NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has given bail to Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit in the September 29, 2008 bomb blasts in Malegaon in which seven persons were killed and 79 injured. In this incident Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyaya were also accused.

These three were found to be the culprits in an inquiry conducted by then Anti-Terrorist Squad Mumbai Chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in suspicious circumstances during the November 26, 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai.

Now during the regime of the Bharatiya Janata Party the case is being weakened. Charges against Pragya Thakur have been dropped and those against Purohit are being diluted. The former Mumbai police chief Julio Ribeiro has said that it is an insult to the memory of Hemant Karkare. He has said that if Karkare is not alive to defend himself he would defend Karkare. He condemned efforts to demean Hemant Karkare by raising questions on his investigation, and said that Karkare was held in high esteem by the police as well as the people.

Lt. Col. Purohit has been merely released on bail, he has not been acquitted, and already there is talk of his being reinstated in the Army. He has now appeared in Army uniform after 9 years for the first time.

When Delhi University Professor Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani was made an accused in the Parliament attack case in 2001, he did not get his job back until he was acquitted. Last year he organized an event to mark the hanging of Afzal Guru at Press Club in Delhi. He was arrested and suspended from his college. Although he did get bail, his suspension has not been revoked in spite of the fact that no charge-sheet has been filed against him. Geelani is merely in a teaching job whereas Purohit is associated with a very sensitive organisation. The government will have to be extra cautious about his reinstatement.

The charges against Purohit are serious. These include:

-he revived the right wing fundamentalist organization Abhinav Bharat which neither believes in the Constitution of India nor the tri-colour flag of the country.

-he wanted to overthrow the government in India by running an exile government in Israel or Nepal.

-he sold his Army weapons and purchased illegal arms.

- he misused his position in the Army to assist the Hindutva organization.

The manner in which Purohit is being welcomed back even into the Army, despite the charges that place him as a threat to national security, is a matter of concern.

After being released from Taloja jail in Mumbai he was taken to the military intelligence office where he used to work. It is being said that he will report daily to this sensitive office, and will be given what is being referred to as a light administrative load.

Purohit has claimed that he was planted in Abhinav Bharat by the military intelligence to spy on them. Two pertinent questions arise from this:

-if he was really spying then why did he not inform the Army or police about the impending Malegaon blasts and try to prevent it?

-What was the need for him to steal RDX from the Army?

Will the Army clarify whether Lt. Col. Purohit was on an Army mission to spy on Abhinav Bharat and whether it was in the knowledge of his senior officers that he was taking 60 kg of RDX from the Army stock?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised the issue of Pakistan sponsored terrorism in almost his every international speech, and wants Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state. Will he also make his stand clear on the terrorist incidents which are originating in this country? After all, how are the Malegaon blasts different from any of the other blasts around the country for which Muslim youth were picked up and declared terrorists even before their trial. It is a different matter that most Muslim youth are getting acquitted for want of evidence.

The media which sensationalizes the bomb blast incidents and refers to the suspects as terrorists even before evidence has documented, has suddenly stopped referring to 2008 Malegaon blasts as a terrorist incident. Will Purohit not be held accountable for the 7 deaths in Malegaon due to the bomb blasts for which he is still an accused?

People who are now trying to project Purohit as a nationalist hero must be asked what kind of heroism is it to kill one’s own countrymen?. It was an act of cowardice. On the other hand trying to show that ATS Chief Hemant Karkare had some vested interest in implicating Purohit and his colleagues is ludicrous. There can be no comparison between Hemant Karkare and Shrikant Purohit. One laid down his life fighting terrorism and the other took the life of citizens of his country by carrying out a terrorist incident, as the investigation that is now in court has documented.

The attitude of the Army in this case is perplexing. It seems to be jumping to accommodate an accused in a terror case without even waiting for the court verdict. Bail is not acquittal, the case is still on.

(Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay Awardee)