The Aseemanand Episode

Mirror on the Wall!

Subhash Gatade

‘Cat drinks milk with closed eyes and thinks the world is not watching it’
(Marathi Proverb)
Rare have been occasions in recent times that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with all its anushangik (affiliated) organisations on their toes, is engaged in dousing the fire in which it has caught itself unawares. Reason being the 'interview' of one of its own Pracharaks (wholetimer) turned terrorist named Swami Aseemanand which was published in a leading magazine ( According to the RSS, it is a 'concocted' one and has even issued a handwritten letter supposedly written by the interviewee 'denying' that any such interview occurred whereas the magazine has stood the ground and has even made transcripts of the said interview and its audio recordings public.

Perhaps with the 'denial' by the interviewee the matter should have ended there for the RSS, but this does not seem to be the case. And for reasons which is known to itself, it is trying to 'clarify' its stand on various aspects which came up during the interview and is trying to distance itself- once again—from Swami Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, a disciplined activist of the 'Parivar' for last more than three decades, who hails from the same village in West Bengal where Ramkrishna Paramhans was born.

The reasons for this apparently strange behaviour are not difficult to understand.

It is for the first time that the role of Mohan Bhagwat, the Sangh Supremo himself—the man who would be declared 'kingmaker' if his 'anointee' manages to reach the top post—has come under scanner as it is being claimed in the said interview that he not only 'blessed' one of the most violent phase of Hindutva politics in recent times—popularly known as Hindutva terror—but in fact had its tacit support.

And with the Supremo himself under scanner and calls for fresh investigations from different quarters getting louder, nervousness seems writ large on their faces. The left parties, especially CPM has even demanded "[a] CBI probe into the claims made by Swami Aseemanand, that the RSS leadership had "sanctioned" these terror acts." The pathetic situation in which RSS finds itself today can be gauged from all those clarifications which it is officially making regarding Aseemanand. RSS declared in a press release that Aseemanand was 'never a leader in the RSS' and 'such reports are mischievous and misleading'. Dr Manmohan Vaidya, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh emphasised that 'Swami Aseemanand has never held any post at any level in the RSS'. ( and-nathuram-godse-typical-tales-disownment-rss/selection_256/)

Poor Dr Manmohan Vaidya, somebody should have reminded him that RSS had fielded Ram Madhav few years back to discuss l'affaire Aseemanand when he was ultimately nabbed by the intelligence sleuths and in fact, had a different take on the whole issue. The said press conference was held in the second week of February 2011 in the national capital. It was the time when law of the land had finally caught up with the real perpetrators behind Ajmer and Mecca Masjid bomb blasts and the terror module comprising Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Ramji Kala-sangra, Assemanand and others had come to the limelight. With RSS pracharaks and the expert bomb maker Ramji Kalasangra and his associate Sandeep Dange still absconding, the CBI had to put a reward on them for information leading to their arrest. Giving a completely new and almost unforeseen twist to the Aseemanand episode, Madhav had said that Aseema-nand had "in fact" left the RSS in 2006. As a good spokesperson, he had dished out the usual disclaimers in the beginning itself : RSS does not believe in violence etc.

Aseem (Unlimited) Terror
"Indreshji met me at Shabri Dham sometime in 2005. Many top RSS functionaries accompanied him. He told me that exploding bombs was not my job and instead told me to focus on the tribal welfare work assigned to me by the RSS. He said he had deputed Sunil Joshi for this job (terror attacks) and he would extend Joshi whatever help was required."—from the Confession of Aseemanand before Delhi Magistrate on 18 December, 2010

It is not difficult to understand why the RSS had then felt it necessary to tell the outside world about Aseemanand's alleged leaving RSS in 2006 (as claimed by Ram Madhav in his press conference held in February 2011) around five years after this said act. Anybody can see that RSS could have announced this earlier also when he was declared an absconder in a number of terror attacks in the country. Newspapers were printing columns about this terror guru, details of the terror module he was involved in and his participation in different bloody acts. If RSS could have announced it then itself then it could have looked more authentic and its sincereness about distancing itself from such fanatic elements in its ranks could have become clear. When Aseemanand was in police custody and had given a voluntary confession before a magistrate which implicated the organisation as well as many of its senior leaders, the announcement about his 'leaving the organisation' did not carry much weight and looked more as an afterthought or an attempt to save its skin.

In fact, the same ambivalence vis-a-vis Swami Aseemanand still exists in the RSS till date. Perhaps one of the top leaders of RSS would be able to shed light on few of the questions regarding this whole episode.

Why till date RSS has not deemed it necessary to take back the award—Special Guruji Samman—which was given to him for his 'meritorious service to the RSS' which was awarded to him on the occasion of the birth centenary of MS Golwalkar (2005)?
Why it is that RSS affiliated lawyers are providing him legal aid, despite the formal declaration by the RSS after its five day meeting at Jodhpur (2010)—when the police had slowly laid hands on many of its activists—that it would not provide any legal aid to anyone found to be involved in such activities?

Who were those 'bad elements' about which it spoke after this Jodhpur meeting, who had either 'left the organisation' or 'who had been asked to go' and why RSS nor its affiliated organisation BJP has disowned this criminal-terrorist till date?

The proximity of Aseemanand with the top leadership of RSS-BJP is on record. Leaders like Narendra Modi, Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan, former RSS supremo K S Sudarshan and the current Supremo Mohan Bhagwat attended programmes organised by him at Shabri Kumbh. There are a number of photographs; freely available on the Net where these stalwarts of the RSS/BJP are seen enjoying the company of Aseemanand at the Shabari Kumbh he had orginised in the Dang district of Gujarat. It was not for nothing that Gujarat government led by Narendra Modi made a lot of funds available for this new "kumbh" invented by the RSS.

From RSS's viewpoint, Aseema-nand's credentials were impeccable. Before finally settling in Dang, a tribal majority district in Gujarat, to 'fight conversion by missionaries', he worked for RSS in different places and was active in Andaman Islands also. Rightly, it must have been unthinkable that one fine morning he would give a written confession about his own and fellow swayamsevaks' crimes before the magistrate under article 164, which is admissible as evidence. Naturally with the confession, the RSS had then found itself on a slippery path. (Full text of the confession is available on www.tehelka. com).

As a recap it can be mentioned that the confession had made few things clear.
1.    A group of RSS pracharaks was involved at least in the following bomb blasts: Malegaon 2006, Ajmer Sharif (2007), Samjhauta Express (2007), Mecca Masjid (2007) and Malegaon (2008).
2.    The signed statement by Aseema-nand states that the bomb blasts were engineered not by fringe ultra-right organisations but by the RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar who handpicked and financed some RSS pracharaks to carry out terror attacks.
3.    Indresh Kumar, the RSS National Executive member, had handpicked and financed some RSS pracharaks to carry out terror attacks.
4.    Indresh Kumar had deputed Sunil Joshi to plan and execute these terror attacks and had extended all possible help to him.
5.    Muslim boys provided by Indresh Kumar executed the Ajmer bomb blast.
6.   Aseemanand had feared that Indresh Kumar can get Sunil Joshi killed.
(It needs mentioning that later Aseemanand had retracted the above statement saying that he was coerced to do it, despite evidence to the contrary.)

Obviously, the RSS had not bargained for Aseemanand's change of heart and the consequent confession; and it had then put RSS in an uneviable position, much worse than what it found itself in after Gandhi's murder by Nathuram Godse. It was unparalleled in RSS's history of over 80 years. The spectre of legal conviction of RSS people for involvement in terror activities had started haunting it. The usual practice hitherto has been Modisquean where carnages; were packaged as "successful experiments," which should be "emulated"

Any cursory glance at the confession makes it clear that the confession implicates himself (Aseemanand) at every juncture knowing well that he can even receive death sentence for his acts. It is of key importance that his confession had pointed to the existence of a broad network of RSS pracharaks who not only planned and participated in these terror attacks but also received shelter by sections of the organisation in various states.

Ram Madhav's impromptu-looking statement about Aseemanand was in fact part of a well-thought out plan. It then reflected one simple thing: With five different agencies, of different states as well as Centre, in the thick of investigations of the Hindutva terror network, and with new disclosures on the way like the revelations in Sunil Joshi murder case, which had even put the BJP government in MP on the defensive, the RSS was very very worried. It may be added here that till then NIA had not taken up all the terror cases.

Dump the Footsoldiers
The chargesheet filed by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Rajasthan Police against five accused in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast case on Friday [22 October, 2010] has named senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar as having provided "guidance" for a conspiracy hatched by radical elements for planting bombs in several cities across the country.
(The Hindu, 24 October, 2010)

An unruly mob of Rashtriya Swayam-sevak Sangh (RSS) members went on a rampage at Videocon Tower in the city's Jhandewalan area. The building houses the offices of the TV Today Network and Mail Today. The 3,000-strong mob pelted stones, smashed glass doors...
(Mail Today, New Delhi, 17 July, 2010)

Remember the 16 July, 2010 attack on the office of Headlines Today, a national television channel, by thousands of activists of Hindutva brigade because the said channel had made public a few of the tapes available with the police.

These tapes showed the involvement of RSS top leader Indresh Kumar and others in the planning of the Ajmer bomb blast. It also showed how one Dr R P Singh had planned to kill Dr Hamid Ansari during a programme in Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia by organising a bomb blast. The said channel had telecast on 16 July, 2010 tapes of secret meetings discussing the need to carry out terrorist attacks against public meetings of Muslims. The press release issued by the channel had said that the video and audio tapes telecast by it were extracted by the investigating agencies from the laptop of Dayanand Pandey, an accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case.

As witnesses to the attack had later revealed, a lot of meticulous planning had gone in the attack. Of course, the RSS never claimed that their workers had organised it or had played a role in it, although it said that it fully sympathised with their 'concerns'.

It is now history how Sangh Parivar took up the defence of Indresh Kumar since then in a big way. The attack on 'Headlines Today' seemed to be a signal to its demoralised workers that they should go on the offensive. The month of November 2010 saw a massive programme under the aegis of the RSS to 'protest the vindictive attitude' of the UPA government and its 'continued stigmatisation of Hindus'. For the first time in the RSS history, the Sangh Supremo and his close associates participated in different rallies. To keep the momentum, the RSS also organised a nationwide campaign in February 2011 to reach out to people, telling them that 'charges against the RSS are part of Congress conspiracy'.

One does not know how RSS convinces its own activists/sympathisers about its dual approach vis-a-vis its own activists. One set of rules for the ordinary workers but for the higher ups the rules are easily twisted. Ordinary RSS workers in MP are reported to have even raised questions about the 'silence' maintained by the MP government over the killing of Sunil Joshi. With the exposures in the case which showed that his own colleagues killed him, and the MP police helping them in its own way to cover up the crime, there have been murmurs of protest within the organisation itself.

In its response to the unraveling of Hindutva terror, the Sangh Parivar emerges as an incoherent, confused as well as demoralised lot : saying one thing today, denying it the next day; accepting that there were a few bad apples amongst its midst who had taken up extreme type of activities ('who have been asked to go'—according to the reports of the five-day Jodhpur meeting of the RSS held in May 2010) and offering all sorts of cooperation to the government (even claiming that none of these 'bad apples' would be given any legal assistance but in practice going all out to provide them good lawyers) or within a few months changing its tune (refer to the Jalgaon meeting of RSS in October 2010) and frowning upon the government for its 'witch-hunt against Hindus' and even mobilising thousands of workers in different cities and towns to score a political point.

None of RSS' earlier steps to wriggle itself out of the Hindutva terror conundrum match its less reported step wherein it wrote a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to form an independent commission to enquire into the alleged conspiracy hatched by the likes of Lt Col Purohit, Dayanand Pandey and others to kill Mohan Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar. There was hope in the RSS that, with this letter, it would be able to turn the tides. The letter signed by Suresh ("Bhaiyaji") Joshi, Sarkaryavah (General Secretary] of the RSS and sent on 11 February, 2011, asked:
The fundamental question that arises, but not addressed, is: how could the RSS be bracketed with those who were viciously hostile to it and conspiring to kill its leaders?

It adds,
We believe that Col Purohit's role was political and he was not acting on his own. Thorough probe is needed to find out those behind him in his attempts to divide the RSS and ts friendly organisations from within. This larger political conspiracy cannot be unraveled by mere criminal investigation. Col Purohit had been aggressively anti-BJP and anti-RSS as the Malegaon case evidence brings out. Hence arises the issue about his hidden political connections and agenda. It is needless to say that only those who would politically benefit from such strategies could have been behind him. But, only a thorough, independent investigation will expose his political agenda and connections. Similar probe is also required against Dayanand Pandey, whose role is equally mysterious. Otherwise the full truth would remain buried. ( &task=view&id=151)
This was a clear shift in the RSS tactics wherein it wanted to go on the offensive instead of being defensive on the issue of Hindutva terror. The question then arose whether this 'shift' would help the RSS save itself from the morass in which it was finding itself then?


Vol. 46, No. 36, Mar 16 - 22, 2014