Rakesh Dhawade (third from left) an accused in the Nanded blast and the Malegaon blast being taken to a sessions court, on 23 July 2010. Despite former RSS member Yashwant Shinde filing a sworn affidavit claiming that he was trained in bomb-making alongside Dhawade, the CBI refused to accept Shinde as a witness in the Nanded case. GANESH SHIRSEKAR/EXPRESS PHOTO

In a hearing on 22 September, the Central Bureau of Investigation asked the district court at Nanded in Maharashtra to reject an application by Yashwant Shinde to appear as a witness in a case relating to the April 2006 Nanded blast. Shinde has been a pracharak—full-time worker—of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since 1990. On 29 August, he had filed a sworn affidavit to the Nanded court claiming that he participated in several meetings in which members of the RSS and its affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad—including Milind Parande, who is currently the secretary general of the VHP—planned a series of bomb blasts across the country. He also claimed to have undergone training in bomb making, under the guidance of Parande, along with around twenty others in 2003. In 2006, a powerful blast had taken place at the residence of Laxman Gundayya Rajkondawar, killing his son and his son’s friend, and injuring four others. The blast was later linked to a larger conspiracy that included explosions at masjids in Jalna, Purna and Parbhani in 2003 and 2004. Shinde claims that these blasts were conducted by the same group he trained with. Following Shinde’s submission, the court had sought responses from the CBI and the accused in the case.

All the claims Shinde made in his affidavit complimented the court submissions following the CBI’s own investigation, as well as an investigation previously conducted by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad into the same case. And yet, the CBI—alongside the accused in the case, who were on the same page as the investigating agency in the hearing—opposed taking Shinde on as a witness, claiming that his application was “neither maintainable in law” nor “on facts.” The CBI’s argument rests primarily on the fact that Shinde had not approached investigative agencies for the last 16 years after the blast. The CBI additionally claimed that Shinde was not an affected party in the ongoing trial.

The CBI’s claims in court were paradoxical. On one hand, the agency argued in its most recent court filing they had not been able to determine the identity and whereabouts of the person who imparted “the training” and made “available the finances” for the blast. As a result, the CBI had filed a closure report in the case on 31 December 2020. Before Shinde’s affidavit it was not publicly known that the case had been closed. The CBI reiterated its position that “the case may be reopened and investigation may be taken up as and when any new, fresh, useful and definite clue is received about the identity of any person including Prof Dev involved in the commission of the crime in the instant case.”