Sunday, 26 October 2008 13:44


Ex-Armymen held in Malegaon blast probe

MUMBAI: After the arrest of a once-fiesty sadhvi with links to saffron groups, the Malegaon bomb blast case has taken another serious turn with the possible involvement of ex-Armymen, one a retired major.

Mumbai's anti-terrorism squad (ATS), which is investigating the blast that killed six people ahead of Id, detained three people, including an ex-Army officer and a retired jawan on Saturday. Police are trying to ascertain whether these men helped the terrorists who set off a motorcycle bomb in the communally-sensitive textile town.

The ATS is investigating the source of RDX used in the blast and how the accused acquired expertise to execute the blasts, an officer said. "It is not easy for a layman to procure RDX and use it to cause an explosion. One needs some training and it is being investigated," he added.

ATS senior officers, however, were tightlipped-about the detention. No information was available on the third person.

The ATS on Thursday arrested three suspects,

including sadhvi Prayga Singh Thakur (38), a former national executive secretary of Akhil Bharatya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), her associates Shamlal Bhavar Sahu (42) and Shiv Narayan Singh (36). They were accused of plotting as well as planting the bomb at Bhikku Chowk in central Malegaon, metres away from a local police station.

Nearly 90 people were injured in the September 29 bomb blast outside an office of SIMI, whose activists are alleged to be involved in the serial terrorist blasts in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

An ATS team is camping in Pune and another has left for Jabalpur and other cities in Madhya Pradesh to trace suspects whose names have cropped up in interrogation. Sources said that one of the retired soldiers had met Pragya Singh during a religious lecture. He had been impressed by her speech.

"One of the Armymen was posted in the north-east for almost eight years before his retirement. They have been brought to Mumbai and are being questioned. We want to find out whether they provided training to the prime accused for operating firearms and handling explosives," an officer said. The bomb that went off in Malegaon contained RDX and ammonium nitrate.

According to ATS chief Hemant Karkare, the motorcycle in which the bomb was planted, has been traced to Thakur.
Pragya, who has a postgraduate history degree from a Bhind college, was a member of Durga Vahini, the women's wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. She had delivered "religious lectures" for more than seven years, said sources.

-The Sunday Times

Suspected terrorist seen with top BJP leaders

Images of suspected terrorist, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, with senior BJP leaders have embarrassed the party.

NDTV first showed images of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, the woman arrested on Friday in connection with the Malegaon and Modasa blasts, with senior BJP leaders including party chief Rajnath Singh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

The Sadhvi linked to the BJP's student wing has also been seen on many occasions with former Madhya Pradesh Education Minister Laxman Singh Gaur.

The Sangh Parivar has denied the possibility that the Sadhvi, and the others have been arrested, could be involved in the terror plot.

Sadhvi was feared as a student leader

BHOPAL: When the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) picked up a sanyasin from a village near Surat in connection with the September blasts in Malegaon and Modasa, there were curious faces all around. The arrested sadhvi turned out to be Pragya Singh Thakur, a former resident of Gwalior and active ABVP leader till 1997.

Pragya, now 38, was a member of the state ABVP executive council and worked with the organization in Ujjain and Indore. According to her father C P Singh Thakur, an ayurvedic doctor in Surat, she was a much-feared student leader in her college days in Madhya Pradesh. She would ride motorcycles and severely beat up roadside Romeos harassing girls. In 2001, the Singhs shifted to Surat. Pragya left ABVP after becoming a disciple of religious guru Avdeshanand Giri. She took sanyas during the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2006.

According to the police Pragya had established an organisation called Jai Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti in 2002. She had taken the name Purnachetanand Giri after taking sanyas. The bike used in Malegaon was in Pragya Singh's name and efforts had been made to hide its ownership, police sources said. For instance, its registration number was bogus. But after a detailed investigation, the police found out about the ownership.

Pragya is also known to Bharatiya Janshakti Party supremo Uma Bharati. On Saturday, Bharati said, "She has been attached to both ABVP and Avdeshanand Giri. I do not believe any person who is attached to both ABVP and a religious guru like Avdeshanand Giri could be involved in blasts. I am certain this will become another Dara Singh case. Dara was a staunch Hindutva activist but he did not kill Graham Staines and his children. It was later proved that he was not involved."

'Re-investigate 2006 Malegaon blasts'

Muslims in the state have demanded that the 2006 Malegaon cemetery blasts, which killed 31 people, be re-investigated. "We had been insisting that the boys arrested were not involved in the blasts and the police had booked them wrongly. We demand that the inquiry be reviewed and those arrested be released," said Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari, a resident of Malegaon.

Top 10 firms lose Rs 1.5 trillion; RIL worst hit

MUMBAI: The bloodbath on the bourses has wiped off a whopping Rs 1.50 trillion from market valuation of country's of 10 most valued firms in the past week, with Reliance Industries suffering the worst blow.

The meltdown at the bourse washed away a big chunk from the market valuation of corporate behemoth Reliance Industries even as others like IT major Infosys Technologies and diversified conglomerate ITC Ltd managed to swim against the tide.

The combined market cap of the elite club saw an erosion of Rs 1,50,730 crore in the past week, dropping to Rs 8,94,000 crore from the previous week's Rs 10,44,000 crore.

With the market going for a free-fall last week, the country's most valued firm Reliance Industries lost Rs 45,600 crore in its market value dipping below the crucial Rs 2,00,000-crore mark.

Following the market meltdown a staggering 46 lakh crores in India have evaporated.

So, have our top industrialists become poorer and if so then by how much? Personal wealth of the Ambanis, Tatas and Birlas have also crashed with the crash of the share prices of their companies.

RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani saw his personal wealth deplete from 57 billion dollars as on January 8 to 14 billion dollars as on October 24 a fall of 75 per cent.

Mukesh's younger brother Anil Ambani saw his wealth tumble from 48 billon to 8 billion, a loss of 83 per cent.