Two Faces of Terror

Yashwant Shinde’s affidavit further proves the BJP’s hypocrisy on terrorism

Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time, speaks during an anti-terrorism rally at Delhi’s Karol Bagh, on 19 September 2008. The failures of his government at the centre to extradite terror-accused from Pakistan make abundantly clear that terrorism remains a purely rhetorical issue for the BJP, useful to mobilise voters even as he lacks any real ability to take action. Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times/Getty Images
30 September, 2022

An affidavit submitted in late August to the sessions court in Maharashtra’s Nanded district by Yashwant Shinde—a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the former head of the Bajrang Dal in the state—is a watershed moment in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s claimed record of combating terrorism. Shinde in his affidavit—as well as in subsequent interviews—claims that he, along with several others, was trained in making bombs and conducting blasts in the lead up to multiple national elections, including in 2004 and 2014. Shinde said that they were trained by members of the RSS and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. He also claims that these RSS and VHP members facilitated members of the Indian Army in training them in the use of modern weaponry. So far, the RSS has not conclusively denied Shinde’s affiliation with it and neither the VHP nor the Indian Army have denied the contents of the affidavit. Shinde has also not been arrested or sued.

The affidavit includes names that have been frequently mentioned in the bevy of chargesheets related to a string of nine bombings, from Parbhani in 2003 to Malegaon in 2008, that killed more than one hundred and twenty people and injured more than four hundred. Others he named still maintain senior positions within the RSS or VHP. Among those who trained with Shinde were Himanshu Panse and Naresh Rajkondawar. The training was allegedly organised by Rakesh Dhawade and Milind Parande—the current secretary general of the VHP—and conducted by a mysterious figure called Ravi Dev.

Dhawade was later arrested for the 2008 Malegaon bombings, while Panse and Rajkondawar died in the Nanded blast of 2006. In a recent court hearing regarding Shinde’s affidavit, the Central Bureau of Investigation, which had investigated and filed a closure report in the Nanded case, refused to add Parande as an accused despite fresh evidence pointing to him as the mastermind. If he were to be added, he would become one of the senior-most office bearers of the Sangh Parivar to be investigated in a terrorism case.

Shinde is not the first from the Sangh Parivar’s fold to make such allegations against his parent organisation. In a series of four interviews given to The Caravan’s Leena Gita Reghunath between 2012 and 2014, Naba Kumar Sarkar—popularly known as Swami Aseemanand—admitted to participating in a conspiracy to carry out five bombings that killed 119 people. These were the Malegaon blasts of 2006 and 2008, as well as the 2007 attacks on the Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif. In the interviews, and in a confessional statement he later recanted, Aseemanand admitted to receiving explicit instructions to participate in the bombing campaign from senior RSS members, some of whom have been named in Shinde’s affidavit too.