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COVER STORY    

THE BLASTS CONSPIRACY: REVENGE FOR BABRI
Terror’s Harvest: Firemen shift casualties from Dalal Street after the blast on March 12, 1993
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, riots broke out in Bombay and other parts of India. In two rounds of communal violence in Bombay — over five days in 1992 (December 6 to 10) and 15 days in 1993 (January 6 to 20) — 575 Muslims and 275 Hindus died, according to the Srikrishna judicial commission of inquiry constituted by the government of Maharashtra. Dawood Ibrahim, in conjunction with the isi, made a plan to carry out simultaneous blasts in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Calcutta and Delhi, says the report submitted by the Mumbai Police to the Union home ministry in 1993. Anticipating a fresh round of Hindu-Muslim riots in the aftermath of the blasts, Dawood wanted Muslims to be armed with assault rifles and hand grenades used otherwise by terrorists. Dawood, his brother Anees and three other smugglers — Tiger Memon, Mustafa Dosa and Mohammad Dosa — were the main conspirators. Dawood sent hundreds of young men from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to Pakistan for training in the use of arms and explosives. Till date, the police do not know the exact number of those who attended the isi-organised training camps. Dawood and Co then smuggled arms and explosives into the country and distributed them to Muslims in different places in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Hundreds of foot soldiers in Bombay and other places were commissioned and assigned specific tasks — handling the landing of arms and explosives, their subsequent transportation to different places in Maharashtra and Gujarat, the distribution to specific members of the gang, the assembling of bombs and the final act of planting them at strategic locations.

“Dawood Ibrahim exhorted us to rise in rebellion against Hindus... He said that Muslims were being butchered and women being dishonoured by Hindus in connivance with the police… He asked us to get ready to take revenge and told us that for this purpose he would send us to train in handling arms and explosives in Pakistan... to teach the Hindus a lesson by killing them and also by killing Indian leaders and senior police officers,” said Salim Mira Shaikh, alias Kutta, a gang member, in his confession before the police, narrating a meeting he and over a dozen other Muslim youths from Bombay had with Dawood in Dubai in February 1993.

Getting the stick: Police break up a protest by relatives of other blast accused
AP Photo
 
Had Salem’s trial not been delinked, Sanjay’s AK-56 would’ve been traced to the Bombay blasts consignment
THE ARMS CONSIGNMENTS LAND IN RAIGAD
Dawood smuggled hundreds of assault rifles, hand grenades, pistols, and hundreds of tonnes of rdx into India through January and February 1993. The first landing was on January 9, 1993, at Dighi jetty in Mahsla in Maharashtra’s Raigad district. Two more landings happened in Maharashtra — on the intervening night of February 2 and 3, and on February 9 at the Shekhadi coast in Mahsla. The consignment that finally reached the Dutt residence landed in Dighi.

The Dighi consignment contained AK-56 rifles, hand grenades, magazines and ammunition. While Mohammad Dosa and his brother Mustafa coordinated the landing at Dighi, Tiger Memon handled the two landings at Shekhadi. Salim Shaikh participated in the landing at Dighi. After the Gujarat Police arrested him in 1995, Shaikh gave the police a graphic description of the landing at Dighi.

Around 300 silver ingots, 20 military-colour canvas bags, 30 wooden boxes (each about three feet long, two feet wide and one foot deep) were unloaded from a launch at Dighi on the night of January 9, Shaikh said in his confession. Each canvas bag had four tin boxes, which had ammunition for assault rifles. Each wooden box had four AK-56 rifles and 12 empty magazines. A couple of boxes had hand grenades while their pins were in separate boxes. The goods were loaded in a truck and a tempo, and the vehicles proceeded toward a forested area. A police party intercepted the vehicles and allowed them to go only after mortgaging seven silver ingots against a promise of being paid Rs 8 lakh in cash. The vehicles then went into a jungle where two trucks with hidden cavities were already waiting. Silver was put in one truck while arms and ammunition were loaded into the other, whose registration number was mrl 1051. “Abdul Qayyum Sajjani, Amir Jadia alias Mota and Babu Madrasi took the truck mrl 1051 and left for Gujarat,” Shaikh told the police. A few remaining boxes of arms and explosives and silver ingots were put into a tempo and taken to the nearby Agarwaad village, where they were kept in the house of a gang member called Shabbir Qadri. The Mumbai Police later recovered the weapons from Qadri.

It was only after Salem’s extradition in 2005 that the CBI examined three witnesses who were involved in transporting that truck to Gujarat, storing the arms in Bharuch and subsequently distributing them to Salem and others. All this evidence has been made part of the Abu Salem chargesheet. Sajjani — a member of the Dawood gang, identified as Code No. 11 in the CBI chargesheet — says, “In January 1993, Mohammad Dosa told me to go to Raigad as some goods were supposed to land. I reached Bhiwandi with a few other of Dosa’s men. There we were given a truck which we took to the Goa road and from there to a jungle in Mahsla. While I waited in the jungle, the others left for the landing of the goods at Dighi jetty. Around midnight, Shabbir Qadri and others came with a few vehicles; silver, arms and explosives were unloaded from them. Boxes of arms and ammunition were hidden in my truck and I was told to leave for Nasik. On reaching Nasik, I called Mustafa Dosa at his Dubai number. He told me to proceed towards the Gujarat road. On reaching a hotel called Narmada in Bharuch, I called up Dosa again. He told me to wait for his man, Hazi Rafiq Kapadia of Bharuch. After some time, Kapadia came and we went to his village, Sansrod. There we packed 56 AK-56 rifles, over 200 hand grenades and boxes of cartridges and magazines into around 30 gunny bags, and then stored all the bags in Kapadia’s godown. I sent the truck back to Bombay and the next day I took the Gujarat express train back to Bombay.”

Kapadia, arrested by the Gujarat Police in 1995 and identified by the CBI as Code No. 4, says in his statement, “A day after I stored the arms in my godown, Mustafa Dosa called me from Dubai at around 11 or 12 in the morning and told me to go to Super guesthouse in Ankleshwar and meet some people. He gave me the number of a 100-rupee note. On reaching the guesthouse, a few people came to me and gave me a 100-rupee note with the same number. I took the keys of a Swaraj Mazda they had brought with them and took it to my village. There I loaded 46 AK-56 rifles, over 100 grenades, some boxes of cartridges and magazines into the vehicle. I handed over the vehicle to Dosa’s men who then left for Ahmedabad. A few days later, Dosa called me again and gave me a local telephone number in Bharuch. I called up that number and told the person who spoke to me to meet me at Hotel Nyayamandir on nh-8 at around 3 o’clock. Four men, all in the age group of 25-30, came in a white Maruti van with a Gujarat number. From there, we went to Hotel Safari. A fair man, whom the others addressed as Salem Bhai, asked two men to get off. Then the man named Salem Bhai, an accomplice of his whose name I do not know and I went to Sansrod village. We placed nine AK-56 rifles, over 100 grenades and some boxes of cartridges and magazines in hidden cavities in the flooring and four sides of the van.

We then went back to Hotel Safari and there Salem picked up his two other men and they left for Bombay. One AK-56, a few hand grenades and cartridges were still left with me and I dumped them in a street in Anklov after the serial blasts. I telephoned Gujarat Samachar about these abandoned weapons. The police came and seized them.”

Salem’s associate who accompanied him and Kapadia to Sansrod was Aziz Bilakhia, another Anees Ibrahim henchman in Bombay. Bilakhia, an accused in the serial blasts case, is still absconding. The CBI has also recorded the statement of a witness it has identified as Code No. 7, who was the owner of the godown in Bharuch where the arms and explosives were stored. Code No. 7 had let out his godown to Kapadia.

Sajjani, Kapadia and Code No. 7 were never made witnesses in the Bombay blasts case. The part of the story relating to the transportation of arms from Dighi to Bharuch, from where they were sent to Ahmedabad and Bombay, is missing from the case papers and the chargesheet of the Bombay blasts case. Judge Kode has given Sanjay the benefit of the same missing link in the chain. MN Singh questions the delinking of the trials on the excuse that it would have delayed the judgement. “I would have pushed for a joint trial,” he says, “because I think the case had already been delayed for far too long.” His argument is not without merit for the court would only have had to examine and cross-examine a total of 15 witnesses, which would have taken just another two to three months.

Salem’s testimony was crucial because he was the one who had been instructed by Anees to deliver the arms to Sanjay Dutt. The others — Samir Hingora and Baba Mussa Chauhan — who accompanied Salem to Sanjay’s house on the morning of January 16, 1993 — corroborate this fact. In his confession before the TADA court, Hingora, in fact, says, “On 15th of January 1993, two persons by the name of Baba Chauhan and Salem met me in my office and gave me the message that they had been directed by Anees Bhai to see me regarding handing some weapons to Sanjay Dutt. After about five minutes, Anees Bhai telephoned me from Dubai and told me that Baba Chauhan and Salem were his men.” When they reached Sanjay’s house, Hingora says he found him talking to Anees on the telephone and asking him when he was sending the weapons (samaan). Apart from shedding light on Sanjay’s proximity to Anees, Salem’s statement also proves that Sanjay was aware of the fact that arms and ammunition were being smuggled into the country. According to Hingora, Sanjay also asked Salem if the arms had arrived. The weapons were hidden in the cavities of the same van Salem brought from Bharuch.

JANUARY 16: THE WEAPONS ARE DELIVERED TO SANJAY
Of the nine AK-56s that were taken out of the cavities, Sanjay kept three aks, around 20 of the 100-odd hand grenades and some ammunition. Mussa Chauhan also took three AK-56s, 16 magazines, 25 hand grenades and 750 cartridges. The remaining three AK-56 rifles, hand grenades and ammunition were put back into the cavities of the car which Salem drove away in. Salem left the car with Bilakhia the same day.

On the evening of January 18, Hanif Kadawala, Abu Salem and his friend Manzoor Ahmed went to Sanjay’s house where he returned two AK-56s, hand grenades and ammunition to Salem. The arms and ammunition were returned in a black bag and a small carton. Kadawala left separately in his car, while Salem and Manzoor took the bag and the carton away in Manzoor’s blue Maruti 1000. They then drove to Zaibunissa Kazi’s house in Bandra and left the arms there.

The crucial point of this entire sequence centres around the undeniable fact that Sanjay had also kept hand grenades. The fact — corroborated by Hingora, Chauhan, Salem and Kadawala but omitted by Sanjay in his own confession — has not been accounted for in court. On the day of the verbal order on November 28 last year, the judge said that he accepted Sanjay’s admission that he had kept the AK-56 for self-protection because he was getting threatening calls during the Bombay riots. But the mere possession of a prohibited weapon in a notified area like Bombay is an offence under Section 5 of TADA. Besides, stocking hand grenades and an assault rifle for self-protection defies logic. Says MN Singh, “Really speaking, that explanation doesn’t convince me. It doesn’t cut any ice. One doesn’t go running for help to gangsters for self-protection. There are governmental agencies to fall back on.” Singh has a point, for Sanjay already had three licenced weapons before he called Anees for the AK-56s. Besides, it is not difficult for the son of an eminent mp to seek help from governmental agencies.

Lawyers are already questioning the “benign judicial eye” cast on Sanjay Dutt — and they are not the only ones. The families of the co-accused have also protested outside the TADA court, asking that their relatives be treated the same way as Sanjay. Acutely conscious of the disparity is Maneshinde himself — he says he will have no answer to give to the Supreme Court if he is asked why Sanjay received such different treatment from the others.

Answers are difficult because on the Black Friday of March 12, 1993, India suffered what was then its worst terrorist attack. Within a few hours, 257 people were reduced to a heap of mangled limbs and charred torsos. Meanwhile, justice is still awaited.

Mar 24 , 2007
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MN Singh, who led the blasts probe as JCP (Crime), spoke to Harinder Baweja and Ashish Khetan on Sanjay Dutt’s role

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