On August 23, hours after walking out of the Taloja central jail in Raigad district, Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit had reported to a Southern Command Liaison Unit in Mumbai as per protocol.
As the six-car convoy flanked by armed military personnel escorted Lt Col Purohit from Tiloja prison to Colaba Military station he kept saluting and shouting Jai Hind.
As soon as the cavalcade stopped inside the heavily guarded Colaba Military station, Lt Col Purohit received a warm salute from the guards. He saluted back. This was a departure from the assault and torture the military intelligence officer allegedly underwent at the hands of the Maharashtra Police anti-terror squad during his illegal detention in Khandala.
“I am very proud to belong to the army. This is the only institution that has withstood the ripples of time. I want my younger son to join the army,” he is learnt to have told the assembled officers and men. Purohit insists he has full faith in the army.
Lt.Colonel Purohit said: “I want to wear my uniform. It is outermost layer of my skin. I am wedded to it. I am very happy to get back into the service of the best organisation in the country if not the world, the Indian Army.” “I have two families — the Army and my family which includes my wife, my two sons, sister and mother. I cannot wait to return to them.”
Lt. Colonel Purohit, for the first time spoke about the torture he was subjected to while he was in jail for nine long years.
He recalls with a shudder the treatment meted out to him by the Maharashtra Anti-terror Squad. It was worse than, according to him, the way “even the terrorists were treated”.
“First, they beat me for 5-7 days. Then, they left me alone for two days so that the swelling subsided,” Purohit said, adding that he was “thrashed again for 8-9 days”.
He alleged that the ATS was enjoying “beating up” an army officer. “They wanted to have fun at my expense. God help any army officer who gets picked up by police.”
Recounting his ordeal, Purohit said that they hung him upside down, continued beating him, “despite realising that my leg was broken”.
However, initially, it was not established if Colonel Purohit was indeed tortured. “The JJ hospital report said there was nothing wrong with me,” Purohit said, “when I got a court order and got more tests done, it was proved that I was tortured.”
Lt. Colonel Purohit was accused of stealing 60 kg of RDX from the army. He was also accused of funding and training Abhinav Bharat, an extreme right-wing organisation, believed to be behind the 2008 Malegaon blast which killed six persons in Malegaon, a Muslim-dominated powerloom town in Nashik district on September 29, 2008.
Hailing from a Maharashtrian Brahmin middle class family, Purohit was born to a bank officer in Pune. After completing his education from Pune, he was commissioned into Maratha Light Infantry in 1994 after he cleared out of the Officer’s Training Academy at Chennai.
He served in the counter-terrorism operations unit in Jammu and Kashmir between 2002-2005, and was later shifted to Military Intelligence due to health reasons,
His last posting was in Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh. He is currently attached to the Pune-headquartered Southern Command.
In an exclusive interview with India Today, former Deputy Director General of Military Intelligence (DDG MI) has revealed that the then UPA government had asked the army to expedite its probe in the Malegaon blast case in which army officer Lt Col Shrikant Purohit was an accused.
As DDG MI Brigadier Raj Kumar (Retired) was the nodal officer of the army in the Malegaon blast case. The army enquiry also didn’t find any evidence that Lt Col Purohit had supplied RDX for the blast while he couldn’t explain possession of an illegal weapon at his residence.
He said that initally it appeared to be a big case, but none of the charges could be substantiated, except for Lt Col Purohit’s association with two of the accused Swami Aseemanand and Sadhvi Pragya.
Brig Raj Kumar said, “Even Mumbai Police also over reacted, they charged him under MCOCA, he should not have been charged under this and we objected to it.”
Purohit’s wife Aparna and son have also joined him after nine long years at the Colaba military station. “I am very excited. It was a very emotional moment for us. He is spending his time with our son. He has missed out on nine years of his growing up,” says Aparna Purohit.
On the nine years of wait for his release, Aparna said, “We had complete faith in the judiciary and, hence, we went to the Supreme Court. Today, the court has granted him bail.” Aparna said that she has got immense support from her relatives and friends. “We as a family fought as a unit. We never lost our hope. Most importantly, we have got huge support from friends as well which was phenomenal,” she said.
On what lies ahead, Aparna said, “During all this period, my children too have suffered. I would like to see him (Prasad) spending his time with them at home.”
“My husband is a true soldier. Being an Army officer, he has remained strong although he was in the jail,” she said.
The family has a sprawling bungalow off Law College Road in Pune where Purohit’s mother, sister, wife and younger son stay currently. On Monday morning, his mother and sister went to a temple after hearing the court’s decision.
Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit, ATS, Abhinav Bharat, Deputy Director General of Military Intelligence,