task force headed by either a sitting Supreme Court or high court judge to have a re-look into all the blasts that took place since 1994 and conduct a fair inquiry.

Notice to govt on Pragya bro’s plea
The Monday Delhi high sought court replies on from the Union government and the NIA on a petition filed by Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s brother Ananth Brahmachari accusing the agency of torturing and illegally detaining him. The high court sought their replies by April 6. “How can you call a person who is not in your jurisdiction for interrogation? ,” the petitioner asked.

The Times of India, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Aseemanand funded ’06 Malegaon bombings

Mateen Hafeez TNN

The confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand, alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, accused in the Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad) blast case, has opened a can of worms.

It says he paid Rs 25,000 to Ajmer blast suspect Sunil Joshi (who was murdered in December 2007 in Madhya Pradesh) prior to the 2006 Malegaon mosque blasts for buying material for the bomb.

Aseemanand (59), who was arrested on November 19 after a two-year CBI chase, told magistrate Deepak Dabas on December 18 that the Sankat Mochan temple blast in Kashi provoked his group into bombing mosques in retaliation; the decision was taken at a meeting attended by Joshi, Bharat Riteshwar, alias Bharat Bhai (the head of Sri Vivekananda Kendra Sansthan, Valsad, Gujarat), and Malegaon blast suspect Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, besides Aseemanand. The meeting was conducted at Bharat Bhai’s residence in Valsad.

“I told them that Muslims are 80% of Malegaon’s populaized Dange was taunting me because of my refusal.”

The blasts took place on September 8, 2006. The antiterrorism squad (ATS) arrested nine Muslim boys, saying they wanted to create “a riotlike situation in the state”. It later transpired that a hardline Hindutva group could have been behind the blasts.

The boys were booked under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

Upset with the ATS’s probe, Malegaon residents went on an agitation and even took up the issue with the Centre. The investigation was then handed over to the CBI, which said in court it had not found evidence against the boys.

In his chilling confessional, Aseemanand said: “In the (Valsad) meeting, I also suggested that... (since) a lot of Hindus visit the Ajmer shrine, we should carry out blast there so that Hindus get scared and stop going there. Moreover, I suggested that mostly Pakistanis travel in the Samjhauta Express, so it should also be bombed.”

The Times of India, January 10, 2011