Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader and whistleblower Yashwant Shinde has claimed that India’s ruling Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had collaborated with the RSS to carry out terror attacks across India for political and electoral gain in the 2000s.
Speaking during an exclusive Congressional Briefing co-organized by a coalition of human rights organizations, including the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), on Wednesday, Shinde also said India’s investigative agencies only ever arrested foot soldiers but never the mastermind from among the RSS leadership who were the brain behind the expansive plot to carry out the terror bombings.
A member of the paramilitary Hindu supremacist group for 25 years, Shinde said that in 2003, a year before India’s federal elections of 2004, a Hindu extremist named Milind Parande had emerged as the key RSS official to lead the plan for the bombings.
“Parande had taken a contract from the BJP to carry out the bombings. He was keen to involve me in this planning to carry out bombings across India as I have deep connections and networks across the country. Had I agreed, there would have been hundreds of bombings across India,” Shinde said.
“If I had wanted, I could have involved many organizations such as in Assam and Pramod Muthallik’s Shri Ram Sena in Karnataka. I could have used my connections with them and there could have been a lot of bombings across India,” Shinde said.
Despite Shinde’s lack of involvement, bombings were still carried out in Jalna and Parbhani [districts] by a man named Himanshu Panse, a member of the Hindu extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which is allied with the RSS.
Bombings were also planned in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad city, but Panse died while assembling bombs in Maharashtra’s Nanend city before the attacks could be carried out.
“I met Panse several times and I tried explaining to him not to get into this plan because this was a conspiracy to bring electoral reward to the BJP,” Shinde said.
Shinde also reported that he participated in a bomb-making workshop organized by the RSS in the city of Pune in Maharashtra state. He revealed that this workshop was hosted by Rakesh Dhawde, who was later a key accused in a bombing that occurred in the city of Malaegon in 2008. Dhawde was acquitted in that case.
“For about three-to-four days we were at the bomb-making workshop. Every day, Rakesh Dhawde would bring a man named Mithun Chakraborty on his motorcycle. It was this man who trained us in making bombs at the workshop,” said Shinde.
Shinde revealed that Chakraborty’s real name was Ravi Dev, who at the time was the coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, another violent Hindu supremacist group and an offshoot of the RSS.
Other workshops to train people in bomb-making were “held across the country.” As a result, Shinde said, there were bomb blasts in Telangana state’s Hyderabad city, in Maharashtra’s Malegaon city, and on a train named “Samjhauta Express” that ran between India and Pakistan in that period.
“People like Sadhvi Pragya, [a current parliamentarian in Bhopal state] from the BJP, and Rakesh Dhawde were all involved in these bombings,” Shinde said.
He went on to say: “The masterminds of these bombings were Milind Parande and others from the RSS and BJP. But the investigative agencies never arrested them; they only arrested the foot soldiers. Had they arrested the masterminds and the big officials of the RSS and VHP who were coordinating and leading these bombings, the truth would have come out.”
While the involved Hindu supremacists were often arrested during the tenure of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2004-2014, “after 2014 [when Narendra Modi became Prime Minister], these people came back and got back to the same task of bomb-making.”
Shinde attributed the BJP’s involvement in the bombings as part of their political weakness from 2003 to 2006.
Shinde also said the RSS and other Hindu supremacist organizations have actually grown weaker while the BJP had grown stronger since Modi became prime minister.
“They [the RSS] have become slaves of whatever the BJP demands from them. Whenever it’s election time, [all these organizations] work for the BJP, campaign for the BJP, raise funds for the BJP. But otherwise, the existence of these organizations as independent organizations has almost ceased to exist,” he said.
The briefing was co-hosted by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign, 21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, International Commission for Dalit Rights, Center for Pluralism, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, The Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.