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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faith in India's army shaken by blasts By Sudha Ramachandran

Investigations into recent bomb blasts in India have led to the arrest of several Hindus and for the first time ever, a serving officer of the Indian army. The arrests have triggered heated debate on whether the arrests indicate the existence of "Hindu terrorism". More worryingly, the probes point to the possibility of the hitherto secular and apolitical Indian army being infected by the communal virus.

But even as Indians are heatedly debating whether "Hindu terrorism" exists, another worrying issue has been thrown up by the investigations. Three men arrested in connection with the Malegaon blasts are from the armed forces. They include one serving officer, Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, and two retired officers, Major Ramesh Upadhyay and Colonel Shailesh Raikar.

Thirty-eight-year-old Purohit has the dubious distinction of being the first serving officer of the Indian army to be arrested in connection with a terrorist attack. He has been described as the "mastermind" of the Malegaon blasts. He allegedly procured the explosives (he is said to have provided RDX from the army depot) and funding for the blasts, provided training and co-ordinated the blasts. He is said to have arranged for fake military ID cards providing access for Abhinav Bharat activists to army bases. Purohit is said to have worked several stints in military intelligence. His role in several other terrorist attacks over the past few years, including the February 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express or Friendship Train linking Delhi with Lahore in Pakistan, is now under the scanner.


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