LUCKNOW: Dayanand Pandey alias swami Amritanand is a master of disguise, a smooth operator and has even worked in the Air Force for five years, according to investigators. He is an NDA drop-out, a double-MA and is highly tech-savvy, said officials involved in the investigation.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested Pandey in Lucknow on Thursday, a day after he was picked up from Kanpur in connection with the September 29 Malegaon blast. He reportedly told investigators that he was an active member of `Abhinav Bharat’, the suspected radical Hindu outfit behind the Malegaon blast.
According to ATS officials, Pandey has also admitted to his links with Lt Col Prasad Purohit already under arrest and to his involvement in the blast conspiracy. He reached Mumbai by an evening flight on Thursday after a special judge granted the ATS a transit remand till November 16. He will be produced in the court of the Nashik chief judicial magistrate within three days.
A top police official told DNA Pandey was a hard nut to crack during initial investigation as he either refused to answer questions or gave out information selectively. Even so, the little he has revealed has baffled ATS officials.
“He is a double MA and is tech-savvy. He is a smooth operator and can take anyone for a ride,” a senior official told DNA. “His communication skills are excellent and he has the ability to convince or befriend anyone in a matter of minutes,” the official said. Pandey is learnt to have made contacts with top level Army officers in Jammu and had even infiltrated the Army’s intelligence wing. Interestingly, Lt Col Purohit was with Military Intelligence in Jammu in 2005.
Initial interrogation has revealed that Pandey is a master of disguise. He had four separate identities and names at different times and places. In Kanpur, from where he hails, he was known as Dayanand Pandey while he served in the Air Force for about five years as Sudhakar Dwivedi. In Faridabad, he was known as Swami Amritanand Dev Teerth and in Jammu, as Shankaracharya or Peethadheeshwar of the `Sharda Peeth’ situated in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
“Till some months back, he sported a full-grown beard. But now he is clean shaven. He used to change his appearance continuously according to the circumstances,” said a senior official.
He said Pandey’s father had been a sub-inspector in the UP Police and Pandey was selected to the NDA in 1989. He underwent training at the Khadakwasla air force centre for about six months before disappearing mysteriously.
Pandey, officials said, often used to stay at the Chakreshwar Temple in Faridabad. He also used to visit the `Sumeru Peeth’ in Varanasi. A source told DNA that his activities at these places used to be “suspicious”.
Pandey, he said, used a laptop to surf the net and often worked till late night. “A lot of people used to visit him in the night. They were top-notch people, businessmen and even bureaucrats,” the source added.
Sources revealed that after he was picked up on Wednesday, Pandey had claimed to be the `mahant’ of the Sharda Sarvagya Peeth in Jammu. But follow-up investigations revealed that there was no such `math’ or `peeth’ in Jammu, and that Pandey used to function from his CA VK Kapoor’s house in Jammu. “The `peeth’ existed only on paper and was perhaps being used only to get financial back-up for his devious plots,” the official said.
Zeishta shrine board denies links with Pandey: The management of Srinagar-based Zeishta Devi Prabandak Board on Thursday said that Dayanand Pandey had nothing to do with the shrine board. He has not visited the temple for the past three years, said a board official. Zeishta Devi shrine is located in the foothills of Zabarwan mountains over looking the Dal lake in Srinagar.
Deepak Gidwani, Friday, November 14, 2008 04:28 IST