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Gurukul for Explosives ?

by Subhash Gatade, 9 December 2010

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I

Mewat is a region named after its Meo inhabitants. Meos, descendants of Rajputs, Meenas and Gujjars who converted to Islam, supposedly still retain many syncretic traditions once fascinated students of social sciences. As history tells us they trace their conversion to Sufi saints who started settling in their area from 11 th century onwards.

Today it is still not uncommon to find many Muslims claiming themselves to be Rajputs or meeting Rajasthani Meos still retaining mixed Hindu-Muslim names.Interestingly while Islam permits marriage with cousins, Meos do not marry within one’s gotra. It is also learnt that solemnisation of marriage among Meos is not complete without both Nikah (as in Islam) and circling around fire (as among Hindus). It is a different matter that with explosion of religosity witnessed since last two decades attempts are on from sectarian elements of various hues to compel them to shed away their composite culture and carve out a particularistic identity.

As an aside it need be mentioned that in the decades preceding independence a strong peasant movement had developed in the area which was led by leftist forces. Partition served to rupture the movement on communal lines and unleash a reign of terror on the Meo muslim population. The then princely states of Alwar and Bharatpur played a key role in this campaign. Thousands of Meos were slaughtered in this bloody carnage. Like in other killings of innocents during those turbulent times this massacre has also been largely forgotten.

One does not know whether it is part of historical baggage - where the region remained a hotspot of bloodletting and criminal activities, with the impoverished or parched region known as badland from the times of the Sultans - or result of the skewed priorities of development enunciated by the rulers of the newly independent nation, the region is still dogged by the absence of proper education, lack of employement opportunities and a detrimental topography. One can see for oneself the world of difference which separates this region and say Millenium city Gurgaon which is hardly 38 kms from the area.

The said region reached national headlines sometime back altogether for different reasons. A Gurukul in village Bhadas run by Maharshi Dayanand Ashram witnessed a bomb blast on September 23 (2010) just on the eve of the Ayodhya verdict. Incidentally there were no deaths. Apart from stray reports the matter was largely forgotten, the media supposedly had more pressing issues before it.

II

Swami Anand Mitranand. Does the name sound familiar ? Or for that matter Swami Amranand. Anybody recognises him ? While the name sounds like someone associated with the spiritual world, or one of those who wears a saffron robe and is ready to give sermons to the gullible, normally nobody would suspect that the names would be part of the network of saffron robed sadhus who have no qualms in storing explosives which could be used at ‘opportune’ time.

With the arrest of Swami Anand Mitranand, and the police searching for his other colleague, both working with a Gurukul run by Maharshi Dayanand Ashram, at village Bhadas, district Mewat, Haryana, it seems an important dimension of the way Hindutva fanatics operate has come to the fore.

Chandigarh, Dec 2 : The Mewat police have arrested Swami Anand Mitranand in connection with the Gurukul Ashram blast in Nuh of Mewat on September 23. While two rooms of the Gurukul were damaged due to the blast, no one was injured.

The swami, who is a teacher in the Gurukul, was questioned by the police and he accepted that a bomb lying in the ashram had exploded "by mistake." He told the police that the bomb was given to him by a former Gurukul teacher, Swami Amranand, for protection after the Babri mosque demolition in 1993....
- (Express, 3 rd Dec 2010, ‘Swami held in Mewat Gurukul blast case’)

It is worth noting that it took more than two months for the police to nab the culprit who had supposedly ‘kept the detonator hidden in a water tank for years’ which was given to him by Swami Amranand. In a statement given to the police Mitranand admitted that ‘[o]n September 23, he took it out to dry it in front of a heater when it burst suddenly, partially damaging the Gurukul building’. In fact, like in many earlier blasts involving Hindutva terrorists, this blast thus also happened to be a selfexposure. If one were to believe the statement of the main accused for a moment or not, it is evident that the storage of explosives in the Gurukul where sixty students studied came to light only because of the handlers themselves.
To recapitulate the incident, the boys studying in the Gurukul have had their dinner and had retired to their dormitory when there was a big explosion just beside the room of the students near the kitchen which devastated two rooms and a verandah (23 Sep 2010). Police immediately reached the spot and after preliminary investigations lodged a FIR based on inputs given by one of the acharyas present there. It was just a sheer coincidence that none of the boys studying there faced any injury. Looking at the fact that the verdict in the Ayodhya dispute was to come on 24 th September itself (which was later postponed with the intervention of the Supreme Court) the police seemed to be extra careful. In fact, the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) team also visited the place in the thick of the night and collected necessary evidence from the spot. And since the chief administrator of the ashram named Swami Anand Mitranand had immediaetely gone missing, a team of police officials was deputed to search and nab him.

And as the investigation proceeded and the forensic report was out the investigating agencies were in for a great shock. They discoverd that PETN, which is more powerful than traditional explosives like RDX, TNT was used during the explosion.

The forensic report in the Mewat Gurukul explosion case has left the police baffled and worried. PETN (Penta erythrytol tetra nitrate), a very hazardous/perilous explosive had been used in the explosion. The explosive is said to be many times powerful than the traditional explosives like RDX, TNT and only infamous terrorist organisations are said to use it. It is the same explosive which was used in the conspiracy to blow up an American cargo plane.

The investigating agencies feel that only two milligrams of this explosive was used in the blast which led to damage to two rooms. If its quantity would have been more then it would have led to more devastation....The report makes it very clear that lot of explosives were stored in the Gurukul. Definitely the challenge and difficulties before the police have grown manyfold. As far as the central intelligence agencies are concerned it has time and again said that Mewat is metamorphosing into a haven of terror groups....Investigations are on to find out how the said explosive PETN reached the Gurukul.
- (Forensic report ne udaye jaanch agenciyon ke hosh, 16 Nov 2010, Jagran, Rashtriya Sanskaran)

Now with the main accused in the case behind bars can we expect that we will be able to reach the kernel of truth. Looking at the way the whole thing unfolded itself and with the dominance of majoritarian elements in the society it is difficult to make any categorical statement.

Of course, one need to bear in mind few points before proceeding with the investigation. One thing is very clear that the ’explanation’ given by the accused in this particular case about the recovery of bombs seems very facile and appears to be a poor attempt to hide some crucial facts from the police. The accused Anand Mitranand is reported to have told the police that the bomb was given to him by Amranand way back in 1993 ’for protection after the Babri mosque demolition as Hindus living in the region had felt threatened in the Muslim majority area, which had seen a lot of communal violence’.

As it always happens in such cases the police tries to individualise the offence, targetting the particular individual ( which definitely needs to be done) but for various reasons does not look into the larger organisational conspiracy/ institutioanlised efforts playing themselves out behind the scenes. In cases of majoritarian terror, it seems to be the rule than exception.

It would also be revealing to see the content of the course which is being taught in the Gurukul and also look at the social-cultural composition of the students attending the Gurukul. This factor may not be very relevant in the particular case but it is important to look at the pattern which seems to be emerging at the all India level. The controversial M.P. from Gorakhpur Yogi Adityanath, who is a Mahant of the famour Goraknath temple and remembered more as a leader of hardline Hindutva, runs a few Gurukuls in Eastern Uttar Pradesh where students from economically and socially weaker sections are admitted and are being fed very bigoted idea of history.
It remains to be seen whether the local or regional leaders of Arya Samaj which had built the Maharshi Dayanand Ashram were in know of the activities of Anand Mitranand who also use to keep rifle in his office. Whether the saffron robed Mitranand had any criminal/terrorist background much on the lines of the infamous Aseemanand from Dangs, Gujarat who was recently nabbed by the police. And it is rather a difficult job before the investigating agencies to find out whether Mitranand and his predecessor Amranand who were storing bombs and explosives in the Gurukul were doing it on their own or they received organised/institutional support from some quarters.