Mumbai: The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad is trying to trace two of the accused in the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar by interrogating Vaibhav Raut, the real estate agent arrested on Friday for allegedly planning terror strikes in Mumbai and elsewhere, and his two associates.
One of the two accused in the Dabholkar murder case – Sarang Akolkar – is said to be a member of the Goa-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha, of which Raut is believed to be a sympathizer.
The Sanstha is being investigated in connection with the murders of journalist Gauri Lankesh and rationalists M.M. Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The other absconding accused in the Dabholkar murder case has been identified as Vinay Pawar.
Akolkar and Pawar have been named by witnesses in the case as the persons who shot Dabholkar in August 2013.
A day after the arrests of Raut and his associates Sudhanva Gondhalekar and Sharad Kalaskar, the ATS rounded up around 20 people.
“Based on the interrogation of those arrested, we have seized more explosives, firearms, CDs and pen drives,” said an ATS officer.
According to sources, Raut, Gondhalekar and Kalaskar were arrested on the basis of a tip-off from the Karnataka SIT that is probing Lankesh’s murder.
“The Karnataka SIT probe has provided enough ground to suspect that the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi are linked to that of Lankesh. We are trying to find out whether Raut can lead us to Akolkar and Pawar,” said a source.
Amol Kale, the prime accused in the Lankesh murder case, had provided information on at least 10 people in Maharashtra and Goa who have links with terror groups, the sources said.
Gondhalekar is said to be an active member of the Shri Shivpratishthan Hindustan founded by Sambhaji Bhide, popularly known as Guruji. He is supposed to be close to PM Narendra Modi and was openly admired by the PM, who considers him as his guru.
Gondhalekar had been part of a team from the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a branch of the Sanatan Sanstha, that held a news conference on September 23, 2016, to accuse the slain Dabholkar and his family members of misappropriation of funds through his NGO.
“We have come across a speech Gondhalekar gave at a Hindu Ekta Mela held in Kolhapur where he called upon every Hindu to legally procure weapons, keep them in their homes and use them when the situation demands,” a source said.
The Maharashtra ATS has sent the mobile phones of Raut, Gondhalekar and Kalaskar for a forensic exam to probe the call details and the social media sites where the trio are active.
“Members of the social media groups where the three are active will be questioned,” Atulchandra Kulkarni, the ATS chief, said.