Sheela Bhatt in an exclusive chat with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha leader Indresh Kumar, tries to get to know the man who is under the national scanner for serious, but, so far unsubstantiated, allegations of mentoring a group of terrorists.
There cannot be more horrifying crimes than to kill innocent people through bomb blasts.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s National Executive’s member Indresh Kumar, 62, has been grilled by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with bomb blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer, Hyderabad and the Samjhauta Express.
The questioning of RSS’s top functionary has created crisis of credibility for the sangh parivar.
It’s no less sensational that around a dozen Hindu accused of these re-investigated blasts cases once belonged to the RSS or they were closely linked with it.
Even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat admitted it recently in Surat, when he said, “Of the majority of the people whom the government has accused, a few have left voluntarily and a few (have been) told by the sangh: ‘this extremism will not work here, so you go away’.”
Indresh Kumar is not an accused yet but the repeated mention of his name in the recently leaked confession of accused Swami Aseemanand has put the entire sangh parivar on the defensive.
However, the agencies investigating cases of terrorism face a bigger crisis of credibility than the so-called followers of the ‘saffron’ ideology. The crimes confessed by Aseemanand have been already confessed before by Safdar Nagori, a Students Islamic Movement of India activist, in 2008.
The RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s main defence is that investigative agencies are doing the dirty work of the Congress party. At same time, neither the BJP nor the RSS leadership deny in off the record conversations that a small group of radical Hindus may have been involved in “one or two blasts”.
At the same time, they say the fringe elements, mainly consisting of former pracharaks of the RSS, have withered away or lost destructive capacity after arrests of some key people and the December 2007 murder of Sunil Joshi, main accused of these terror -related cases.
The RSS and BJP leadership are vociferously asking investigative agencies to zero in on these fringe elements who, they claim, are also against leadership of the BJP and the RSS.
One of India’s senior most officers handling security matters told rediff.com that, “Those who have been arrested are also fighting amongst themselves. They are incoherent.”
The first group that was arrested in Malegaon case that included Sadhvi Pragnya Singh Thakur had alleged that Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar were receiving money from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.
In fact, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari has been claiming since the last 18 months how slain Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare had briefed him about the threats faced by Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar from these Hindutva fringe elements.
The same information has been acknowledged by Congress leader Digvijay Singh in his interview to Frontline magazine in July-August, 2010.
Most of the arrested right-wing accused are bad-mouthing the BJP leadership’s pro-power politics and the RSS’s soft approach on nationalist issues, particularly their softening approach to issues related to China and Pakistan.
In fact, a close reading of Assemanand’s confession in court under section 164 suggests that most of the significant allegations made will be very difficult to sustain with corroborative proof because the main accused Sunil Joshi is no more.
Since Aseemanand’s confession was leaked out prematurely some experts believed that the agency has no hope to getting a dramatic breakthrough in the investigation so interested parties are using it for political purposes.
One doesn’t know if the bigger design or real mastermind behind the so-called saffron terrorism will come to light or not. Assemanand’s confession may prove useful for a limited legal purpose depending on the court’s assessment in the long run.
In fact, it’s too smartly drafted. It levels serious charges but these will be difficult to prove without Joshi.
The sangh parivar alleges that the tremendous pressure the beleaguered United Progressive Alliance government is facing is forcing it to target them.
They claim that government is raking up issue of ‘saffron terrorism’ to divert attention from charges of corruption and price rise. While Congressmen see the unfolding investigation as the proof of RSS’s ‘communal agenda’ against the minorities which can lead to civil war-like situation if not fought at an ideological level.
The RSS and the BJP are trying hard to retain their credibility regarding their stand vis-a-vis the larger issue of terrorism. Therefore, both are treading carefully on the issue and have unambiguously declared that radicals have no place in their parivar. Until the investigation reaches its logical conclusion one would not know the larger impact on the support base of sangh parivar.
Rediff.com spoke to Indresh Kumar, the man facing the needle of suspicion, to know his side of story.
Kumar, an RSS leader with 40 years of organisational experience is, obviously, under tremendous pressure. He tried to avoid crucial questions related to the case but in an exclusive conversation, he talked about himself, his worldview and activities.
What is important here is that in the RSS set-up he is not insignificant. It takes years of hard work to reach national executive of RSS. He is the man who is revered by even BJP’s leaders and workers.
When BJP chief Gadkari meets Indresh Kumar he invariably touches his feet.
We would like to know about you a little bit. Where did you study and how did you join the RSS?
I was born on February 18, 1949, in Kaithal, Haryana. My father was a businessman. Since childhood I used to visit the RSS shakha along with my father. I got an engineering degree from Punjab University. I used to participate in RSS activities and in 1970 I became a pracharak.
What was your motivation to join the RSS?
Somewhere in my mind a thought was instilled by my family, society and the RSS that we should do something for society and our country. The basic parameter of doing that was that one should rise above caste, creed, sect and religion.
Caste may remain but casteism is wrong. The sects may continue but sectarianism should be unacceptable. It’s very wrong to believe in untouchability.
Our aim should be that society should be united and it should carry strong passion of nationalism. Our unity doesn’t mean that your and mine identity will vanish. It’s a crime to indulge in identity-based politics and quarrel. This was the basic thought.
Some call this thought the idea of ‘Hindu unity’ some label it ‘cultural nationalism’. Some call it the idea for Indian unity. I don’t use the word Indian. The origin of word India is not old. The word came about some two-three centuries back. Any literature, which is 500 years old, won’t find the word India in it.
Therefore, I believe, it’s a criminal thought to call Bharat and Bhartiya as India and Indians. I am saying this because to cut off our past is a kind of crime. I always use people, never India. In any language Bharat should be Bharat. You may call it Hindustan. In our ancient texts you will find mention of Bharat.
Which was your first job?
I never had a job. I became a full time worker of RSS. I was busy in organisation in New Delhi. I only wanted to do something for our country.
In the last 40 years, like many of us, I performed the RSS’s main job of managing shakhas and building human resources. When, under Indira Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress murdered democracy I worked hard to fight it along with stalwarts of our organisation. I believe, I played a role in re-establishing democracy in our country at that time. I was underground and was listed amongst the wanted people.
I used to work a lot with students in New Delhi. In 1979, New Delhi was devastated by floods. I had led the entire relief operation of the RSS.
My first big assignment was to rehabilitate lakhs of Kashmiri pundits and a few Kashmiri Muslims in different parts of India. As you know, approximately 55,000 families have been displaced from Kashmir. We worked with the Jammu and Kashmir Sahayta Samiti to re-settle around 4 lakh Kashmiris.
Which were your other major assignments?
When I went to Ladakh, I started a Hindu-Buddha dialogue around 1986/87. The idea was to establish closeness with Himalaya-based Buddhists. We wanted to join and work together. At that time I came in close touch with the respected Dalai Lama and supported the Tibet movement. Tibet was never a part and parcel of China.
That’s why Chinese and those supporters of China in India used to remain upset with me. They used to tell me that Tibet is a dead issue and I was trying to inject oxygen into it.
Do you still believe in this idea? As you know, India has accepted that Tibet is a part of China.
I still believe in it. Just because the Indian government is supporting doesn’t mean that I should support it, too. You may be supporting China. It’s unfortunate. To support China’s stand on Tibet is against humanity, it’s dishonesty with the Dalai Lama and it’s deception with the people of Tibet.
There are no documents to prove that Tibet was part and parcel of China. Tibet is not shown as part of China in the books of China which are 200 years old.
Today’s publications do claim it but none of old books show Tibet as a part of China. When Atalji (former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee) went to China, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to China I had written to them that Bharat has made a mistake in accepting Tibet as a part of China and Bharat should correct the mistake.
These are not my views. The RSS has passed a resolution to this effect. The RSS’s second chief Guru Golwalkarji had said at that time that Bharat is making a big mistake in accepting Tibet as a part of China. We are cheating history and truth, both.
Who was your ideal when you were young?
I never had one. I was inspired by Sangh. I am a believer of God.
How do you want to be recognised?
I am Hindu and Bhartiya. I think Hindu and Bhartiya, the two words have identical meaning (samanarthi). There is no difference between the two.
You were also involved in friendship between Hindus and Muslims, right?
Since beginning I have believed that all of us are one and we have emerged from one Bhagwan (God), from one earth and we belong to one nation. We have the same ancestors.
In Bharat, 99 percent Muslims and Christians are converted from Hinduism. Meaning our roots are same and we can’t be parted. When we can’t be parted then it’s necessary that we get united, remain united. Our politicians want to see us divided.
We conducted a dialogue with the Muslims. In 2002, they started an institution. The umbrella organisation is called Muslim Rashtriya Manch. It’s for the Muslims, by the Muslims. I am an inspiration for them. They are gentlemen and quite active people. The RSS told me to conduct such dialogue.
How did you conduct that dialogue?
I met (noted Islamic scholar) Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Maulana Ilyasi of the All Indian Imams Organisation. I have met head of Ajmer Sharief and even chief of the Deoband seminary. I have met leaders belonging to Jamait Ulema-e Hind.
I have met quite a lot ordinary Muslims. I think they have not got benefits of education. They have been little bit cut off from wave of patriotism (vatanprasati ke daur se thode se kate rahe hai).
What do you mean by that?
Like to sing songs of people who have sacrificed lives for our country. Like celebrating anniversaries of our national heroes. Our politicians have taught them to hate Hindus, to keep away from Hindus. Leaders have used them for political purposes. While talking to ordinary Muslims I came to know their problems.
I saw that politicians have given them the wrong outlook to see things. Like these days it’s believed that if you pardon terrorists then Muslims will be happy. Muslims are exasperated by this.
If government pardons Afzal Guru or Ajmal Kasab then we are told Muslims would be happy. We are told that if Digvijay Singh visits the home of terrorists then Muslims would be happy. The Muslim community is very upset about this perception.
You are saying you have met chief of the Ajmer dargah and now Assemanand confession contains the allegation that you mentored and financed the bombing in Ajmer. What do you think of it?
What do you think of it? How would you find it?
What do you want to say about the serious charges levelled against you?
I want to tell you a few important things about it. The blasts that you are talking about are the Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid (Hyderabad), Ajmer and Malegaon. Four government agencies have fixed up these cases.
After blasts on the Samjhauta Express and the Mecca Masjid, they arrested many Students Islamic Movement of India activists and jailed them. Some of them had to undergo the narco test and the reports are before them (the investigators). Many accused have confessed that they were involved in these blasts. The home ministry, through the ministry of external affairs, has provided some evidence of it to Pakistan.
Long ago, the government has said that elements from Pakistan were behind some of these blasts. US investigating agencies have also said that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Harkat ul Jihad-e Islami have been involved in some of the blasts in India. These organisations have been outlawed — on the basis of evidence.
In the Malegaon investigation, Colonel Shrikant Purohit and Dayanand Pande have been arrested. Purohit is a former Indian Army man. Some people like Purohit and Pande did the networking. In that network (extremist Hindu organisation) Abhinav Bharat, some Hindus and some Muslims maybe there. I don’t know who all may be involved. But these people have accepted that they are guilty.
The government didn’t complete the investigation of these four people who have been arrested in the Malegaon case. The government did the networking through Pande and Colonel Purohit. Some Hindus who might have been in the RSS at some point of time were caught. The government discontinued the investigation of Purohit and Pande. Instead, the government has taken up new investigation.
That’s why I am saying from day one that under a political conspiracy, some investigation agency officers are being misused. With their help, a story is being spun. The moot question is why has government discontinued the investigation of the Malegaon case in which Purohit and Pande are arrested? They are saying we could not find anything more.
They haven’t discontinued the investigation. When that investigation was on, they found out about Sunil Joshi.
What I am saying now is that you have made public the confession (of Aseemanand). Let all investigation of all the cases be published. You know what happened to the investigation of the Bofors (howitzer gun deal kickbacks) case and the Arushi (Talwar murder) case. The CBI is captive of the ruling party. They are investigating to help political rivalry. They are not going after the truth.
My first question is, why are they not following up the investigation of the four cases? Why are things being done outside the purview of the investigations? Two, my question is, was somewhere the government itself not doing all these things?
Are the government’s agencies doing all these things?
Why would the government do such things? What is their benefit?
The government indulges in lots of businesses. How are these scams happening? I demand the investigation of the government itself! In the first round, the government arrested Muslims and harassed them. Now, they have arrested Hindus and will harass them. The government will divide and rule. One should look if government is into this business.
Today, as per new revelations, new accused are arrested long after many innocents Muslims were arrested. Pakistan is being given a clean chit and the government has even fooled the entire country, and US investigating agencies. How can you say that this government was wrong then and is right today? If you are an advocate of the government, then there is no need to converse with you.
My contention is that Pragnya knew Sunil Joshi who knew Aseemanand. You knew Aseemanand well. That’s how the charge against you cropped up.
I am saying that the network of all these characters has been accepted by the military intelligence’s Colonel Purohit. Why has that fact been taken out of the investigation? That’s why I am asking, were all these (blasts) done by the government? Is it just because I am acquainted to them they are diverting the case towards me? So far, nobody has said that I am involved in any action. They are known to me, that’s the only allegation. Even you know thousands of people. Are you guilty for being known to somebody?
Did you know Aseemanand?
The question is not if I knew him or didn’t. You knew him, so are you guilty? You note it down that Sheela Bhatt knew Aseemanand, so she is also a terrorist. Will you write this? Why not? Aseemanand was known to thousands of people.
But four of the accused, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Riteshwar and two others, have named you.
My name can be mentioned by 40, 400 or 400,000 people. I am asking, who did the networking of all these people? Has it been done by the government? It’s very necessary to investigate who Colonel Purohit is. Who is Dayanand Pande? Did these people do the networking in connivance with the government? This aspect must be investigated. You will know the truth when this investigation is done.
Did you share your views on the matter with the CBI?
Some facts have come out and some will come out slowly. I am saying that the needle of suspicion points to the government. Wikileaks have proved it, too. While talking to a foreign diplomat, Rahul Gandhi spoke about it. I believe, under the conspiracy, they would bring the result. Digvijay Singh has also acknowledged that he was in touch with the officers of the investigating agency in Maharashtra. Let this be investigated. How can you investigate what suits you and not investigate what doesn’t suit you?
Aseemanand has spoken in front of a magistrate. It cannot be ignored.
This is happening everyday. People give confessions before a magistrate and retract those confessions (in court). Who says that Aseemanand’s confession is full and final? Who got it done, this confession? I am asking them to build up the case in the court of law.
Did you know Sunil Joshi?
What I am saying is that people are trying to prove that acquaintance is enough to prove guilt. You will also do the same job. I want to ask, again and again, who is behind the networking of these boys? Let us make all investigation public. File the charge-sheet. Put up evidence in court, I will respond. If you are leaking the confession like this before going to court, what’s your intention? This only means that under your conspiracy you want to damage some people and some institution. Let us go to court.
That day will come, too.
Why make anybody a convict before that?
That has been happening all the time with Muslims.
Precisely. I am also saying same thing. For first few years, this government fooled Hindustan by trapping Muslims. Now, they have woven a new story to fool Hindustan again. It’s necessary that the entire country should question the government’s investigation. This government is fraud — it is misusing the investigating agencies.
I have one basic question
You don’t have any basic questions. I have basic questions. I have already given you the basic question.
Do you confirm that the RSS doesn’t believe in violence?
The RSS school of thought never believed in violence, nor does it believe in it now. I will give you an example. When the charge of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination was levelled against the RSS, we fought the charge with satyagraha (peaceful agitation). When the RSS was banned for two years in 1948-1949, not even one violent incident occurred.
Critics say your ideology contains a strand of violence.
This allegation is politically motivated. I will ask you a direct question. Is the Congress party violent or non-violent?
You are talking about the allegations of the 1984 (anti-Sikh) riots.
Is that allegations or is there truth in it? Who was the mentor of the 1984 violence? Rajiv Gandhi? He gave that statement (‘When a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake’). After that, Congress party leaders indulged in violence. On basis of that logic, is Rajiv Gandhi violent or a Bharat Ratna? What is your opinion?
When your name cropped up
You are asking questions on the basis of what the Congress party government has fed you.
There is one contradiction in this investigation of terror-related cases. Hindus arrested in the Malegaon case say they wanted to kill you. Why did they want to kill you?
It’s a delectable story. This government told us that they wanted to kill us. Now, this government is saying that we are killing people. The government told us that this group is against me. Now, the government is saying I got work done through them. I am repeating: The government is openly doing fraud and playing politics. It should be investigated. I demand the investigation of the investigative agencies.
There is a belief that when bomb blasts were taking place all over India, some section of radical Hindus got disturbed so they may have carried out blasts to counter Pakistan’s attempts in India. It was done to scare them and to send a message.
Who was not disturbed by terrorism in India? Entire Bharat felt (strongly) about it. Were you not disturbed? I am also a citizen of this country. Don’t become the tool of the political conspiracy.
Assemanand’s confession has legal value. In this country, the rule of law prevails. So why are you dismissing it? Your telephone number was found in Sunil Joshi’s diary.
If this country is conducting its affairs on the basis of law, then one confession of Safdar Nagori was prepared, na? Now, under the same law, the investigating agency has prepared a second confession.
This just a logical argument. Even the agency can make a mistake.
Why can’t the second confession be a mistake of the agency, then?
Yes. That is an issue related to the credibility of the investigating agency. But that doesn’t mean that details of second confession are totally rubbish.
Asking questions on the basis of something that is false is a bigger mistake. Let us prove which confession is correct, then ask questions.
Are you perturbed?
Not at all. This case is totally untrue. Totally fabricated.
Is it a matter of embarrassment?
It’s a shame for those who are doing this, honestly. And, it’s a shame for those who are asking me this question. Let us sit on judgment of your history sheet and mine. My patriotism and my social service will be above all those who are asking me these questions. Why should I feel shame?
The common Indian carries the wisdom that it’s prudent for Hindus and Muslims to live harmoniously. That it is good for this country. Do you believe in this theory or not?
May I tell you one thing? Give me any other name other than Indreshji who is a symbol of love between Hindus and Muslims in entire India. I am trapped because I was conducting a dialogue with Muslims. Give me one name in the Congress party who is working for Hindu-Muslim unity. This is kaliyug. Patriotic people are facing the dirt and anti-nationals are being protected
You may have to go to jail. Assemanand’s confession, Lokesh Sharma’s statement and Sunil Joshi’s diary mention you.
Bhagat Singh, (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Sardar Vallabhbhai) Patel also went to jail. Were they criminals?
What will happen to this case?
If the government and the investigative agency have guts then let them proceed with the case in court. Let the court remain open for public.
Are Bhagwatji and the RSS with you?
What a crude question! We were one, we are one. No problem!
In the last one year, you are not talking about terror cases; you are only talking about the Congress party’s conspiracy. Why is it so?
It’s not like that. There is one conspiracy and you want to make me part of it. Who are you to blame my character? Why should I answer? Can you ask anybody anytime that you are a rapist so answer? How will you feel? Even I can write tomorrow that you came to see me to torture me. How will you stop me?
There are so many RSS national executive members. Why are you being targeted?
People say… because I was working for Hindu-Muslim unity. They must have found me a threat for their politics. It’s possible that they didn’t like that I have worked in Nepal amongst Maoists. In Kashmir, I alienated separatists by conducting dialogue with people. The politics of jealousy has become dangerous. Instead of welcoming my steps, some leaders are opposing it.
Have you met the king of Nepal?
I have told you enough.
Do you believe that no Hindus have done any blasts?
Again? Why are you talking about Hindus and Muslims? I am saying that the fraud of government and crime of investigating agency is before us. When it will be investigated you will find the truth.