Crime Files | Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist

Crime Files | Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist
According to NIA, Suresh Nair was the conspirator and the man who sourced the explosives used for the bomb attack.

In the 1970s Damodaran Nair and his wife Kamala boarded a train from Kozhikode to Gujarat in the hope that they will find a job in Ahmedabad, the then Manchester of the East. That time the city in Britain was not known for Manchester United football club but for its textile mills. Ahmedabad was then a textile hub and umpteen number of Malayalis were heading for this Gujarat city hunting for jobs.

Over four decades later, Onmanorama tracks down the life of this couple in Gujarat, how their only son became the most wanted terrorist in the country and landed in Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad's net on November 25, 2018.

Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist
The explosion at Ajmer Dargah on October 11, 2007 killed three people who gathered in an open courtyard near the Sufi shrine to end their Ramadan fast.

Damodaran Nair and wife, a home-maker, had similar dreams like thousands of others leaving Kerala then – find a job, start a family and buy a house. But Damodaran Nair, who was born at Kanayankode, a rural belt of Koyilandy in Kerala's Kozhikode district, had no clue about Gujarati society's communal fabric when he boarded the train to Ahmedabad. He soon landed a job with the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation and settled down at Kheda, around 38km from Ahmedabad. The couple was blessed with a son in 1977 and a daughter later. In his worst nightmares also, Damodaran Nair never thought that his son, Suresh Nair, now known as Uday Guruji, would one day become India's most wanted terrorist. Damodaran Nair died in 2014 without seeing his son, who was on the run dodging National Investigation Agency (NIA) sleuths after his active involvement in the Ajmer Dargah bomb blast on October 11, 2007.

The explosion killed three people who gathered in an open courtyard near the Sufi shrine to end their Ramadan fast. The bomb, planted in a tiffin box, also damaged a portion of the historical structure.

Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist
A view of an illuminated dargah of Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer. Photo: PTI

The NIA soon took over the probe and came to the conclusion that the attack was planned and executed by Hindu extremist groups to avenge attacks on Hindu temples. The agency identified five suspects, including Suresh Nair, in the case and two of them were nabbed and convicted within a year. However, Suresh Nair had been dodging arrest for all these years.

According to NIA, he was the conspirator and the man who sourced the explosives used for the bomb attack.

Suresh’s mother is from Elayattery, Kozhikode and his sister Suma is married to a person from Manjappaalam, near Balussery, in Kozhikode district. Suresh and Suma had completed studies in Kheda only.

Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist
Police produce 2007 Ajmer Bomb Blast case accused Swami Aseemanand in a court in Jaipur in March 2017.

According to Damodaran Master, a distant relative of Suresh, the family occasionally visited their relatives in Kerala till Damodaran Nair died in 2014. “Damodaran Nair and I are childhood friends. We are from Kanayankode panchayat. We studied in the same school. Moreover, my son has married a distant relative of his wife Kamala, whose sister lives in their Elayattery house now,” Damodaran Master revealed.

Master recalls Suresh Nair as a teenager who used to accompany his parents on their visits to Kerala. Suresh visited Kerala at least once a year until he turned 14. “The last time Suresh visited Kerala was for his sister's marriage. That happened several years ago. By the time he had finished his post-graduation and joined a private tuition centre in Gujarat's Anand district as a teacher. A few of our relatives claimed that he was present at my son’s wedding in 2005 but I don’t remember meeting him,” he said.

According to his relatives, Suresh joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at the age of 15. He soon became the ‘Karyavahak’ of Kheda RSS branch. He also worked as a teacher at Saraswathy Vidya Mandir, Anand.

Terror links

According to ATS sources, Suresh had close links with undercover right wing extremist groups, who had executed at least four explosions in the country. According to the recorded statements of Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel, two of Suresh's accomplices who were later arrested in the Ajmer blast case, the Malayali terrorist received explosives from RSS leader Sunil Joshi and took it to Ajmer.

Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist
Ajmer Dargah blast convicts Davendra Gupta and Bhavesh (L) being taken away after they were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Jaipur in March 2017.

He was also in-charge of the execution plan. Sunil Joshi was later shot dead under mysterious circumstances at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh. However, eight of the accused, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh, were later acquitted by the court in that murder.

The NIA had announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh for those who give information about Suresh. Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel, both RSS workers, were later sentenced to life imprisonment in the Ajmer Dargah case.

Other suspects, including RSS leader Indresh Kumar, Pragya Singh, Rajendra Chaudhury and Swami Aseemanad, were acquitted for want of evidence.

Suresh alias Uday Guruji

Relatives and neighbours had no information about Suresh Nair since 2007. In 2010, an NIA team visited Balussery village in Kerala to interrogate Suresh’s sister and other relatives. Balussery police station authorities recalled that incident had shocked the village.

“We did not have any clue about the surprise interrogation they carried out. It was when a team of officials turned up here we learned about the Kerala ties to the Dargah blast,” a cop in Balussery police station told Onmanorama.

Koyilandy to Kheda, making of Ajmer Dargah terrorist
Chandrashekhar (R) and Devendra Gupta, accused in the Ajmer dargah blast case, being produced in a court at Ajmer in January 2011.

After the death of his father, Suresh Nair took his mother to Baroda. They never visited Kerala after that. Though Kamala’s sister and daughter Suma have been in touch with her, they never had a clue about Suresh and his whereabouts.

According to ATS officials, Suresh Nair, who is also a suspect in three other terrorist attacks, led the life of a ‘Sadhu’ in Baroda under the name ‘Uday Guruji’. He spent his days teaching Yoga and Hindu spirituality.

The ATS chief investigation officer who tracked down Suresh Nair told Onmanorama that it took years of hard work to nab him. “I took over the case in 2015. My team comprises three junior police officers and two senior officers including me. We had traced Suresh Nair’s history and all his acquaintances in Gujarat. We also picked some of them as our informers,” the officer said.

The squad prepared the sketches of Suresh Nair’s present appearance with the help of his old photographs and relatives' descriptions. Last week the squad got information that Suresh Nair would visit Bharuch district in Gujarat on November 25 to perform a religious ritual on the banks of Narmada river at Shukaltirth.

The team of five ATS officers identified Suresh Nair with the help of the sketch. Though Nair refused his identity in the beginning, he confessed later.

“He had changed his appearance altogether. He had grown a beard and long hair. He had reached Bharuch two days ago. Our operation was purely based on human intelligence,” the ATS officer added.

Nair confessed to the crime during the interrogation at the ATS headquarters in Ahmadabad. Two more people involved in the blast are still at large.

NIA had also filed a chargesheet against Swami Aseemanand in the case but he was let off by the court.

Aseemanand had stated that the attack was intended to avenge the attacks on Hindu shrines by Jihadi groups.