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Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit

Affiliation: Abhinav Bharat
Categories: Most Dangerous
Location: India, Maharashtra

Former army officer Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit is a Hindu nationalist and a terrorist. He was commissioned into Maratha Light Infantry in 1994. Between 2002-2005, he served in the counter-terrorism operations unit in Jammu and Kashmir before being shifted to Military Intelligence.

On September 29, 2008, two bombs fitted on a motorcycle exploded, killing seven Muslims and injuring over 100 in Maharashtra’s Malegaon, around 270 km from Mumbai. Initial investigations brought a Hindutva group, Abhinav Bharat, under the scanner and led to several arrests, including Purohit’s. Purohit and BJP leader Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur were among the key accused in the bombing case.

Purohit floated Abhinav Bharat, collecting huge funds to procure arms and explosives, and organized meetings where the Malegaon attack was planned.

The origins of the Abhinav Bharat are shrouded in mystery. It is named after and said to be inspired by the secret society of students that Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar started in 1905 while studying at Fergusson College in Pune. He believed in revolutionary violence, in turn drawing its name and inspiration from the Young Italy movement of the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini.

But when Savarkar got a scholarship for higher education in England in early 1906, he left India. The Abhinav Bharat remained inactive for decades, and in 1952, five years after Independence, the Hindu Mahasabha leader disbanded it.

The Indian National Investigation Agency in court had maintained that there was evidence in the form of audio and video recordings, call data records, and the statements of the witnesses, which proved Purohit’s involvement in the case.

“Purohit was the one who prepared a separate ‘Constitution’ for ‘Hindu Rashtra’ with a separate saffron color flag. He also discussed taking revenge for the (alleged) atrocities committed by the Muslims on Hindus,” NIA said in its report.

Purohit is currently out on bail. A collapse in cases involving Hindutva militant groups has coincided with the Bharatiya Janata party’s rise to power in 2014 when the pace of these investigations slackened, and many witnesses turned hostile.

In 2015, NIA’s former special public prosecutor, Rohini Salian, disclosed that she had been asked to “go soft” on the 2008 Malegaon investigations after the BJP-led government came to power.