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The Hidden Arm – Criminals for Hindutva?

November 15, 2010

I.

Anyone ever heard about Sudhakar Rao Maratha alias Sudhakar Rao Prabhune ? A hardcore rightwing criminal who was nabbed by the M.P. police few months back in Jhansi which seized a car, a revolver and five cartridges from him. In fact one of Sudhakar’s colleague Shivam Dhakad was already under the custody of Ujjain police when Sudhakar was apprehended. According to the senior police officers Sudhakar Rao was in touch with RSS Pracharak -Terrorist Sunil Joshi, who was shot dead in Dewas in 2007 under mysterious circumstances.

Hardcore right-wing criminal Sudhakar Prabhune alias Sudhakar Rao Maratha, who could throw light on the mysterious murder of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi, has been arrested in Madhya Pradesh. The 26-year-old was wanted in connection with a string of murders of Muslims in Ratlam and Mandsaur. The state police claimed he was arrested on Tuesday from Bilkhiria when he was on way to Bhopal from Sagar. …

Rao took to crime when he was 19. His name cropped in the murder of Jafar Khan, who was shot dead in Chittorgarh. ’ (Right-wing criminal’ held, to be questioned in Joshi murder case, Indian Express, Posted: Thu Sep 30 2010, 02:50 hrs Bhopal)

It was interesting to note that neither the police nor the media expressed its excitement over the arrest of this criminal who was absconding for quite sometime and had cases registered against him not only in M.P. but Rajasthan as well. Unlike even petty criminals on whose arrest police calls press conference, a strange silence pervaded the police headquarters. And the media also rather followed suit. The same media which cried hoarse about ‘dreaded terrorist being caught’ when even a ex-member of SIMI with no crimes registered against him was caught, did not even deem it necessary to report the incident. Barring exceptions mainstream media rather preferred to black out the news, despite the sensational nature of his arrest. Reports tell us that he was nabbed by the UP ATS and then it handed over him to their M.P. counterparts. A fact underlined by a weekly ‘Lok Lehar’(18 th Oct-24 th Oct 2010) went rather unnoticed that a RSS leader was accompanying him in the car at the time of his arrest. When Sudhakar surrendered himself this other gentleman had talked to some senior police official in Bhopal and this helped him rescue himself when Sudhakar was formally arrested by the ATS.

It was not for nothing that the first formal statement made by Sudhakar after being apprehended by the ATS related to his being in contact with RSS/BJP leaders during the period when he was absconding. According to him these leaders helped him in very many ways during this period. Sudhakar did mention the name of some Tapan Bhaumik  who acts as a liasion between RSS and BJP. Interestingly Bhaumik also seemed to indirectly accepting his meeting with Sudhakar by underlining that he regularly gets phone calls from many people and Sudhakar had also called once. (Lok Lehar, do)

It definitely needs a high level investigation to find out Sudhakar’s network of contacts in the Parivar establishment and the reasons behind media’s strange silence over this episode. Whether there was pressure from a section of the powers that be or whether it was part of some self-restrainment on part of the media (which is quite unusual in all such cases) towards this shadowy Hindutva-inspired sharpshooter known for target killings and ‘eliminating’ Muslims, local-level particular leaders and those who were into inter-religious marriages, one needs to know..

Few details of the five murders Sudhakar committed are worth noticeable.

- Zafar Khan from Chittorgarh had married Sudhakar’s sister Jyoti and he was killed to ‘avenge’ this humiliation.

- Hanif Shah : Sudhakar murdered this singer as Hanif had married a hindu girl Hema Bhatnagar

- Gabru Pathan from Mandsaur was murdered by him as his nephew had killed a hindu trader from Mandsaur named Nitesh Doshi

- Ramjani Sherani from Ratlam was killed as part of fulfillment of fanatic Hindutva agenda

- R. R. Khan was allegedly involved in illegal trade of arms and that is why Sudhakar ‘punished’ him

A fact which does need mention that Sudhakar also hailed from Malwa region which is considered a hotbed of Hindutva fanatics and many of the Hindutva inspired terrorist acts in different parts of the country had their genesis in this region only. Ranging from the failed attempts to bomb Ijtima gatherings in 2002 and 2003 near Bhopal, the bomb blasts in Modasa, Malegaon, Samjhauta Express, Meccas Masjid or Ajmer Sharief were either planned here or activists of fanatic Hindutva formations played an important role in their execution. Interestingly Malwa is also considered a stronghold of Muslim extremists as well. Few years ago the entire leadership of SIMI was arrested from a place from an area near Indore.

It is now history how Sudhakar entered the world of crime. Sudhakar took to crime when his own sister married a Muslim youth. He had no qualms in killing his own brother in law and widow his sister. Later he committed a series of murders including that of Congress leader RR Khan as well. (October 2004) . After his arrest Sudhakar and Dhakad have confessed to this crime and have also given a graphic description of the incident to the police. One does not know how their confession would affect fate of four Muslims who have already faced conviction for ‘committing’ this crime. The list of convictees include Gulfam from Nagda also, who while admitting to other crimes had claimed that he was framed for Khan’s murder.

It is clear that with a dispensation in power in the state which has never tried to tackle the menace of majoritarian terror which has risen among its midst and which has tried to play havoc in different parts of the country, it is next to impossible to reach the root of this particular case. We will never be able to unearth this hardcore criminals alleged network of contacts among different Hindutva organisations. Of course, the key thing to note in this whole episode is the yet unexplored terrain of the world of crime and Hindutva’s growing bonhomie with it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Sudhakar Maratha represents another mode through which Hindutva expresses and unfolds itself.

And thus while demanding a thorough enquiry in this case and the alleged collusion between criminals, the police and the Parivar people, it would be helpful if we are able to map similar examples from different areas and sections. It would not be an exaggeration to say that to cater to its twenty four hour cacaophony around character building and keep its base among the middle classes intact which loves to formally detest crime, Hindutva brigade finds it fit to ‘outsource’ many ‘dirty’ works to those people engaged in this ‘profession’ only and in return provide these actual perpetrators security and support using levers of power.

One could say that the arrest of Prasad Attavar, a senior functionary of the right wing Sri Rama Sene in March 2010, for his connections with the underworld, was in fact another indication of this phenomenon.

II.

Pramod Muthalik, (47 years) had his initial exposure to politics in RSS when he started attending Shakhas at the age of 17. He rose to important positions within its hierarchy, and also became a office bearer of Bajrang Dal, an affiliated organisation. He left the organisation few years back over some differences and after shuttling between different organisations, had started his own organisastion Sri Ram Sene, although had maintained good rapport with the Parivar men. And when Karnataka witnessed attacks on Churches, members of Sri Ram Sene were also found to in the forefront at different places.

Attavar had earlier gained notoriety for the assault on women in Amnesia – a bar in Mangalore – under the specious claim that they wanted to defend Indian culture. Everybody knows how this ‘moral policing’ by the Sri Ram Sene goons had reached national headlines and it had also resulted in a counter campaign which involved lot of people from what is known as ‘civil society’. Police felt that Attavar’s arrest could throw light on several crimes in and around Mangalore. (Sene man held for links with underworld don, March 3, 2010, Indian Express)

On Monday, the Mangalore police arrested Prasad Attavar, the Mangalore district convener of the Sene, for being financial conduit and operations man for the underworld operative and extortionist Ravi Poojary. They stumbled upon evidence of telephonic links between them during investigations into underworld activities in Mangalore, senior police officials said. Police have described Attavar as a close associate of the foreign based Poojary.

As far as Ravi Poojary was concerned police records showed that he happens to be a very active extortionist having base in Mangalore and Bangalore. Of late he had also been trying to stake a claim to being self-styled Hindu don. Earlier he was involved in a long-standing turf battle with Bannanje Raja, who is also based abroad like Ravi. over claims on real estate, construction and hotel business etc. He was behind the killing of Naushad Kasim, a well known advocate from Mangalore and an activist of one of those human rights groups.

The sting operation ‘Rent a Riot’ done by Tehelka and Headlines Today had caused lot of stir in May 2010. In this particular operation the fake artist (Tehelka reporter) was seen talking to Ram Sene’s Pramod Mutalik to stage a riot for a art exhibition as he wanted to become famous. This operation also brought into sharp focus the trust Pramod Muthalik shared with Prasad Attavar. The tapes made it evident that Muthalik was not keen to get into the nitty-gritty of discussing money matters with the ‘artist’ as he was careful about his public image. In order to fix the price the price for vandalising the art exhibition, the ‘artist’ was asked to contact Sene’s other trusted lieutenants and the chief among them was Prasad Attavar.

While Prasad was a free man when the first meeting took place, he was arrested soon after but that did not become a hindrance in their meetings inside the jail also. As the report in Mail Today (‘Rent a Riot, 14 th May 2010) tells us

Attavar had enough clout to arrange meetings within the jail compound by bribing officials. Two meetings were held at Mangalore jail and another at the Bellary jail. Despite being in custody Attavar conducted a freewheeling discussion on how Sri Ram Sene could be hired to stage a riot.

One remembers how there were demands from a broad cross seciton of polity to arrest Pramod Muthalik when the sting operation ‘Rent a Riot’ became public. It is different matter that after initially expressing surprise over this exposure the Karnataka government did not do much to bring to book the culprits.

Of course, Pramod Attavar is not the first criminal element associated with the Sri Ram Sene. Nagaraj Jambagi, a 25 year old criminal originally hailing from north Karnataka district of Bagalkot was the main accused in the May 10, 2008 bomb blast in a Hubli court, which was triggered ahead of the hearing of a case against SIMI activists. One knows it very well that this bomb blast was earlier blamed on ‘Jihadi terrorist’ only. (for details see ‘How Karnataka Handles its Terrorists’ ). Jambagi was later killed supposedly by his own colleagues in a prison brawl. Unconfirmed reports suggest that since he had threatened to expose the wrongdoings of the Hindutva higherups, he was eliminated in an operation which looked like a ‘brawl’.

III.

Kandhamal, a tribal dominated district in Orissa witnessed riots in 2008, in which 38 people were killed                   and more than 25,000 tribal Christians were displaced.We know these riots had erupted after the killing of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati of VHP allegedly by Maoists. It has been quite some time that Hindutva organisations have been campaigning on the issue of conversions in the state.

A BJP MLA from G. Udaygiri named Manoj Pradhan belonging to Kandha tribe was convicted in two cases of murder during the Kandhamal riots.If the first conviction was for the murder of Parikhita Digal, a Christian from Budedi village who was killed by the mob on August 27, 2008  ; the second conviction was for the murder of Bikram Nayak (August 26, 2008) Police records show that these are two of the 12 cases relating to the Kandhamal riots in which Manoj Pradhan had been charged.

The investigation into the riots showed that Manoj Pradhan had emerged as one of the firebrand leaders of the mob; police dossiers described him even as “the field commander” who led the rampaging mobs. Interestingly  despite having little political experience BJP had no qualms in fielding this riot accused as a candidate for the G Udaygiri constituency. He won the election by defeating his nearest rival from the Congress party by a margin of 20,000 votes.

The legitimacy acquired by a ‘field commander’ during a riots, reminds one of another hardcore rightwing criminal who had been active in the same state and is at present behind bars for burning to death father Graham Steins and his two kids namely Philip (aged 9) and Timothy (aged 7).(January 22, 1999) His name was Dara Singh. The Staines were sleeping in their station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district (about 400 km from Bhubaneswar), India when the militants attacked and set the vehicle on fire, prevented even the children from escaping and murdered all three.

Past records of Dara Singh tells us that he was earlier involved in the cow protection movement of the Bajrang Dal and had earlier targeted Muslim cattle traders. He has also been charged in the killing of Muslim trader Shaikh Rehman at Padibeda village in Karanjia sub-division of Mayurbhanj district and in the murder of Christian priest Arul Doss in Jamboni village in the same district. The CBI court sentenced Dara Singh to death, later the Orissa high court commuted the death sentence.

The Wadhwa commission which was constituted to look into the case had denied his formal linkage with any of the Hindutva organisation. It is a different matter that a confidential report submitted by S.K. Mohanty,  circle inspector of the area, around two week before the killing about Dara Singh’s activities gives enough details of his association with them and also provides a list of cases against him which had been filed in different courts.(Outlook, July 5, 2009).

Whatever might be the case, one can find enough proof about the activities taken up by different Hindutva organisations to provide support to him or euologise his criminal act. Apart from forming different committees supposedly to defend this ‘saviour of Hinduism’ [e.g. Dara Singh Parijan Suraksha Samiti, (Council for Aiding the Family of Dara Singh), Dharmarakhyak Sri Dara Singh Bachao Samiti (Committee to defend Dara Singh, the Protector of our Religion), Dharmarakshak Dara Singh Sahayta Samiti, Dara Sena (Dara's Army], several small booklets have also been printed by them to eulogize Dara and criticise the Christian missionaries. Interestingly, Chattisgarh BJP leader Dilipsing Judeo had at that time even stated that he will defend the murderer of Pastor Stains, Dara Singh. After being reprimanded by the top BJP leader he kept quiet on this issue and his brother took up the brief for Dara Singh’s defense.

IV.

Sudhakarrao Maratha, Prasad Attavar, Nagraj Jambagi, Ravi Poojary, Manoj Pradhan and Dara Singh, the list goes on. Every state, every city, every town and every village will be having similar people amongst their midst who would be mainly engaged in the world of crime but would also be serving Hindutva agenda.These would be people who on their own would always deny membership of any of these organisations but would be working to further its sectarian agenda in very  many ways.. And there would always be organisations of the Hindutva right which would deny any formal association with these ‘bad elements.

Of course, one notices an added complexity here. With a very thin line existing between the constitutional and extra-constitutional which gets further compounded by the activities of n number of anushangik (affiliated) organisations, there always exists a possibility that someone occupying constitutional chair lording over the carnage of a minority. It is this situation itself where the home minister of a state can easily double up as the chief of an extortion racket as the investigations into a fake encounter case demonstrates before all of us.

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