Among the ATS evidence against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, which NIA has not found “prosecutable” while filing a chargesheet in the 2008 Malegaon blasts, is an intercept of a phone call between Lt Col Prasad Purohit and former Army man Ramesh Upadhyay where they discuss her name cropping up in Maharashtra ATS investigations and exclaim: “That means the cat is out of the bag now.”
It’s a conversation recorded at 11.23 am on October 23, 2008. This was the day Thakur was arrested as the first accused in the case.
They discuss the development in the investigations as reported by The Indian Express and talk about ways to discredit the evidence and evade capture themselves.
Prasad: Sir have you read today’s headlines in Times of India and Indian Express?
Upadhyay: I have read about Hindu Jagran Manch of Indore being blamed for Mudasa and Malegaon blasts.
Sadhvi: ATS cited phone call, meeting & a bike, NIA rejected all
Prasad: i.e., Singh Sahab.
Prasad: That means the cat is out of the bag now as far as Mr Singh is concerned.
Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was an activist of Hindu Jagran Manch according to investigations by the Maharashtra ATS. In the conversations, there are multiple mentions of “Singh Sahab” or “Mr Singh” which, according to ATS, was a reference to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.
In further conversation, Purohit and Upadhyay are heard discussing whether ATS has any evidence or is just speculating. They also discuss Thakur’s LML Freedom bike which was used to strap the bombs that exploded in Malegaon on September 29, 2008. They, however, refer to the bike as “scooter”.
Upadhyay: So it appears to be a diversionary tactic(s), let somebody else come to know…he says some parts have been cannibalised and the parts from where it has been cannibalised belongs to somebody who was from ABVP of Indore or something like that.
Prasad: Achcha (Ok) Upadhyay: …it simply means that supposing somebody steals/has stolen my scooter or somebody has, when I gave it to repair and somebody cannibalised the part, how do I know? Prasad: OK
Upadhyay: Means direct involvement is not there… or otherwise they would have said that this belong to such and such person of such and such origin at Indore and he is a member of Hindu Jagran Manch and then we have arrested him or that done something. No such thing has taken place. They have said we have rounded up about 30 people and this is the handiwork of Hindu Jagran Manch.
Later they also discuss how they should get new SIM cards and be careful and cautious.
One crucial evidence against Thakur, according to the ATS, was that of an RSS member who said he was part of the meeting where the conspiracy to carry out blasts in Malegaon was discussed and Pragya Singh Thakur volunteered to arrange for men for the job.
This was the statement of Yashpal Bhadana. In his statement, Bhadana claimed he was part of a meeting held in Bhopal at 6 pm on April 11, 2008. The meeting he said was attended by Shankaracharya (Sudhakar Dwivedi), Swami Aseemanand, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Himani Savarkar and several others.
“In that meeting Col Purohit repeated the issue of waging a guerrilla war against jihadis that he had first mentioned at a meeting in Faridabad on January 26,” he said in the statement.
He then talks about another meeting later that evening which was attended by Shankaracharya, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Colonel Purohit, Major Upadhyay, Sameer Kulkarni, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Himani Savarkar.
“In that meeting Col Purohit said that we must do something quickly to take revenge against Muslims… In Maharashtra’s Malegaon the population of Muslims is very high. If we explode bombs there then we can avenge the atrocities against Hindus. On this, Sadhvi Pragya Singh said that she would arrange for men for the work,” he said in the statement.
However, when NIA re-examined Bhadana during the course of its investigation, he said he had made the statement under duress. Another witness, RP Singh, who had claimed to ATS that Bhadana was present in the meeting told NIA that Bhadana was not there and he too made the ATS statement under duress.
These statements implicating Thakur were recorded in front of a police officer under MCOCA. NIA, however, got their retractions, that exonerated Thakur, recorded under Section 164 of CrPC in front of a magistrate.
The only material evidence against Thakur was her bike which was used in the blast. NIA has rejected this evidence saying that the bike was in possession of and being used by alleged bomb planter and absconder Ramchandra Kalsangra for two years.