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28 November, 2008

Abhinav Bharat trained cadres to lie, says report

"Injure yourself if you have to"; "complain of torture"; "make personal, embarrassing allegations against the police in court."

These are some instructions members of the radical Hindu group Abhinav Bharat – under investigation for its involvement in the Malegaon blast – were given at a training camp conducted by Lt Col Prasad Purohit at Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh, earlier this year.

The September 29 blast in a crowded marketplace in Maharashtra's powerloom town claimed six lives.

Investigators found details of these training sessions in Purohit's laptop, which was recovered after his arrest on November 5. The Hindustan Times had access to the armyman's detailed lecture notes. Officials said at least 30 senior Abhinav Bharat members attended these sessions, referred to in the laptop as personality development workshops.

The allegations made by Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and the other co-accused at the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Monday are very similar to the instructions in Purohit's sessions.

"With his military intelligence background and knowledge of interrogation procedures, this strategy to derail investigation in the event of being arrested was designed by Purohit," said a police officer involved in the probe.

Maharashtra Director General of Police A.N. Roy said these are delay tactics. "It is becoming common to level allegations against investigators, to slow down the probe and to make investigators wary," he said.

The court on Monday denied the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) custody of seven of the 11 accused, a major setback and embarrassment for the police. The sadhvi was the first to file an affidavit that the ATS had tortured her.

"It's a procedure straight out of the Al Qaeda manual. Once a precedent is set, everybody follows suit," said advocate Raja Thackeray, who specialises in criminal matters.

The allegations are similar to those made by the July 11/7 train blasts accused and Indian Mujahideen members, arrested for their links with the blasts in Ahmedabad and Delhi.

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