The arrested hardliners Vaibhav Raut and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar were looking to procure about 150 pistols, 100 bombs and over 3000 bullets of different caliber for use in the coming 6-8 months, police sources revealed today.
Vaibhav Raut a violent gau rakshak was the co-founder of a cow protection group, Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti set up in 2014.
The group is allegedly associated with Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Shiv Prathisthan and the Sanatan Sanstha, all of which are radical far-right Hindutva organizations.
Local Congress politicians and meat traders in Palghar from where Raut was arrested have termed him an extortionist who would extort money from meat transporters and fund his illegal arms manufacturing activity.
Investigations have revealed that while Raut put up a facade of being a devout Hindu and a cow protector among his local Bhandari community, he was involved in gun-running, smuggling of explosives and arms from parts of North India and money laundering using hawala.
He was part of an inter-state network of radical Hindutva agents whose aim was to create chaos and riots in the country.
The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) found a mini arms-making unit or factory and is now probing their links in Uttar Pradesh and Assam, official sources said on Monday.
The arrested persons were in the process of procuring machines and lathes to make country-made pistols and also fabricate bullets. They had obtained training from illegal arms manufacturing units in UP and Bihar, ATS sources revelaed. Imported arms were procured from Assam.
On Friday, last week, the ATS created a sensation by claiming to have unearthed a terror plot targeting Mumbai, Pune, Satara and Solapur ahead of Independence Day celebrations and the upcoming Bakri Eid festival.
In the ATS swoop, three right-wing activists were arrested – Vaibhav Raut, 40, Sharad Kalaskar, 25, both from Nala Sopara in Palghar, and Sudhanav Gondhalekar, 39, from Pune.
Over a dozen other associates or suspects have been interrogated to ascertain their connections in other parts of the state or outside and certain email exchanges between the accused with references to Uttar Pradesh and Assam shall be probed.
Continuing the raids and probe over the weekend in Palghar, around 60 km north of Mumbai, the ATS has found a mini arms production unit and seized at least five country-made pistols, three incomplete pistols, 11 cartridges of 9 mm pistols and 30 cartridges of 7.65 mm pistols, springs, triggers and other material, reports news agency IANS.
However, another media report claims over 11 pistols and 5 unfinished pistols were seized. At least a dozen fake motorcycle and four wheeler number plates were seized from the accused.
In the Pune raids, the ATS seized a laptop, six hard disks, five pendrives, nine mobiles and many SIM cards, a WiFI dongle, scores of documents and papers, besides a car and a motorcycle.
During the raids in Palghar on Friday, the ATS seized 20 crude bombs and material and explosives that could be used to make at least two-to-four dozen or 50 more bombs.
The seizures included 22 non-electronic detonators, 1,500 gm of explosive powder, wire bundles, resistors, transistors, 10 batteries of six volts each and a connector, multi-meters, switches and circuits, connectors, gelatin sticks, two bottles marked as ‘poison’, diagrams and literature, all of which have been sent for forensic analysis.
While Raut is described as a prominent ‘gau-rakshak’ and linked with Hindu Janjagran Samiti, Gondhalekar is connected with the Shri Shivpratisthan, spearheaded by the controversial 85-year-old Sambhaji Bhide alias Bhide Guruji, which has patronage of the PM Narendra Modi. Modi has openly admired Bhide and called him his guru or mentor.