The Bhonsala Military School: Nagpur
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Bhonsala school denies training terror suspects
Nagpur: The Bhonsala Military School, which claims to shape bodies and minds for the Indian Army, admits it is managed by administrators from the saffron fold but says that shouldn’t taint it with a terror tag. Satish Salpekar, chairman of the Nagpur institution, on Friday denied the school had any role in training the terror suspects being interrogated for the September 29 Malegaon blasts or that their meetings had taken place on its premises. He, however, admitted that the school administration had given the premises, situated at Panchwati on Koradi Road (16 km from Nagpur), free of cost to Bajrang Dal for a personality development camp in 2001. Incidentally, Devendra Fadnavis, the MLA from West Nagpur is one of the two vicepresidents of the school.
‘‘The media reports are absolutely baseless and absurd. Our premises was never used for any type of illegal activities. We had only given our premises when our infrastructure was not fully developed. Bajrang Dal conducts such training programmes every year all over the country. Even the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) had conducted an enquiry about this camp in July 2006 and it revealed nothing,” the 54-year-old Salpekar told TOI.
The chairman disclosed that the 2001 camp was not monitored by the school authorities nor did they have the names of the activists who participated in the camp.
‘‘As per our records, around 100-115 Bajrang Dal activists from all over India participated in the 10 to 15-day camp. The training was provided by their own people and it was conducted in an open space adjacent to our school which was still under construction. I am sure that no firearms training was provided,’’ he said. ‘‘We are ready to face any type of enquiry from any agency on this.’’
Though a couple of Army officers are under the ATS scanner for providing training in making bombs using the deadly RDX to Malegaon accused Pragya Singh Thakur and her accomplices, Salpekar said barring Major Prabhakar Kulkarni, the other two — Major Ramesh Upadhyay and Major Y D Sahasrabuddhe — were not connected with BMS at all.
‘‘Major Kulkarni was commandant at our school and then became secretary from 1998 to 2003. However, the 85-year-old retired officer has absolutely no connection with any of the terrorist activities. The ATS sleuths also went to Kulkarni’s house to interrogate him. Currently, we are not associated with him,’’ said Salpekar.
According to the BMS chairman, it was following the confession of one Sant Kumar Bhate, who claimed to have attended the 2001 camp, that the name of BMS cropped up so prominently in the Malegaon blasts case.
‘‘Bhate had given false information to the ATS that he had attended the camp and left it midway after realising that training was going in ‘wrong direction’. Bhate misguided ATS by saying that he left the 40-day camp on the penultimate day. This is completely untrue as the camp was held only for 10 to 15 days,’’ said Salpekar.
Military school principal detained
Two persons including C S Raikar, principal of Bhonsala military school in Nashik, were detained by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) and brought to the city on Friday evening. According to police, Raikar had arranged accommodation for the blast accused. Police alleged that Raikar was aware of retired major Ramesh Upadhyay’s meetings at Bhonsala school prior to the Malegaon September 29 bomb blast. The ATS has said that Upadhyay and four other arrested accused including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur had conducted at least three meetings at the school. The police is questioning him on whether he was aware about the blast.
School has a tradition of ‘Indianizing’ armed forces
Founded on June 12, 1937, at Nashik, the Bhonsala Military School was inaugurated by the then Maharaja of Gwalior Shriman Jivajirao Scindia. The school was a brainchild of Late Dharamaveer Balkrishna Shivramji Moonje, who established the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nashik in 1935. Moonje was a firm believer of Indianization of the armed forces during the British rule and the need to impart military training to Indian youth. Over the years, it has established itself as a premier residential school catering to educational needs of students from across the country and also as a focal point for military education. In 1995, the school was granted affiliation by Indian Public School’s Conference, an association of heads of leading public schools of the country. Located on 50 hectares of land, the school is popularly known as Rambhoomi as there is a Ram temple on its premises. The huge campus also houses Marathi and English-medium schools. Recently, the Bhonsala Military College was also started.
We love our country and aim to produce all-round leaders
Nagpur: The disclosures by some of the accused in the Malegaon blasts case has linked Bhonsala Military School with Hindu extremism. Police suspect the accused were trained by former armymen having links with the school. Its premises was also used by Bajrang Dal for holding camps attended by some of the suspects and the plot of the blasts was allegedly hatched in meetings held in the school premises.
However, Bhonsala Military School, with branches in Nashik and Nagpur, claims credit for making students allrounders. ‘‘We go by our motto which is ‘Power of knowledge and knowledge of power’. We are counted among one of the best and most progressive schools in the country. We love our country and foresee a vibrant and powerful India,’’ said chairman of BMS Nagpur branch Satish Salpekar.
‘‘Since today’s children are going to lead the country tomorrow, we aim at the allround development of this young generation to make them leaders of tomorrow,’’ he said. The school provides education with a military edge. Students do not just follow regular curriculum here but also train in equestrian sports, weapon firing, obstacle crossing, parades, disaster management and other aspects of military training. The school provides first-rate facilities for all major games and sports.
‘‘Being recognised as military training school by the state government’s education department, we strictly follow discipline in letter and spirit. Therefore, we have made Army training mandatory for all the students to bring in a sense of discipline among them,’’ Salpekar said. The school students are named as ‘‘Ramdandee’’ as they have to follow ideals of Lord Rama. These ‘‘Ramdandees’’ undergo extracurricular activities like band training and taught to play brass and percussion instruments. But this goes along with information technology, multimedia, and internet.
‘‘We also provide firearm training to the students in the age group of 10-15 years. Unlike in media reports, there was no facility for firearm training when the camp of Bajrang Dal was organised in 2001. The facility came up only in 2003,’’ Salpekar said. The chairman added that firearm training was conducted in association with National Cadet Corps (NCC) using .22 rifle, as per their Bcertificate norms.
‘‘The primary training is being given on dummy rifles, while secondary training is given on actual rifles under strict supervision. In fact, we have also provided firearm training along with other military training to 80 police commandos in two batches. But during summer training to the children, no firearms are used,’’ he said.