A former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has alleged that the outfit and its affiliate organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, engineered several bomb blasts in the 2000s to help the Bharatiya Janata Party win elections. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the parent organisation and the ideological backbone to a host of Hindutva groups including the ruling BJP.
Yashwant Shinde, who claims to have been associated with the RSS since 1990, made these allegations in a sworn affidavit before the Nanded sessions court on August 29. Shinde has asked the court to make him a witness in the Nanded bomb blast case. In 2006, two people including a worker of the Bajrang Dal – the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – were killed in Maharashtra’s Nanded district when a bomb they were allegedly trying to assemble exploded.
In his affidavit, Shinde alleged that the bomb was being prepared to attack a mosque in the state’s Aurangabad district.
Shinde said he knew this because the one of the two men who died, Himanshu Panse, was a long-time associate and a fellow traveller in the Hindutva ecosystem. Panse was a Vishwa Hindu Parishad worker, the affidavit says.
In 1999, Shinde had, on the instructions of Indresh Kumar, a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary, “taken Himanshu and his 7 friends to Jammu…[where] they received training in modern weaponry from the Indian Army jawans”, he alleged in the affidavit.
Kumar did not respond to multiple calls and messages seeking comment.
Four years later, in 2003, he and Panse attended a “bomb-training camp held near Sinhgad in Pune”, Shinde claimed.
The “mastermind and main organiser of the camp”, Shinde alleged, was Milind Parande – who is currently the “national organiser” of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The main instructor at the camp was a man by the name of “Mithun Chakravarty” whose real name, he would discover later, was Ravi Dev [Anand] – who now heads the Uttarakhand unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
In his affidavit, Shinde has narrated what allegedly transpired at the camp:
“The said Mithun Chakravarty would reach the camp at 10 a.m. and would conduct the training for two hours in different groups. The trainees were given material like 3-4 kinds of explosive powders, pieces of pipes, wires, bulbs, watches etc. for preparing bombs….
…After the training the organizers took the trainees in a vehicle to a secluded forest area for testing the bombs by carrying out rehearsal of blasts. The trainees would dig a small pit, put the bomb with timer in it, cover it with soil & big boulders and detonate the bomb. Their tests were successful. There were big blasts & the boulders were thrown away to long distances.”
Neither Parande nor Anand responded to requests seeking comment on these allegations.
Allegations tally with ATS chargesheet
Shinde claimed he tried to dissuade Panse from carrying out any blasts but “after the training Himanshu had caused three blasts in Marathwada region of Maharashtra”. “He had a plan to cause a major blast in the main mosque in Aurangabad and while making a bomb for that blast he lost his life in Nanded in 2006,” he alleged.
Much of what Shinde has alleged in his affidavit is part of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad’s first chargesheet in the case. The chargesheet said that Panse had gone to a resort in “Sinhagad near Pune in 2003 for training in making pipe bombs from a man named Mithun Chakraborty”.
In addition, Sanatkumar Ragvithal Bhate, a retired Navy officer from Pune, had also reportedly told the anti-terrorism squad that Parade had asked him to “train his activists in the use of gelatine sticks at a camp in the city”.
Also, investigators were reported to have recovered materials that indicated that there was a plan to strike a mosque at Aurangabad from the house where the explosion that took Panse’s life occurred.
However, the Central Bureau of Investigation, which took over the case in 2013, claimed that the explosion was an isolated incident.
‘Nanded was only a small part’
But Shinde’s affidavit contests this conclusion. According to him, among the other people at the bomb-making camp was Rakesh Dhawade, who has been accused in the Malegaon blast case.
Shinde told Scroll.in said several terror attacks in the country in the 2000s including the Samjhauta Express in 2007 and the Malegaon blasts in 2008, stemmed from the same conspiracy as the Nanded blast. “Nanded was only a small part,” he said.
In the affidavit, Shinde claimed that he spoke to several senior functionaries of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, including current chief Mohan Bhagwat, to caution them about Pandare’s machinations, but they turned a deaf ear. “After listening to the excuses of these leaders, the applicant came to the conclusion that the senior leaders of the RSS and VHP tacitly supported terrorist activities and that after the BJP government came to power in 2014, they have been further encouraged and have been assiduously engaged in such activities,” he alleged.
The decision to file this affidavit, Shinde told Scroll.in, was driven by his desire to “purify” the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which he said, “had fallen into the wrong hands in recent times”.
But what took him so long? Shinde said he was at heart a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man and a firm believer in the Hindutva ideology, so he did not want to give the organisation a bad name. “I spoke to so many senior people, tried so hard to get them to take action, but they didn’t,” said the 49-year-old who is currently unemployed and lives with his mother, wife and children in Mumbai’s Lower Parel area.
Shinde claimed to have spent his first nine years at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Jammu and Kashmir under the tutelage of Indresh Kumar. It was during that tenure that he claimed he took Panse and nine others to attend a training in “modern weaponry” in Jammu imparted by Indian Army jawans. “It was held in a place called Talab Tillo in Jammu,” said Shinde, who said he was now a “social worker” and filed Right to Information requests on government land and policies.
In 1999, Shinde said he returned to Mumbai where he was made the head of the Bajrang Dal.
Shinde said he stopped actively participating in the RSS’s activities around 13-14 years ago, but continued to be a member.
“But things have become particularly bad in recent years,” he said. “They are polarising the country to stay in power, so I thought I needed to do this.”
Besides, Shinde said he wrote to Union home minister Amit Shah before filing the affidavit – but got no response.
When asked why anyone should believe him, Shinde said, “So many people in the Sangh Parivar are upset with the leaders, but they are bearing it. But now that I have spoken up, you’ll see there will be an eruption soon and everyone will realise I am speaking the truth.”