If there is one case to the best of my knowledge where for first time in Indian history since independence, a serving Army Officer was branded a terrorist and that too a senior, upright, brave, bold and dynamic senior Lieutenant Colonel named Prasad Shrikanth Purohit who got Army Chief Commendation Card and many good reports and citations while posted in Jammu and Kashmir for his exemplary work and in exposing the various network of terrorists and was illegally arrested by Mumbai ATS in connivance with an Army Intelligence officer named Col RK Srivastav and is tortured for many days and then officially arrested which itself clearly implies that some Army Officers in connivance with Mumbai ATS were all out to fix him somehow! This alone explains why senior Supreme Court lawyer and also an eminent politician named Subramanium Swamy lashed out saying that, “It is an outstandingly bogus case.” Why has Army not court martialled him if he was really guilty? It is because Army knew that he was right!
Why is it that Court of Inquiry conducted by Army proves that Col Purohit was working for Army seniors and had joined the Hindu radical organization named Abhinav Bharat to gather information and provide it to Army? Why Army has itself gone on record to say that Lt Col Purohit was doing his job? Why NIA did not submit Court of Inquiry documents in Court? Why NIA and Mumbai ATS could not even file chargesheet against Col Purohit if they had strong proof of his involvement in Malegaon blast case in which 7 Muslims were killed and many injured for which he was made the chief accused?
As we all know and as the CJI NV Ramana and Justice Dr DY Chandrachud in particular have been harping on the personal liberty of an individual why was a serving senior Army Officer made to rot in jail for 9 years without getting bail? When bail is the norm then why Lt Col Purohit was denied bail for 9 years? This is not “due process of law” but “due murder of law”! This clearly speaks for itself and the role of Mumbai ATS is not just seriously questionable but also entirely questionable!
Brig Prakash Menon had said about Lt Col Purohit when he was posted in J&K that, “My heartiest congratulations to you for successful operations in Gen Area Rangai 02 which led to the killing of two terrorists.” He received such compliments not only from senior Army Officers but also from senior police officers and prominent among them was late Himanshu Roy who was Nasik Police Commissioner and who lavishly praised him for helping in arrest of terrorists by infiltrating the SIMI and how can all this be just shrugged off?
As if this is not enough, former Army Chief Gen Shankar Roy Choudhary while speaking to a news channel openly asked: “Who sent Lt Col Purohit to prison? Was he court martialled? Even sanction was not given by Army. Who signed the Movement Order? Army has to put its own house in order. Why Mumbai ATS took Lt Col Purohit to Khandala and tortured him? Who was the Army Officer who gave Lt Col Purohit to ATS? It must be investigated. It is a great breach of security. Col Purohit wrote several letters to PM, President, Defence Minister but got no reply. Why?” Why Congress deliberately concealed papers on Lt Col Purohit titled FILE/31687/MI-8?
The Confidential Reports (CR’s) by his seniors were also consistently positive. To quote a few:
“The officer (Lt. Col. Purohit) has infiltrated the SIMI and other underground outfits in the region through his capabilities and go getter attitude” – Army’s Confidential Report (31 Dec 06)
“He (Lt. Col. Purohit) developed an effective informant network in the AOR [Area of Responsibility] which led to acquisition of Naxal propaganda, Maoists and Terrorists.” – Army’s Confidential Report (15th February 2008)
“My heartiest congratulations to you and all ranks of the battalion for successful operations in Gen Area Rangai on 07 May 02 which led to the killing of two foreign terrorists and recovery of large quantity of war like stores” – Brig. Prakash Menon, Commander, 68, Mountain Brigade (8 May 02)
“I am extremely pleased to learn about the achievements of your Cell in obtaining actionable intelligence relating to the terrorist activities in you AOR.” – Lt. Col. Amitabh Joshi, Offg CO, 31, Composite Intelligence Unit (20 Mar 03)
“I am extremely pleased to learn about the achievements of your Cell in obtaining intelligence relating to presence of hard core terrorists at Thimaran Forest MZ 2980 in your AOR” – Lt. Col. Amitabh Joshi, Offg CO, 31, Composite Intelligence Unit (04 Sep 03)
It goes without saying that the torture that he faced, the humiliation that he had to bear cannot be described in words. This is nothing but greatest betrayal of an Army Officer and for 10 years suffered the label of terrorist and most ruthlessly locked inside jail for 9 years!
It is pointed out by Vicky in his enlightening editorial titled “When Maharashtra ATS planted RDX to frame Lt Col Purohit” which has been published in website One India portal dated Aug 23, 2017 that, “When the Maharashtra ATS claimed that it was Lt Colonel Srikant Purohit who supplied the RDX in the Malegaon blasts case, it took everyone by surprise. However, the NIA made a disclosure that was even more stunning when it said that it was an officer from the ATS who had planted the RDX to frame Purohit. Lt Col Purohit was released on bail this week. He was released after spending nine long years in jail. The NIA had said in its supplementary charge sheet that Purohit and eight others should be tried as accused in the blast conspiracy case, but recommended that the charges brought against them under Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) be dropped and they be tried under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) instead. The NIA said that it was the ATS under late Hemant Karkare which planted evidence to frame Purohit. The NIA further said that an ATS officer Shekhar Bagde, left traces of RDX in the house of another accused, retired Army personnel Sudhakar Chaturvedi, in Deolali. The NIA cited the testimony of an Army Major and a subedar to claim that Bagde broke into Chaturvedi’s house to allegedly deposit traces of RDX. The Army Major and Subedar told a Court of Inquiry hearing Purohit’s appeal that Bagde pleaded with them not to report him. Two days later, however, an ATS team raided the house and picked up the RDX traces similar to the one used in Malegaon blasts by using a cotton swab. “This recovery itself becomes suspicious,” the NIA told the court.”
According to Brigadier Raj Kumar (Retired) who was the nodal officer of the Army in the Malegaon blast case, the army enquiry did not find any evidence that Col Purohit had supplied RDX for the blast while he couldn’t explain possession of an illegal weapon at his residence? Why his former CO Colonel SS Raikar was full of praise for Lt Col Purohit and sweared by his professional approach?
Why is it that a Muslim ATS senior police officer named Mehboob Abdul Karim Mujawar who was a covering party member has gone on record to say in front of Republic TV news channel that the entire probe was fake in Col Purohit’s case? Why he chose to speak the truth and face suspension and not received salary for 10 years? Mehboob also said that some IPS officers and politicians were behind it but chose not to name them. More chillingly, Mehboob clearly said that Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra were part of Malegaon investigation and they were shot dead by the Mumbai ATS. Mehboob also says that he has proof and would produce it before court at right time that Lt Col Purohit was falsely implicated by ATS and this was at the behest of senior police officers and politicians! I have just no words to praise Mehboob for daring to speak the unpalatable truth and inspite of being father of 5 children yet risk no pay for 10 years, face suspension from service and what not! Mehboob is a Muslim and knowing fully well that what he says would annoy members from his own religion yet he dared to speak the truth! Most astonishing!
To put things in perspective, how ironical it is that usually the charge sheet is to be filed within 60 days from the date of arrest of the accused in cases triable by the lower courts and 90 days in cases triable by Court of Sessions and in UAPA cases it can be extended to 180 days but when it comes to the ground reality, we see as we saw in Lt Col Prasad Shrikanth Purohit’s case that the Mumbai ATS which effected the arrest of Col Purohit in November 2008 in most questionable manner did not file charge sheet against him not for just 90 days or 90 weeks but for 9 years and after five years when it handed over the case to the NIA still no charge sheet was filed against him and thus we see that 10 years have evaporated so quickly with no visible action being taken on the ground against Lt Col Purohit! If the case was so strong against him and he was shown by various news channels that he was the main accused in the Malegaon blast case in which about 7 Muslims were killed and many injured even though very initially even the UN agencies had attributed Pakistan based Lashkar terror outfit behind it then why no charge sheet was framed against him for 9 long years? Why judiciary did not fire the police department for not filing the charge sheet in such a sensitive case for such a long time?
It must also be asked: Why a serving senior Army Officer of the rank of Lt Colonel who had won so many citations and Army Chief’s commendation card for his numerous gallantry actions in various counter insurgency operations in J&K was taken for granted and kept in jail for 9 long years without even charge sheet being filed against him? Why more than 76 serving Army Officers testified in his favour and even Maj Gen GD Bakshi (retd) as also Col RSN Singh (retd) of RAW, Gen Shankar Roy Chaudhary who is former Army Chief, Maj Gaurav Arya among others all spoke hugely in favour of Col Purohit and some like Col RSN Singh even wrote cover stories on him lamenting that he was wrongly framed? Why is it that all the courts whether it is the trial court or the High Court or the Supreme Court did not say anything on it? This is what one finds most baffling as we see that even charge sheet is framed against dreaded foreign based terrorists like Pakistan based late Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab among others in time!
Could charges against Col Purohit under MCOCA be sustained? No, the Supreme Court found them not sustainable at all and Col Purohit got anticipatory bail after his senior counsel Harish Salve pointed out convincingly how he was kept in jail for such a long time and still even after 9 years even charge sheet was not filed against him! All the police officers who don’t file the charge sheet in time must be taken to task and be punished most strictly.
Strictly speaking, it is only because nothing happens to the concerned guilty police men in uniform that they take the accused’s rights for granted and keeps him/her in jail for many years and yet are not held accountable by either sending them also to jail for 14 years minimum or ordering them to pay a huge compensation to the affected accused person apart from dismissing them from service! It must be said at the risk of repetition that there has to be zero tolerance against all those police men who don’t file charge sheet in time and thus make a complete mockery of the personal liberty of the accused person which cannot be ever justified under any circumstances!.
It goes without saying that India is a “democratic country” and not a “police country” where police rules and so they too must be taken to task whenever they dare to do something wrong. They should not be allowed to get away most easily! But it has to be said with utmost anguish that we see police getting away with virtually anything and everything they do and it is only in some cases that they are made to account for what they do!
Even as we hear more and more skeletons tumbling out of the closet in police department in Mumbai with the latest being encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma whom NIA arrested just recently, one is left totally appalled, aghast and ashamed to note that those Mumbai ATS police officers who had a direct role in framing Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit as a terrorist and in torturing him for a very long time are still having a free run! The 24-page handwritten complaint details the various kinds of torture that Col Purohit was subjected to. The shocking 24-page letter written by him to National Human Rights Commission in December 2013 which one can read from the website www.pgurus.com exposes shocking details of how terribly he was tortured for weeks by a Military Intelligence Officer and Maharashtra Police ATS team in October and November 2018 so that he could own up wrongly as being the mastermind behind terror attacks that happened in those times as in Malegaon! What is even more revealing is the finer points that eminent women senior journalist Madhu Kishwar has brought out in her web portal “www.manushi.in” on Lt Col Purohit’s ordeal after interviewing Col Purohit’s wife Aparna which is bone chilling to say the least!
Madhu Kishwar points out that, “Third Key Witness Alleges Statement under Torture & Blackmail by ATS: On the other hand, Captain Nitin Duttatray Joshi, the only witness to have initially testified against Purohit, wrote a formal complaint to the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) on 5/10/2010 alleging that he had been threatened, blackmailed and coerced by the ATS into falsely implicating Col. Purohit. That complaint has till date not been acted upon.
In his testimony before the MSHRC after describing how Bagade tried forcing him into implicating Purohit during interrogations, Joshi says he was taken to Kala Chowki Police Station, the Mumbai ATS office on 12 November 2008. There ATS officer Mr. Dilip Shreerao called him to his office and threatened that ATS would make sure that he stayed in jail for 15 years if he refused to cooperate with them. Their only aim was to extract a confession out of him implicating Lt. Col. Purohit in the Malegaon blasts by building a case that Purohit was an active member of Abhinav Bharat – a Hindu organisation which had allegedly taken to countering Islamic terrorism with acts of terror to be carried out by Hindus.
Joshi writes that they even took him to the ATS headquarters and showed him the torture chamber where Purohit was held captive. He was given a brief glimpse of the plight of Purohit who displayed clear signs of torture in order to convey the message that if a serving officer could be reduced to such a hapless, pathetic state, a retired Captain like Joshi could face much worse unless he “co-operated with the ATS”– a euphemism for becoming an accomplice or else false cases would be slapped against him. Joshi says he was thrown into a dirty cell and put at the mercy of crude constables who abused him in the foulest of language under the guise of “interrogation”. One of the ATS officers told Joshi, “If we can arrest a serving Lt. Col. and a Shankracharya, we can easily do the same with you and your family members.”(P. 260)
Joshi confessed to the MSHRC that with the prospect of “being implicated in false cases and the same happening to his family”, he agreed to give whatever statement that the ATS wanted him to give. Thereafter, he was again taken from Nashik to Mumbai ATS office where Mohan Kulkarni and another officer dictated a statement to Joshi which he had to give before a Magistrate under section 164. Joshi writes that the following lies were dictated to him:
Lt. Col. Prasad gave him (Capt. Joshi) three weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for a month sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him. He saw RDX in a green sack at Lt Col. Purohit’s house at Devlali. Lt. Col Purohit confessed to Capt. Joshi about having supplied RDX for the Samjhauta Express blast.
Lt. Col. Purohit told Joshi in early 2008 that something was planned to be done soon. He further told Joshi that an action was planned in Nashik district in Oct/Nov 2008. Joshi was asked to say that Purohit had confessed to him about planning and executing the Malegaon blast along with his accomplices. He was further ordered to state that on October 2008, one Rakesh Dhawade had come to stay in Bhonsala Military School. A boy Praveen had come to visit him with instructions from Lt. Col. Purohit to learn about martial arts from Dhawade.
The said statement was given a final shape in the office of Dileep Shreerao in consultation with Hemant Karkare. During this period, even when Joshi went to spend the night in the house of his relatives in Parel, an ATS Constable accompanied him like a shadow and slept in the same house.
Joshi further adds that on 18 November 2008, the day he had to go and record his statement in front of a magistrate, the I.O. (Intelligence Officer) Mr. Kulkarni took him to a room in the ATS office and threatened him with a loaded pistol in hand saying, “Do not dare to retract in front of the magistrate or else one bullet from this will be lodged in your brain.” A similar threat with a loaded pistol was delivered to him just before Joshi was about to go into the court room.
Joshi adds that after his statement was recorded, it was not sealed as is the mandatory requirement. Instead, it was simply put into an envelope which was then stapled. On 30 November, Joshi was again called to Nashik ATS office where the I.O. again threatened him with dire consequences for him and his family, if he even thought about retracting his statement. All these events led to his estrangement from the Bhonsala Military School and he ended up resigning from there after a few weeks.
Joshi disowned the statement extracted from him by the ATS saying that he could not live with this guilt for long since he fell in his own eyes for having failed to withstand the coercive tactics of ATS despite being a military officer. Therefore, he felt compelled to file a complaint before the Human Rights Commission regarding the illegal and unconstitutional methods adopted by the ATS to obtain “false statements” from him. Joshi appealed to the Commission to protect him from further harm and take up his case as one of gross violation of his human rights. He also sought damages worth Rs. 25 lakhs. It is a sad commentary on the working of our State Human Rights Commission that even though this case was filed on 5/10/2009, no action whatsoever has been taken on it thus far. (Capt. Nitin Dattatray Joshi’s complaint to Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission)
If what all Col Purohit has written and Madhu Kishwar has revealed is true then one cannot but conclude that there was a big political conspiracy in cahoots with police to portray attack on Malegaon as attack by so called “Hindu Terrorists” and all this happened around virtually the same time when Mumbai 26/11 happened in which initially attempts were made by a section in the media to portray it also as attack by “Hindu Terrorists” but Pakistani terrorists Ajmal Kasab who was caught alive spilled the beans of involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistani handlers which included some from the Pakistani Army also! Col Purohit’s case was weakened by this small yet influential section of the media which tried to portray him as a “Hindu Terrorist” who was seeking to make India a “Hindu country” instead of depicting how he was trying to expose the dangerous link of politicians with terrorists and no wonder that 26/11 attack took place just few days after his arrest! Madhu Kishwar has exposed how Mumbai ATS in connivance with an Army Officer wreaked havoc on Lt Col Purohit and it must be read in full from her website! When Mumbai ATS and Mumbai police starts running after Army officers only as in case of Lt Col Prasad Shrikanth Purohit among others without any firm evidence and illegally detains them, illegally arrests them, illegally tortures them, illegally tries to implicate them in fake cases, illegally jails them for 9 years without even filing a charge sheet and brazenly ignores the ground reality then such dastardly terror attacks like 26/11 which left more than 200 people dead are bound to happen and that too days after Col Purohit was arrested most wrongly who himself was strongly after terrorists and always lead from the front in many counter insurgency operations! This is the real pinch!
It goes without saying that President of India is the supreme commander of the Armed Forces of India and whenever any soldier or officer of Armed Forces is made to suffer immensely without any valid reason, he must step in and speak up vociferously for the rights of the concerned soldier or officer as is his obligation also as enshrined in our Constitution. What has happened with Lt Col Purohit is most astounding and one is left totally aghast, totally ashamed and totally appalled to see how illegally he was arrested, assaulted and brutally tortured for years and years together and even after nine years, the Mumbai ATS which went after his blood for his alleged involvement in a Malegaon blast case on a mosque which left about 4 dead and many injured and which initially even world wide was reported to be the handiwork of Lashkar terror group based in Pakistan could not produce any shred of evidence against Col Purohit which speaks volumes of how strong the case is against the Colonel who has had a distinguished track record and got Army Chief Commendation Card also for his invaluable and commendable service rendered in insurgency hit Jammu and Kashmir region! Yet the reward which he got was: Illegal arrest, illegal torture, illegal detention, illegal trial and illegal jail for nine years which nearly equals the life imprisonment without even charge sheet not being filed against him!
It must be asked: How can the President keep quiet when he is the supreme commander of the armed forces? Our President right now is Ram Nath Kovind who was himself earlier a Supreme Court lawyer known for his impeccable conduct and it is his bounden duty to now step up and ask the Army for explanation as to why an Army Officer whom they themselves planted in Abhinav Bharat which was a Hindu radical organization to gather information was himself declared a terrorist and why for 9 years he was detained in jail and why even charge sheet was not filed against him and why Army did nothing to save his honour from being assaulted by Mumbai ATS? President is not just the titular head but he being the supreme commander of the armed forces ought to speak out whenever an Army soldier or officer is punished without any valid ground and made to suffer worst form of torture which cannot be ever justified on any pretext whatsoever!
Needless to say, we all know how Mohammad Aamir Khan kept fighting for years and was wrongly kept in jail for 14 years before he was granted bail as he was acquitted in all the terror cases that were wrongly filed against him. Similarly we also saw how in this case an Army Officer named Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit was kept in jail for more than 9 years even though the charge-sheet was not filed against him and he is still a serving Army Officer and this can only be labelled as worst “judicial murder and police murder”!
To put it mildly: Why was evidence not produced in court for nine years if there was any evidence? Under no circumstances can this be ever justified. Had it not been a legal super giant named Harish Salve who is the highest paid lawyer of India and who is also former Solicitor General of India who represented India even in the high profile Kulbhushan Jadhav case in ICJ against Pakistan perhaps Lt Col Purohit would have been rotting in jail even after 14 years just like Mohammad Aamir Khan for which the whole Indian Army must feel terribly ashamed that an honest and upright serving Army Officer was falsely implicated by Mumbai ATS and even former Defence Minister Manohar Parikar had conceded that wrong had been done with Col Purohit and asked Army to hand over documents and copies of court of inquiry to him so that he could come to know what all was there in it. Army must feel terribly ashamed over it that it did not hold the hand of an honest and upright officer like Lt Col Purohit and instead cooperated fully with Mumbai ATS to brutally assault him which cannot be justified under any circumstances! It was only the sheer elegance with which eminent lawyer Harish Salve fought the case of Lt Col Shrikant Purohit that he managed to get bail after being in jail for 9 years!
It must be pointed out that Lt Col Purohit’s another counsel Shrikant Shivade of Bombay High Court rightly said that Section 197(2) of CrPC prevents court from taking cognizance in absence of valid sanction if act is done by a member of armed forces in due or purported discharge of official duty as Purohit “was and is”. He read from a military officer’s document to say, “There is no record to suggest Purohit was not operating as he was expected and trained to, and in the line of duty as every other military intelligence … would do.” “The officer has infiltrated…. Underground outfits through his capabilities and go-getter attitude,” said another document. Why then was no sanction taken in his case?
On January 17, 2009, such a sanction was issued by the Additional Chief Secretary of the Maharashtra Home Department. Shivade, however, has maintained that under the UAPA, the state law and judiciary department, which is the sanctioning authority, has to constitute an appropriate authority and seek its report first. In his case, the sanction was given in January 2009, but the authority was appointed only in October 2010. Shivade has thus maintained that the sanction in Col Purohit’s case thus, was not valid under the UAPA!
It cannot be just glossed over that Shivade then also said that IPS officer the late Himanshu Roy who had an impeccable reputation of being an honest IPS officer in Nasik had written that Purohit “shared vital and sensitive of information with police which proved of help”. He added that NIA in its chargesheet had “doubts” on “recovery of RDX” and said “recovery itself becomes suspect as ATS (Mumbai) may have planted RDX traces to implicate him and other accused”. Also, Col Purohit’s counsels Shrikant Shivade and Neela Gokhale have argued in all past hearings that by meeting other accused persons and participating in conspiracy meetings, Purohit had merely been collecting information and passing it on to the Army. Why then the Army maintained a deafening silence for 9 years makes one wonder how committed Army is towards its brave soldiers and officers who risk their own lives to ensure that India remains safe from terrorists but in this case we see that an Army officer of the stature of Col Purohit is then himself branded as a terrorist? This is most shocking, most degrading and will certainly sully the impeccable reputation of Army if it fails to stand by its soldiers and officers who risk their lives and their future for the organization!
Why such a senior army officer of the rank of Major General and having an impeccable reputation whom we keep listening in most of the news channels speaking always about defence and our national interests – GD Bakshi keeps crying foul on the ghoulish manner in which Lt Colonel Purohit was falsely implicated and he was made a fall guy while the real culprits were allowed to run away? Why Col RSN Singh a retired officer of RAW whom again we keep listening in various news channels talking always about our national interests writes in his cover story titled “Col Purohit : A Victim Of Hindu Terror Industry” published in Uday India magazine dated March 22, 2014 that, “Look at the distance the anti-national discourse of Indian politics has travelled. A film actor serving sentence for aiding and abetting terrorism is the beneficiary of parole with vulgar regularity and brazenness and Col Purohit, a patriotic soldier continues to languish in prison. His cardinal sin being his infiltration into the network of Indian Mujahideen and its patron LeT. More than two dozen concerned officers have vouched in Court-of-Inquiry that in pursuit of his duty, by no standards ordinary, he had kept the organization in loop. Purohit, in keeping with the imperatives of country’s security, shared intelligence with sister agencies including the Maharashtra ATS, which invited him on several occasions to deliver lectures. By now it is clearly established by some prime plotters and participants of 26/11 like Ajmal Kasab, David Headley and Abu Jundal, that a painstaking diligence was invested by the planners to portray the attack as handiwork of ‘Hindu terror’ organisations. If Ajmal Kasab had not been caught alive the plot had nearly succeeded. It was a sort of divine intervention that Kasab developed cold-feet and failed to destroy himself as per the instruction of his handlers and jihadi indoctrination. The network of plotters included some politicians and journalists in India. Readers may find out who wrote a book, (to apologise later) about 26/11 being a handiwork of Hindu groups and which politician was the chief guest during the release of the book!” How can we gloss over all this?
Even as we hear more and more skeletons tumbling out of the closet in police department in Mumbai with the latest being encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma whom NIA arrested just recently, one is left totally appalled, aghast and ashamed to note that those Mumbai ATS police officers who had a direct role in framing Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit as a terrorist and in torturing him for a very long time are still having a free run! The 24-page handwritten complaint details the various kinds of torture that Col Purohit was subjected to. The shocking 24-page letter written by him to National Human Rights Commission in December 2013 which one can read from the website www.pgurus.com exposes shocking details of how terribly he was tortured for weeks by a Military Intelligence Officer and Maharashtra Police ATS team in October and November 2018 so that he could own up wrongly as being the mastermind behind terror attacks that happened in those times as in Malegaon! If what all Col Purohit has written is true then one cannot but conclude that there was a big political conspiracy in cahoots with police to portray attack on Malegaon as attack by so called “Hindu Terrorists” and all this happened around virtually the same time when Mumbai 26/11 happened in which initially attempts were made by a section in the media to portray it also as attack by “Hindu Terrorists” but Pakistani terrorists Ajmal Kasab who was caught alive spilled the beans of involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistani handlers which included some from the Pakistani Army also! Col Purohit’s case was weakened by this small yet influential section of the media which tried to portray him as a “Hindu Terrorist” who was seeking to make India a “Hindu country” instead of depicting how he was trying to expose the dangerous link of politicians with terrorists and no wonder that 26/11 attack took place just few days after his arrest! When Mumbai ATS and Mumbai police starts running after Army officers only without any firm evidence and brazenly ignores the ground reality then such dastardly terror attacks like 26/11 which left more than 200 people dead are bound to happen!
As a corollary, what we witnessed was that this serving, senior Army Officer of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel who had won recommendation card from Army Chief also for his leadership skills and had himself taken part in several counter insurgency operations in J&K as an Intelligence Officer was himself labelled a “terrorist” by Mumbai ATS and kept behind bars for more than 9 years with charge-sheet not being filed against him for such a long period! If Mumbai ATS had any shred of evidence against him then why did it take more than 9 years to just file a charge sheet. This itself proves that there is more to it than meets the eye!
Truth be told, in his complaint Lt Col Purohit says that he was brutally tortured by Maharashtra ATS officers late Hemant Karkare, Param Bir Singh (the current Thane Police Commissioner) and who was recently embroiled in a huge controversy and we saw how the Apex Court chided him for not trusting the very organization that he had served for 30 years and advised him that “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones on others” and Military Intelligence Officer Col Rajiv Kumar Srivastav alias RK Srivastav who was then based in Delhi HQ. In his heart-wrenching complaint, Lt Col Purohit also accuses other Maharashtra ATS officers Mohan Kulkarni (then ACP-Mumbai in ATS) and Arun Khanvilkar (then Senior Inspector of ATS) for brutally torturing him for weeks pre and post recording of the arrest on November 5, 2008. Even Times Now news channel had reported this shocking letter soon after it was out in the open.
How a serving Army Intelligence Officer was tortured mercilessly for years and years and for creating a fake political narrative by the then Congress regime is exposing and most revealing in this heart-wrenching letter. A bone-chilling letter written on 23 December 2013 by Lt Col Purohit reveals how the Mumbai ATS was fearlessly torturing a serving Army Officer and how he was stripped, beaten black and blue and threatened to own up a crime that he never committed. One feels most ashamed, most appalled, most aghast and most anguished to see how a serving senior army officer was is still a Lieutenant Colonel in Army was mercilessly tortured for years and years, beaten black and blue to coerce him to confess a terror crime in which he had just absolutely no role to play in flagrant violation of all norms!
Needless to say, we must admit the boundless courage of Col Purohit not to budge to the demands even after this spine-chilling torture by the assault team led by Col RK Srivastava, Hemant Karkare and Param Bir Singh. All rules were thrown to the wind in his case! His case clearly manifests that we are living in “rule of jungle” and not in “rule of law” where everything happens lawlessly with Mumbai ATS not being held accountable to anyone whomsoever and Army keeps watching everything like a mute, helpless and powerless spectator instead of coming out vociferously in his support! All the spineless Army Generals who were then at the helm of affairs at that time must feel terribly guilty and ashamed for not doing anything at that point of time to protect the dignity and well being of a serving Army Officer and for allowing the Mumbai ATS to keep a serving Army Officer in jail for 9 years without even filing a charge-sheet against him which speaks volumes for itself as to how strong the case was against Col Purohit and for ill treating him in the worst possible manner!
The manner in which Lt Col Purohit was arrested itself raises serious question marks and clearly points to the diabolical conspiracy that was hatched to ruin his whole life and his whole career! Purohit disclosed that he was picked up from Army Education Service’s Training School in Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh on October 29, 2008 by Col RK Srivastava with an order from Delhi Intelligence Head Quarters to join with them for a discussion. After issuing a movement order, they took over all his mobile phones and at Bhopal airport, Col Srivastava told him that they are taking him to Mumbai airport. At Bhopal Airport, Srivastava became rude and told him not to call any phones and threatened that they will beat him. At Mumbai airport, Intelligence Bureau officer Sanjeev Garg was waiting with a vehicle to transport Purohit. In the late night when Purohit was transported to a Mumbai interrogation centre and immediately interrogation started and within hours beating started in the presence of Hemant Karkare and Param Bir Singh for days asking him to admit to own up responsibility for the Malegaon blasts.
It cannot be lost on us that it is very clearly pointed out by Col Purohit in para 23 in his 24-page letter to NHRC wherein it is stated very clearly, cogently and convincingly that, “I, the complainant further state that the officers of Maharashtra ATS alongwith Col RRK Srivastav have definitely adopted illegal means and unconstitutional measures for entire investigation and have further framed the case by implicating innocents like me. The Army, subsequently has conducted a Court of Inquiry and during the same it has come to light which now stands on record that the period between 29 October 2008 to 04 November 2008, i.e. the illegal detention period of mine was actually utilized for planting evidences, by the ATS Maharashtra Police. It further, besides other documentary evidences, clearly appear that to what extent the officers of the ATS Maharashtra Police have stooped down to fraudulently compile the entire case in addition to inflicting physical and mental torture. The ATS officers and Col RRK Srivastav have shown no respect for the basic human dignity even for the ladies of my family. Insult, humiliation and physical torture have left permanent scar on my mind and body, a treatment probably we Indians shall never ever dish out to our most constant and sworn enemy.”
While dealing with the genesis of this leading case, it is then pointed out in para 2 that, “I was officially arrested by ATS Maharashtra Police on 05 November 2008 at Colaba Mumbai and prior to 29 October 2008 I was posted at Army Education Corps, (AEC) Training College and Centre, Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh, as student officer undergoing course of instruction in Arabic Language; ALC – 02. I am serving the Indian Army as a Commissioned Officer since 20 August 1994.”
Going ahead, para 3 of the letter then states that, “On the morning of 29 October 2008, while I was attending the lectures at AEC Training College and Centre, Pachmarhi, I was summoned by Lieutenant Colonel G.C. Mohanta, Adjutant of the AEC Centre, at around 0900 hrs, and was told that I was to go to New Delhi alongwith Colonel Rajiv Kumar Srivastav, the then Director Military Intelligence 9; (Hereinafter refered as Col RK Srivastav, Dir MI9). Lt Col GC Mohanta, handed me over with a Movement Order, a mandatory document without which no official movement of a person can be carried out in the Army, which was having destination mentioned in it as having “Integrated Headquarters of Army (MoD), New Delhi, for interaction with Military Intelligence – 20. I along with Col RK Srivastav, Dir MI-9, were to board the flight from Bhopal, when I was about to leave for Bhopal, Col RK Srivastav ordered me not to carry mobile phone with me and I was made to deposit the same with Lt Col GC Mohanta. I was carrying my Mother’s Phone then since my phones were taken by Col RK Srivastav on the intervening night of 24-25 October 2008. My Mother’s Mobile Phone, which I was made to deposit with Lt Col GC Mohanta was subsequently handed over to my wife on 30 October 2008. The air tickets for travel to New Delhi were never given to me.”
Furthermore, it is then stated in para 4 of this letter that, “The checking-in at Bhopal Air Port was done by Col RK Srivastav. After the Checking-in at Bhopal AirPort, I was told by Col RK Srivastav that we were going to Mumbai and not to New Delhi. Since I was stripped of my mobile phone earlier based on the illegal orders of Col RK Srivastav, I had no mobile phone with me to inform my wife or my mother who were at Pachmarhi about the change of my destination. When I expressed to inform my wife, I was not allowed to use the public phone both by Col RK Srivastav. He threatened to use physical force and of beating me if I tried using public phone booth. It has amounted to illegal detention carried out by Col RK Srivastav. Since I was handed over with a Movement Order for New Delhi, I did not know as to where exactly I was being taken to Mumbai and to which location. Neither did I have any official document to that effect. This act of Col RK Srivastav has amounted to kidnapping. Incidentally no movement order giving change in destination was ever served to me or given to me.”
If what Col Purohit is alleging in his letter is true then it is most atrocious and there should have been an impartial enquiry into this whole dirty saga which has enmeshed the clean reputation of the Army to no end! One feels aghast and most terribly shocked to read in para 9 of Col Purohit’s letter that, “After the initial spell of questions and answers, it was Col RK Srivastav, Dir. M19, who suddenly pounced on me from his Chair and initiated a brutal physical assault with vulgest possible abuses about my mother, wife and sister. Col RK Srivastav started slapping me without any respite and also started kicking me all over my body. As if everything was pre-rehearsed and planned the officers of Inspector level, of ATS Maharashtra police besides some constables and head constables got into action and virtually pinned me down to my chair thereby exposing my face to receive blows on my face. Colonel RK Srivastav was kicking me with his shoes on. Till now, the above named officers, especially Mr Parambir Singh who was out of this assault, along with others (officers) got into action and joined Col RK Srivastav in the physical assault. By now my shirt was removed and trousers lowered, Col Srivastav stood firm on my feet so as to make me immobile and frozen to ensure no chance is given to me to take cover from the slapping and kicking which was now taken over by Mr Parambir Singh. Col RK Srivastav and Parambir Singh then started twisting my nipples and pulling hair from my chest. My private parts (my penis) was twisted, my testicles were twisted. Hair from my private parts were pulled, I was made to face hell and nothing else but hell. The session of hitting, kicking, twisting of private parts, pulling of hair continued hereinafter for next almost five to six days. At this very moment I got in to an absolute shock and was totally shattered by this brutal attack. I was broken down to core.”
While continuing in the same vein, it is then stated in para 10 of this letter that, “The ordeal continued right till almost up to end of 03 November 2008. Colonel RK Srivastav and Mr Parambir Singh were the main individuals to inflict worst possible physical torture to me along these days with slapping, twisting of private parts, pulling hair, abusing me on my mother, sister, wife and mocking me and my condition. Late Mr Hemant Karkare, who very much was present, almost through was a part of this torture by using dirtiest possible abuses and swore words, suggesting all news ways of physical torture which his officers to include Parambir Singh and two inspectors were prompt to bring in to practise upon me. My shouts, cries, requests, every single word and sighs fall on deaf ears. Col RK Srivastav, then, on 02 November 2008 came up with an order to the ATS officials, the two inspectors in particular to handcuff me so as to avoid efforts to tie me up to the chair. From 02 November 2008 I was kept under handcuffed condition right till 04 November 2008 till around 1600 hrs.”
As if this was not enough, it is then more chillingly disclosed in para 11 that, “Through out this period of torture, Col RK Srivastav, Mr Parambir Singh and Hemant Karkare were insisting me to own up the crime i.e. the Bomb Blast at Malegaon. All these three, upon my flat refusal for owning up some thing which I not even was remotely concerned, they started threatening me and Col RK Srivastav in particular threatened me that he would strip my mother, wife and sister and make them parade naked in front of me if I did not own up my involvement in crime.”
Not stopping here, the letter further damningly reveals in para 12 that, “Mr. Parambir Singh, Hemant Karkare and Col Srivastav then started discussing in front of me, with a sole aim to terrorise me and pressurize me, that they would plant explosives at my residence either at my ancestral house or at my Army Quarters. All this while i.e. from 29 October 2008 right till my official arrest on 05 November 2008, I was not even once allowed to contact my wife, my mother, my minor son or my sister other than for visits to toilet. I was kept in hand cuffed condition tied to Chair and was beaten, slapped, abused and humiliated at will and by any and everyone present in that unknown location. I was in the state of illegal detention, kidnapped, exposed to most brutal torture both physical and mental and I was left totally broken down and traumatized.”
Moving on, the letter then reveals in para 13 that, “I was officially arrested by ATS Maharashtra Police on 0010 hrs 05 November 2008. My wife was informed about my official arrest at around 1000 hours on 05 November 2008 by one Inspector Kadam of ATS in front of me over the phone. Little was known to me about the forthcoming second phase of torture which commenced on 06 November 2008 at ATS police station at ‘Kala Chawki’ Mumbai. Now it was Mr Mohan Kulkarni, ACD of ATS who was the investigating officer of the case then. Under Mr. Mohan Kulkarni was one officer Arun Khanvilkar, Sr Inspector ATS.”
Simply put, the letter then further reveals in para 14 that, “I was taken to a room adjacent to the lock-up room, having no windows, totally sound proof and having an A/c machine. At the very entrance itself on the left hand side of the entry point close to the left wall was one ‘U’ angle firmly embedded upside down in ground and fixed with cement, similar ‘U’ angle was likewise fixed approximately 8 to 10 feet away in the straight line of the first one. I was stripped down to my underwear with A/c at its lowest possible temperature setting. I was first beaten badly using hands by Arun Khanwilkar. I was slapped, boxed and humiliated using abuses. Arun Khanwilkar then ordered all his subordinates to beat me saying aloud and I quote, “See how you feel beating a Colonel of Indian Army”. By then I was cursing myself for being alive.”
Let me say this upright: If what Col Purohit is saying is absolutely right, then Indian Army has disgraced itself by taking no action against Mumbai ATS who had the guts, gall and gumption to so brutally assault a serving Army officer and make a chilling mockery of our Army. Even the President of India should have spoken up on this. Even the Chief Justice of India should have ordered inquiry by a former Supreme Court Judge in this whole spectacle which has degraded the reputation of Indian Army to the worst possible extent and no wonder that Indian Army is now facing shortage of officers as those who want to join Army are on the decline which is definitely not a good sign for the Army!
We had only heard the then Defence Minister late Manohar Parrikar who conceded that Army had faltered and ordered them to show the records of the court of inquiry to Col Purohit which Army didn’t show to him for reasons best known to them! He didn’t want to publicly air his views but he conceded that Army should have taken a more proactive stand on it!
As we see, it is then revealed in para 15 that, “Next, I was made to sit on ground between the two ‘U’ angles, long ropes were tied on my either ankles, the other end of ropes were then made to pass through the upside down embedded ‘U’ angles and an inhuman pull was given to my legs to stretch it almost up to 180 degree forcefully with a man standing behind me kicking my back and forcing me not to lean backward so as to intensify the pain in groins and thighs. I fainted at one point of time, only to be brought back in senses using cold water in the lowered temperature using A/C.”
Adding more to it, the letter then points out in para 16 that, “Once back in senses I was beaten on my feet and palms using a wide belt. I was still in the stretched position. While all this was going on, I was trying to tell Khanvilkar and Mohan Kulkarni who was in presence of others, merely enjoying the torture being inflicted upon me, that I had been operated upon thrice on my right knee and a ligament reconstruction surgery has been carried out having an artificial implant of two screws. Naturally all my shouts and cries were to fall on deaf ears and they did. I do not remember till how long this type of torture continued but certainly it was for three to four days. On fourth or fifth day when during one of the ‘stretching sessions’ my knee give up and was swollen did they realise something was wrong! The same day evening Khanvilkar and Mohan Kulkarni got an iron pipe erected/fixed in the opposite corner of the entrance of the same interrogation room at the height of around 8 to 10 feet above the ground.”
What’s more, it is then stated in para 17 that, “Once the iron pipe was fixed, I was tied to the pipe in fly egal position all naked with thick ropes around my wrists attached/tied to pole and my ankles tied together. A thick log was held behind me at my waist level. A man pulling rope tied to my ankle used to release it on orders of Parambir Singh, Mohan Kulkarni or Arun Khanvilkar only to make me hit the log with speed and impact upon my lower back. This too was for at least on two to three days.”
As if all this was not enough, it is then further stated in para 18 that, “All this while there is just no count as on how many abuses, abusive remarks towards my wife, mother and sister were hurled by Parambir Singh and Arun Khanvilkar. Mohan Kulkarni never abused me but kept on talking and insulting my wife, mother and sister by talking foul of their characters. My objection whether in words or by my expressions was always replied by brutal beating and slapping.”
While further narrating his unending and harrowing saga, the latter then mentions in para 19 that, “During my police custody period, I was taken for my narco analysis test at Bangalore and on returning back, I was told that my father in law along with my lawyer after taking Court’s permission were there to meet me. At that particular moment I was being interrogated by Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana Police teams jointly. Andhra and Haryana police in particular was forcing me to own up involvement in Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast and Samjhauta Express blast at Haryana. Suddenly Khanvilkar entered the room, slapped me straight and threatened me that my father and law and lawyer are there to meet me and if I complain of any torture to them I would be killed, eliminated in a fake encounter by him. Similar threats were flowing from Andhra Police and Haryana Police just before Khanvilkar had entered the room.”
Most damningly, it is then revealed in para 20 that, “When I was taken to wear my lawyer and my father-in-law were seated, I saw Col RK Srivastava present their besides Arun Khanvilkar. I was allowed to talk to my father in law and lawyer for 5 minutes. Upon their departure, Col Srivastav started abusing and threatening me and I quote, “Purohit, I promise you that soon your mother wife and sister will also be put behind bars and henceforth your sons would grow in orphanage.” When I asked him not to involve my family and sons in his talk I was once again brutally beaten by Khanvilkar.”
Equally damningly, it is then stated in para 21 that, “All throughout I was told, threatened and forced to own-up the crime and every denial of mine made me face beating, abusing insult and torture. Most common threat was of encounter elimination, planting of explosives at my either of the residences and of stripping my mother sister and wife in front of me.”
What adds substance to the serious allegations made by Lieutenant Colonel Purohit is then specified in para 22 stating that, “On 24th November 2008 when I was produced in the Hon’ble MCOCA Court at Mumbai Sessions, I gathered my courage to inform the court of my physical condition upon which I was referred to military hospital INHS Aswini at Colaba Mumbai. Various tests carried out at INHS Aswini confirm the torture and trauma. I was not able to move my right ring finger and small finger. I did not have any sensation in my left wrist up to thumb. Both elbows were in severe pain and even till date my right knee is in partially swollen condition. The medical papers are elaborate about the torture. Same were duly submitted to the court.”
Above all, it is then very rightly demanded in para 25 that, “With reference to above I state that it is very much necessary and expedient to enquire into violation of human rights as stated herein, in the entire process of investigation; period during which I was virtually kidnapped and kept under illegal detention by Col RK Srivastav in connivance with ATS Maharashtra officers and how the illegal detention period was utilised by them to fabricate the entire case besides trampling the human rights by inflicting bodily harm and mental torture and also by most inhumanly and barbarically abusing the ladies of my family, just to derive hollow satisfaction of discharging of duties at the cost of truth. The officers of ATS Maharashtra Police with Col RK Srivastava of Indian Army have in fact behaved as an organised criminal syndicate while conducting claimed investigation in Malegaon blast case i.e. CR 18/2008.”
In conclusion, if what Col Purohit has alleged in his letter to NHRC is true then certainly no amount of compensation whether it is 50 crore or 500 crore or 5000 crore or 5 lakh crore can ever compensate for the endless torture both physical and mental which he faced! He was himself planted by Army to enquire into the activities of Abhinav Bharat but Army has failed to hold his hand at a time when he needed most due to which he stayed most wrongly in jail for 9 years and for this Army too is clearly culpable on this count even though it gave a clean chit to Lt Col Purohit as the then Army Chief and his successors did not speak out against what happened so unjustly withy Col Purohit! This is the worst part. The best part is: He still has unflinching faith in Army and let me candidly admit that had I been in his case I could not have been so generous and would have resigned from Army! But his integrity and love for Army is boundless and he still swears by Army!
Needless to say, it is a fit case for President’s intervention and one fervently hopes that President steps in and ensures that justice is not just done but also seen to be done in Lt Col Purohit’s case! It is also a case which can be termed as “judicial murder” because detaining any person even a common person and here it is a senior, brave and decorated officer of the rank of Lt Colonel who by now would have been Brigadier without even charge sheet being filed against him for 9 years is matchless and this is something which one has not heard happening even in British Raj or in Pakistan! How can judiciary especially our higher courts be a mute spectator to all this? This alone explains why CJI NV Ramana raised very serious and pertinent question marks on sedition law itself! But just abolishing a misused law is not solution. Those police officers who dare to frame an innocent and torture him mercilessly must be hanged or at least sent behind bars for life or at least for 20 years so that they realize what it means to take the personal liberty guaranteed to all Indians under Article 21 for granted!
Not for one year, not for two year, not for three years, not for four years, not for five years, not for six years, not for seven years, not for eight years but for full nine years even charge sheet not filed in such a high profile case involving a brave and decorated senior Army Officer known for his gallant actions in J&K and Supreme Court as also High Courts as also all other courts keep watching all this like a silent, mute and helpless spectator! This is really disgusting! Why Mehboob who is a Muslim and senior police officer in ATS testifies that as a cover party he saw that attempts were being made clearly to implicate Lt Col Purohit in false case by planting RDX and he has made many explosive claims and he says that he would depose the truth before the Court and because of speaking the truth he was not just suspended but also deprived of his pay and other allowances for decades and yet he braved everything and is determined to ensure that justice is done and Lt Col Purohit gets back his honour and his reputation back? Even God must salute Mehboob for bluntly speaking the truth which many Muslims too would not like to hear but he has fearlessly spoken nothing but the truth! I salute him!