Nitin Gokhale & Shamik Ghosh.
After a court of inquiry conducted in Mumbai, the Army has to decide whether there are enough grounds to dismiss Lt Col Prasad Purohit, who is in Taloja Jail, near Navi Mumbai. For the Army, the case is full of grey areas. Lt Col Purohit has been charged by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terror Squad of belonging to extreme right-wing extremist group Abhinav Bharat, which allegedly planted a bomb in the state’s Malegaon town in September 2008, killing six people.
Lt Col Purohit has always claimed that he had kept his bosses in the loop on every intelligence operation that he undertook including infiltrating into the fledgling Abhinav Bharat.
Lt Col Purohit says he infiltrated the group because that was his job as a Military Intelligence officer.
The Army says that’s not correct. But there are documents that show that Lt Col Purohit had earlier shared close ties with the Students Islamic Movement of India or SIMI, banned in 2001 as a terrorist organisation. An Annual Confidential Report (ACR)in NDTV’s possession has a senior officer praising Lt Col Purohit. “The officer has infiltrated the SIMI and other underground outfits in the region through his capabilities and go-getter attitude.
Dependable, Lt Col Purohit is a good team player.” A year later, a similar report said, “…with the basic knowledge of Arabic language and Islamic culture, he provided valuable int (intelligence) on Tabliq-e-Jamat and MFO (Muslim Fundamentalist Organisations) which was well appreciated by the environment….”
The Army has, however, refused to respond to NDTV’s queries on these reports, raising this question: Does the Army go beyond its mandate in keeping under-cover tabs on organisations even in non-combat areas?
Lt. Gen RK Sawhney (retd), a former DG of Military Intelligence puts it in perspective: “Basically only in insurgency areas, Army goes ahead and does this job. There are not very clear cut rules .. there are grey areas when deployed in peace areas but if a piece of intelligence is available there are ways to share it and coordinate with other agencies.”
The Army will have to explain that while Lt Col Purohit’s infiltration of organisations like SIMI was officially recognised, how did his activities in fraternising with right-wing groups go unnoticed?