‘The Muslim boy Kaleem pierced my conscience. I understood that love between two human beings is more powerful than the hatred between two communities’. [Swami Asimananda’s statement in the court]. Swami Asimananda did not just confess his terror conspiracy before a magistrate. He wrote also to the President of India and the President of Pakistan, admitting his crimes and seeking penance.
CONFESSION OF THE PRIME ACCUSED
IN MECCA MASJID, MALEGAON AND AJMER BLASTS
‘The Muslim boy Kaleem pierced my conscience. I understood that love between two human beings is more powerful than the hatred between two communities’
Swami Asimananda did not just confess his terror conspiracy before a magistrate. He wrote to the President of India and the President of Pakistan, admitting his crimes and seeking penance. ASHISH KHETAN scoops the astonishing documents.
Jatin Chatterjee, also known as Swami Asimanand is considered an ideologue of Abhinav Bharat, an extremist organisation involved in the Malegaon and Ajmer blasts, was arrested last November in Hadwar, India. The evasive Swami, also known as Swami Omkarnath and Naba Kumar Sarkar, was staying near Haridwar under an assumed name.
ON 16 DECEMBER, when Swami Asimananda first appeared before a Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate at Tis Hazari with a request to record his confession, the magistrate was a bit incredulous. He asked the Swami if the CBI was threatening or coercing him into giving a confession. The Swami smiled back and replied, “You really think these cops could force me into doing something I don’t want to do? When even Atal and Advani could never dare to put pressure on me, then what chance in the world do these poor fellows have.”
‘Who are Atal and Advani?’ asked the magistrate. For a moment, he was disoriented by the names uttered with such easy, almost scornful, familiarity by this elderly, shabbily dressed man produced before him as a terror suspect.
“The former prime minister and deputy prime minister,” the Swami replied in the same measured tone.
This conversation, which TEHELKA has learned from highly placed sources, provides a rare insight into the man who was once a formidable and doctrinaire ideologue of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh and inspired both fear and awe even among senior BJP functionaries.
In 2006, when the Swami organised the Shabri Kumbh Mela at his ashram in Dangs, Gujarat, the who’s who of the BJP and the RSS congregated to mark their presence. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and then RSS chief KS Sudarshan were part of the jamboree.
The Swami had devoted his life to the cause of ‘Hindutva.’ After setting up the Shabri Dham Ashram in 1997, he worked zealously at reconverting tribal Christians into Hinduism. He regularly mobilised violent mobs, attacked Christian missionaries and captured their churches. According to reports, Asimananda had forcibly occupied over two dozen churches in Dangs. At one point he had even refused to listen to the pleas of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had reportedly asked him to refrain from violence and coercion while carrying out the anti-conversion work.
But in a curious twist of fate — and in a development that no investigative agency could ever have anticipated or imagined — this intractable zealot was profoundly transformed by a chance encounter in prison with a courteous young Muslim man, wrongly arrested and tortured for the Mecca Masjid blast — a blast, which in truth, the Swami and his co-conspirators had committed. (See TEHELKA story In the Words of a Zealot, 15 January).
Intensely moved and gripped by a desire for penance, Swami Asimananda apparently requested a confession before a magistrate. “I know I may be served a death sentence for this, but I still want to confess,” he told the magistrate. Published by TEHELKA last week, this confession, which is the first legal evidence to show the involvement of RSS pracharaks in the Malegaon 2006 and Samjhauta Express blasts, has had wide ranging political and diplomatic impact. But this was not all.
IN AN astonishing gesture, apart from his confession before the magistrate, Swami Asimananda also wrote to the President of India and the President of Pakistan, admitting to his crimes and detailing the encounter with the Muslim boy that changed his heart. “Abdul Kaleem pierced my conscience,” he wrote. “After all, he had been made to suffer for my wrong work. I understood that love between two human beings is more powerful than the hatred between two communities.”
In these two letters, written in his own handwriting — copies of which are in exclusive possession of TEHELKA — the Swami then goes on to express a desire to meet Lashkar-e-Tayyaba chief Hafiz Saeed and Taliban leader Mullah Omar and other jihadi terrorists and urges the two presidents to help him get an “opportunity” to transform the jihadis as he himself has been transformed.
The Swami says he had taken to terrorism in retaliation to Islamist terror attacks on temples, but having realised the futility of mindless violence, he would now like to persuade terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to renounce this path as well. He requests “the good office” of the President of India to help him go to Pakistan to do this.
After TEHELKA published Asimananda’s confession last week, several Hindutva apologists asserted the confession was coerced out of him. His counsel also belatedly asserted — 20 days after the event had taken place — that the confession was false and would be retracted. But the letters to the Presidents of India and Pakistan give the lie to all that. Swami Asimananda wrote them two days after he made the confession under Section 164 of CRPC. He had given these letters on a jail visit to his brother to post. TEHELKA procured them from him. The tone and tenor of these letters exactly match his confession. However, his lawyer did not mention them last week as part of the CBI’s alleged coercion.
These letters present a fresh challenge to those who would deny all that Swami Asimananda has confessed to. TEHELKA wrote to the office of the President of India seeking a confirmation that they had received the letter. At the time of going to press, the President’s office had yet not responded.
Terror, it seems, has finally fallen prey to something mightier than it: the power of human conscience.
Note: A facsimile of the letter written by the Swami to president of India can be viewed here (Download this letter PDF, 4.14MB) and the one to the president of Pakistan see here (Download this letter (PDF, 4.73MB)
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