Mumbai: In a shocking revelation, Rohini Salian, Special Public Prosecutor in the case related to the 2008 Malegaon terror attack carried out by Hindutva extremists during Ramadan, has said that over the past one year, since “the new government came to power,” she has been under pressure from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go “soft” saffron terrorists involved in this case.
Ms Salian, who hails from Mangaluru, told a reputed Indian English daily that immediately after Narendra Modi-led government came to power she received a call from one of the officers of the NIA — the agency investigating all the alleged Hindu extremist cases — asking to come over to speak with her.
“He didn’t want to talk over the phone. He came and said to me that there is a message that I should go soft,” she revealed.
Matters came to a head this month, on June 12, she said, when just before one of the regular hearings in the case in the Sessions Court, she was told by the same NIA officer that “higher-ups” did not want her to appear in the court for the State of Maharashtra and that another advocate would attend the proceedings.
Ms Salian, 68, a leading prosecutor who has handled important cases like the J J shootout, Borivili double murder, the Bharat Shah case and the Mulund blasts amongst others, said: “The meaning (of that message from the officer) is very clear — don’t get us favourable orders.”
She said she wants the NIA to officially denotify her from the case to which she was appointed in 2008, “so that I am free to take up other cases, against the NIA, if need be”. The Malegaon blast, on September 29, 2008, claimed four lives and injured 79 while another blast at the same time in Modasa in Gujarat killed one. Initially, Muslims were seen as suspects in the case but it was under Hemant Karkare of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that investigations led to Hindu extremists based in Indore.
Investigations revealed the blasts were allegedly the handiwork of extremist Hindu organisations. Twelve people were arrested in the case, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit. Of the 12, four are on bail.
That probe — later given over to the NIA that was constituted after the 26/11 terror attack in which Karkare was killed — led to a relook at other cases: Malegaon blasts of 2006 (31 killed, 312 injured); 2007 Ajmer blast (3 killed, 15 injured); 2007 Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad (9 killed, 58 injured); and 2007 Samjhauta Express attack (68 killed, 13 injured). The probe found many common accused in these cases.
Salian said that the Supreme Court has now decreed that the case should be tried in a special court with a specially appointed judge to see to the matter. “So in a way it’s all back to square one,” said Salian.
On April 15, the Supreme Court held that the Malegaon accused cannot be charged under MCOCA since there was no evidence as on date. Opening the doors for their release on bail, it further said that the trial court should decide their bail plea on merit and without applicability of MCOCA, preferably within one month. This, Salian said, now leaves it open for the accused to once again appeal for bail in the court under changed circumstances.
“A day before June 12, when the case came up again for regular hearing (in the trial court), the same officer who had come to my office came up to me and said there are instructions from higher-ups, someone else will appear instead of you. I said I was expecting this and, good, you have told me this, so please settle my bills…I also said that now they should now denotify me so that I can appear against the NIA in other matters — not this one — in the future. He must have conveyed it to the higher-ups and I am waiting for their action. I have not heard from anyone since then,” said Salian.
“The meaning (of the message from the government) is very clear — don’t get us favourable orders. Unfavourable orders are invited — that goes against the society,” said a perturbed Salian. When asked how she saw the case proceeding further, Salian said, “For a layman or a fresh prosecutor it’s very difficult — one cannot do anything. Maybe they want to loosen it and ultimately lose the case because they can’t withdraw it.”