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An Appeal for Conducting Public Enquiry into the Affairs of Bhonsala Military College

by Sukla Sen, 30 October 2008

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www.sacw.net, 30 October 2008


To
- The President of India
- New Delhi
- presidentofindia at rb.nic.in

Cc:

The Prime Mister of India
- New Delhi
- pmosb at pmo.nic.in
- manmohansingh at sansad.nic.in

The Home Minister of India
- New Delhi
- svpatil at sansad.nic.in

Smti Sonia Gandhi
- The Chairperson of the UPA
- New Delhi
- soniagandhi at sansad.nic.in

Justice S. Rajendra Babu
- The Chairperson
- National Human Rights Commission
- New Delhi
- chairnhrc at nic.in
- covdnhrc at nic.in

Sub: Appeal for Conducting Public Enquiry into Affairs of Bhonsala Military College (allegedly engaged in terrorist activities) and other Private Military Schools and Colleges

Madam President,

You must be aware that in the recent days one Pragya Singh Thakur from Madhya Pradesh, a "Sadhvi" (Purnachetnagiri), has been arrested by the Maharashtra police, rather its Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), in connection with a murderous bomb blast carried out on the September 29 last in the vicinity of the Noorani Masjid in Malegaon, a small predominantly Muslim town in Maharashtra near Mumbai. This is definitely not the first time that in India Muslims were the obvious targets of terrorist bombings. But this is the first time, when in such a case, the "suspects" are not Muslims.

This Ms. Thakur is known to have links with various affiliates of the RSS and her level of proximity with the seniormost leaders of the BJP is now being widely speculated upon.

Be that as it may, in the process of media coverage on the issue, the name of an academic institution - the Bhonsala Military College in Nashik – is repeatedly cropping up.

At least three retired army officers have till now been detained by the ATS for having been actively involved, mainly in terms of necessary trainings and supply of the explosives – RDX. And at least one of them, retired Army officer Major Prabhakar Kulkarni, is/was actively engaged with the institute.

As the name itself suggests, this is not an ordinary college. The "Aims and Objectives", as per its website, includes: "To encourage students to take up careers in the Armed Forces of the country." (Ref.: <http://www.bhonsala.com/new_ourcoll...> .) In fact to train students for direct recruitments to the armed services or admission into the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA) is evidently the main focus of the college in Nashik and its branch in Godhni near Nagpur.

The possible involvement of three (retired) senior officers from the armed forces in terrorist activities is in itself pretty disturbing – more so given the fact that all the three are reportedly having links with a major political party. This strongly suggests politicisation of Indian armed forces, particularly its higher ranks. This is no doubt a grave danger signal for Indian democracy, which till now has been able to eschew the predicaments faced by its two largest next-door neighbours.

But still more disturbing is the possibility of the involvement of an institution preparing students years after years for entry into the armed forces, either directly or via the NDA, in terrorist activities propelled by an ideology – the ideology of establishing a "Hindu Rashtra" in India by dismantling the secular democratic Indian nation state. That the institute in the past reportedly hosted programmes for the Bajrang Dal tends to make the things look even more sinister. It would be pertinent to note here that the institute is run by the Central Hindu Military Education Society founded by (late) Dr.B.S.Moonje, a co-founder of the RSS, once President of the Hindu Mahasabha, an ardent fan of the Italian Fascists and a staunch proponent of "militarisation of India".

In view of the serious implications of what have been described above and consequent grave threats to Indian democracy and basic human rights of the Indian people, you are earnestly requested to direct the government of India promptly institute a thorough public enquiry into the affairs and conduct of the said institute and also all other private military schools and colleges in the country.

Hope you will readily appreciate the urgency and kindly oblige.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely

Sukla Sen
- EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity)
- Mumbai

Encl: Two

I/II.

The Times of India, 30 October 2008

Retd Major trained Sadhvi in bomb-making: Prosecutor

30 Oct 2008, 0323 hrs IST, Mateen Hafeez, TNN

NASHIK: Retd Major Ramesh Upadhyay, whose arrest in connection with the Malegaon blasts exposed links between Hindu terror activists and ex-servicemen, had conducted at least three meetings with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and her accomplices before the Malegaon attack that killed six people, a prosecutor told a Nashik court on Wednesday. All the meetings were conducted at Bhonsala military school in Nashik.

Upadhaya, who once headed the BJP’s Mumbai unit of the ex-servicemen’s cell, and Bhopal printing press employee Sameer Kulkarni were produced before the court of P G Patil, who remanded them to police custody till November 10.

"Upadhyay, who was posted in the artillery department while working with the Indian military, is suspected to have guided the arrested accused on how to assemble a bomb and procure RDX," said public prosecutor Ajay Misar. He also sought permission to subject the suspects to polygraph, lie-detector and narco-analysis tests "to find out the missing links to the larger conspiracy".

The court granted permission for forensic tests. Upadhyay, who retired in 1998, had trained the sadhvi and her two associates in bomb-making. "We have evidence the accused conducted at least three meetings at Bhonsala military school in Nashik before the blast. The telephonic conversation also show links among all the accused," said Misar. The Bhonsala academy, located on College Road in Nashik, imparts basic military training to aspiring soldiers. Courses include horseback riding, swimming, weapon firing.

It has several CBSE board schools on its premises. Upadhyay, a resident of Pune, was picked up by Mumbai’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Saturday. The ATS has so far arrested five people in connection with a bomb blast in the textile town on September 29.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and her two associates, Shamlal Sahu and Shivnarayan Singh, were arrested on October 23. All have been arrested for murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy for a terror act, unlawful assembly, making bomb and various sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Explosives Act.

The bike used in the bomb blast was registered in Sadhvi’s name. Thakur, who was an active member of Akhil Bharatya Vidyarthi Parishad a decade ago, was also the national executive secretary of Durga Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s women’s wing.

Upadhyay admitted in the court he had met the Sadhvi once and had shared a dias with her thrice. Upadhya, who started a post-retirement transport business, also told the court that there were injuries on his body, however, he didn’t attribute it to any kind of police "torture".

"I have served the country and can never commit such a heinous crime. I am a heart patient and a daily medical check up is a must for me. I am ready for a narco test and will cooperate with the investigators but the only thing I want is that the police should behave with me humanely," Upadhyay told the court. He rejected the offer of a lawyer, saying that he would defend himself in the court.

Sameer Kulkarni, head of Abhinav Bharat, a "social outfit", kept mum through Wednesday’s proceedings. Kulkarni, also known as Chanakya among friends, had shifted from Maharashtra to Bhopal a few years ago. Ironically, he is the same person who had conducted an anti-terrorism exhibition at Gandhi Bhavan in Bhopal a few months ago. He is accused of transporting the explosives and participating in the meetings.

II.

Mid Day, 29 October 2008

We didn’t train Malegaon accused: Military School

By: Agencies Date: 2008-10-29

Don’t know her: The Bhonsala School’s Nagpur branch director admitted yesterday that one ex-serviceman under probe for his association with main Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur (in veil) was associated with the school

The Bhonsala Military School has categorically denied imparting terrorist training to the September 29 Malegaon bomb blast accused or anyone else in the past.

"We heard the names of the Malegaon bomb accused, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, for the first time when reports about their arrest appeared in the print and electronic media in the past few days," the school’s Nagpur branch director Satish Salpekar said yesterday.

The Bhonsala Military School in Nashik and its branch in Godhni near Nagpur prepares students for entrance exams to the National Defence Academy (NDA).

Salpekar, however, admitted that the school had allowed the Bajrang Dal to use its premises and apparatus for its "personality development camp" in 2001, free of cost.

Links to suspects

He also confirmed media reports that retired Army officer Major Prabhakar Kulkarni, presently under the scanner of the Maharashtra police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for imparting training in the use of RDX to the Malegaon bomb accused, was associated with the school in Nashik, first as its commandant and then as secretary of the educational institute that ran it till a few years ago.

Salpekar clarified that the two other ex-servicemen reportedly under ATS probe, Major Ramesh Upadhyay and Major Y D Sahasrabuddhe, were never associated with the Bhonsala Military School.