One by one, 59 witnesses, all from the Army, have told a Court of Inquiry – step one of Army’s legal process– why they believe Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit was just doing his job by fraternising with right-wing extremists.
Lt Col Purohit was arrested in November 2008 for a bomb blast on September 29, 2008 in Malegaon in Maharashtra, a communally sensitive area. He is now in a Taloja Jail, near Navi Mumbai.
When the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) asked for the officer, on the grounds that he belonged to the Abhinav Bharat, the Army hastily handed over its man, then posted in Madhya Pradesh.
But during the Court of Inquiry, which concluded last month in Mumbai, the portrait that has emerged of the officer is a flattering one.
Officers have testified that Lieutenant Colonel Purohit had, in the course of his duties, infiltrated organisations like the Students Islamic Movement of India or SIMI. This is exactly what he had been ordered to do as a military intelligence man.
Most significantly, during the course of his statements to the Court of Inquiry, Lieutenant Colonel Purohit has placed on record the inputs he provided his seniors on people like Indresh Kumar (an RSS leader) and Sunil Joshi (allegedly a conspirator in the blast on the Samjhauta Express train headed to Pakistan in 2007; Mr Joshi was murdered in December, 2007 )
Mr Purohit told the Court of Inquiry: “I must make a mention here that out of the vast int (intelligence) network development by me with great efforts I came to know about the likely involvement of some Right Wing leaders in anti-national activities. The inputs received on 12 October 2008 were immediately fwd (forwarded) to then CO (commanding Officer) SCLU (Southern Command Liaison Unit) Col Pancpore, OC A Team, Det SCLU, Maj P. Khanzode and to Maj. B. Dey of 1/6 team CCLU (Central Command Liaison Unit) on 12/13 October 2008 itself and a written report in this regard was fwd to Maj Dey on 15 Oct 2008.
Purohit goes on to say: “The report which was termed vague by Maj Dey in his statement is today proving to be right where the name of Indresh Kumar as given out by me for the first time is now figuring in almost all charge sheets relating to right wing blast cases. Name of P. Joshi as mentioned in my report which is S. Joshi (Sunil Joshi who was found dead) otherwise is now reflecting in every charge sheet related to Right Wing blast cases.”
Some of the statements of Purohit’s superiors in his ACRs (annual confidential reports) made during the court of inquiry suggest an officer who worked with great, if sometimes overzealous, enthusiasm and dedication. In 2005, Purohit in fact was invited to deliver a lecture on intelligence-gathering at the Mumbai headquarters of the same Anti-Terror Squad that later charged him of being one of the accused in the Malegaon blast of 2008.
Some statements accessed by NDTV from the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry:
Col. Hasmuk Patel, then Commanding Officer of Southern Command Liaison Unit wrote in Purohit’s ACR in 2007: “The Officer has infiltrated the SIMI and other underground outfits in the region through his capabilities and go getter attitude.”
Col. YK Singh in 2008, noted: “He (Purohit) provided valuable int on Tabliq-e-jamal and MFO (Muslim Fundamentalist Organisations)activities which were appreciated by environment. He developed on effective informant network in AOR which led to acquisition of Naxal propoganda and terrorist activities.”
Col VS Tomar: “Although I have not known you on a personal level, yet by my interactions with officers of varied seniority with the Intelligence Corps, I came to know that you were a motivated, daring and good field intelligence officer. However some people did mention that at times you had a negative trait of boasting for gaining audience.”
Lt. Col. SS Raikar (retd): “I do not believe that Lt. Col. Purohit has been involved in any anti-social or anti-national activity which will bring disrepute to the country in general and the Indian army in particular.”
Lt. Col Purohit has said that before handing him over to the Anti-Terror Squad, the army “did not look into my performance as an Intelligence officer..(Or) my reports generated as an inteligence officer.”
Asking that he be exonerated ((is this correct)), he has told the army court “This is the organisation that I have loved the most… I am a true and hardcore soldier. ..I am more than confident and convinced that the uniform of the Army which I wear with so much pride and the organisation which I serve with honour shall never ever get tarnished by my behaviour and actions…However, now the onus to give me justice and to recover me out of this unfortunate situation definitely lies on the organisation.”