Swami Aseemanand is one of India’s most notorious men.
Who is Aseemanand?
Born in West Bengal and a graduate in physics, Aseemanand joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at an early age. He went on to work for the RSS full-time as a pracharak in 1977.
What is Aseemanand accused of?
Between 2006 and 2008, a series of bomb attacks hit civilian targets around India. These attacks were sectarian in nature and Aseemanand has been charged with plotting five of these attacks. The attacks collectively killed 119 people.
Aseemanand is accused of planning the 2007 Ajmer sharif dargah blast, the Mecca Masjid blasts, the 2006 Malegaon blasts, and the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings.
From the CBI to the NIA
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Aseemanand on 19 November 2010 for his involvement in the Mecca Masjid bombing.
Aseemanand confessed to the alleged acts before the Metropolitan Magistrate on 18 December 2010. He stated that he and some others were involved in bombings at various Muslim religious places as they wanted to answer every Islamist terrorist act with “a bomb for bomb’’ policy. Aseemanand explained to the magistrate about the “involvement of a few Hindutva leaders, including himself, in planning and executing a series of terror attacks”.
On 24 December 2010, he was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
His confession, recorded in Hindi and running for 42 pages, was reported in Tehelka magazine issue in the article “In the Words of a Zealot.”
However, on 12 May 2011 Aseemanand claimed that his confessional statements were obtained by the NIA “under pressure”. He said that he had been pressurised by the investigating agencies to confess that he was behind these blasts.
On June 2011, the NIA charged Swami Aseemanand in the Samjhauta Express train blast case, and the 2007 Ajmer dargah blasts case.
The Caravan controversy
In February 2014, a controversy erupted over interviews given by Swami Aseemanand to the magazine The Caravan. In the interview, he alleged that some of the worst terror attacks in India were sanctioned by the RSS and Mohan Bhagwat, the current leader of the RSS. In the nearly 10-hours-long interview, Aseemanand made several stunning allegations against the RSS. He told The Caravan that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh [Parivar].” The Sangh Parivar refers to the family of Hindu nationalist organisations which have been started by members of the RSS or drew inspiration from its ideologies.
Aseemanand subsequently denied making such allegations; however, in retaliation, The Caravan released audio tapes of the interviews which included his allegations.
Swami Aseemanand was acquitted in the 2007 Ajmer sharif dargah blast case by an NIA special court on 8 March 2017.