South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

Painful memories Samjhota Express carnage
Muhammad Jamil

In the early hours of 19th February 2007, two crude incendiary bombs exploded inside the security-sealed Samjhota Express train from Delhi to the border-post of Attari in which 68 passengers mostly Pakistani were killed. At least 13 other people were also seriously injured who were admitted in New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital. It was indeed a harrowing and despicable act because innocent people were killed who had boarded the train to meet their near and dear ones. Indian government had called the incident an act of terrorism and described it as a heinous crime. Indian Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had said: "It is sabotage; it is an act of terrorism like the one in Mumbai in July 2006 that killed 186 people".

He should not have drawn parallels between Mumbai trains and Samjhota Express blasts, because the bogies in Mumbai train were not locked whereas bogies of Samjhota were not only locked from inside but also sealed from outside, and they were virtually trapped to death. Secondly, there was a security check of the passengers bound for India or Pakistan on Samjhota Express.
The question still remains unanswered that why two suitcases of explosives mentioned by the Railways minister were not detected before the train left for Attari. According to the experts, explosives were used to ignite bottles of kerosene oil in the train, and the security should not have allowed the kerosene oil bottles in the passenger bogies.
In this backdrop, it is not difficult to conclude that there has been a security lapse on the part of the Indian government. India has been raising hullabaloo over 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, and accuses Pakistan for not making progress in the trial against those behind the Mumbai attacks, but is not willing to share the progress made in the investigations and court trial of those involved in Samjhota express carnage that occurred in 2007. It has to be mentioned that there is substantial evidence of involvement of Hindu extremist organizations together with some serving and retired Indian military officials in Samjhota Express and Malagaon blasts. In July 2014, Pakistan's Foreign Office had reminded India to share the outcome of the investigation in Samjhota Express carnage.
There have been voices in India demanding proper investigation to unearth the culprits behind Malegaon blasts and the linkage between the army officers and Hindu extremist organizations. Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in India had claimed that a serving Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, who was arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast, was also involved in 2007 Samjhauta blasts. ATS said to the Nashik Court that the accused had used RDX to carry out the blast in which 68 people mostly Pakistanis were killed. Putting an end to all speculations, the anti-terror branch of Mumbai Police had said that Army RDX was used and not sourced from across the border. There is now substantial evidence that Purohit procured 60 kg of RDX from Jammu and Kashmir in the year 2006.
A part of it was suspected to have been used in Samjhauta Express train explosion and Malegaon blasts, Maharashtra police had told the court that Purohit gave a part of the RDX to one Bhagwan who is suspected to have used it in Samjhauta Express blast.
"The RDX was also suspected to have been used in Malegaon bomb explosion on September 29 2008, therefore Purohit's interrogation was necessary", the public prosecutor had told the court. Purohit, arrested in connection with Malegaon blast, was produced before a Nashik Court, where ATS sought his further remand in order to interrogate him thoroughly and the court granted it. Earlier, the Lt. Colonel had said to the court that he was not ill-treated by ATS personnel as claimed by his family.
In addition to Colonel Prasad Purohit (then a serving officer) two other army officers were arrested in connection with September 29 Malegaon bomb blasts, five days after Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and two others were held in the case.
The two arrested were identified as Major (r) Ramesh Upadhyay from Pune and Sameer Kulkarni from Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Then Shabnam Hashmi a member of National Integration Council had written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and gave details of the terrorist acts whereby the agencies immediately accused some Muslim organization without any proof. She also demanded of the government to investigate and find the real truth behind the dastardly acts. Though, Human Rights Watch and other organizations often highlighted the plight of the minorities in India, yet international media plays down such reports and continued to eulogize so-called secular India.
In 2007, Indian agencies had accused Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami activist alias Bilal of being involved in Samjhauta blasts when two coaches were completely gutted killing 70 people and more than hundred injured. India often named Muslim organizations, which in fact did not exist.
Anyhow India and Pakistan had identical stance that these blasts were carried out to disrupt the process of improving relations between the two countries. Anyhow, on the demand of Human Right Watch and other non-governmental organizations the Indian government acknowledged that Hindu extremist organizations were behind the terrorists' activities. In this age of information technology and media explosion, India could not hide the link between the army and the Hindu extremist organizations, and this is a question mark on its secularism and democracy. India, therefore, has to take steps to restore its tarnished image.