A special court on Wednesday acquitted Swami Aseemanand and three others in the Samjhauta train blast case that left 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, dead in 2007.
All the four accused, Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary have been acquitted by the court, NIA counsel Rajan Malhotra said. The blast in the India-Pakistan train took place near Panipat in Haryana on February 18, 2007, when it was on its way to Attari in Amritsar, the last station on the Indian side.
Before pronouncing the verdict, NIA special judge Jagdeep Singh dismissed the plea filed by a Pakistani woman for examining some eyewitnesses from her country. The court ruled that the plea of the Pakistani woman was devoid of any merit, Malhotra said.
Pakistan summoned the Indian High Commissioner to register a strong protest and condemnation of the acquittal of all four accused. The blast had ripped apart two coaches of the cross-border train. The Haryana police registered a case, but the probe was handed over to the National Investigation Agency in July 2010.
The NIA filed a charge sheet in July 2011 against eight persons for their alleged roles in the terror attack. Of the eight, Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary appeared before the court and faced trial. This is the third terror-related case in which Aseemanand, a former functionary of a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, has been acquitted. He was earlier cleared in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case in Hyderabad and the 2007 Ajmer blast case – two other cases that gave rise to the phrase “saffron terror”, which Hindutva organisations reject as false propaganda.
Sunil Joshi, the alleged mastermind of the attack, was shot dead near his home in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas district in December 2007. The three other accused – Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange and Amit – could not be arrested and were declared proclaimed offenders. Aseemanand was out on bail, while three others were in judicial custody. The NIA had charged the accused with murder and criminal conspiracy, and under the Explosive Substances Act and the Railways Act.
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti questioned the grounds on which the accused were acquitted. “Despite damning evidence, the accused including a former RSS member have been acquitted. God forbid, had they been Kashmiris / Muslims, they would be pronounced guilty & imprisoned without even a fair trial. Why such double standards and leniency towards saffron terror?” the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister asked.