The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) recovered at least eight country-made bombs and about 5 unfinished or partially made bombs, fuses, detonators along with other explosives and fuses and other literature from the residence of a Sanatan Sanstha member while conducting raids at his residence in Palghar.
An ATS team under the supervision of a senior IPS-rank officer raided the home of Vaibhav Raut in the wee hours of Friday and searches continued till early morning.
Raut, who has been taken into custody for questioning, is likely to be placed under arrest and produced before a local court, sources said.
The explosives have been handed over to the Mumbai Forensic Science Laboratory to ascertain its nature.
The police are also investigation the source of the explosives. Initial investigations show that Raut obtained the gun powder from mining and quarrying companies in Maharashtra and Goa.
“We want to know source of these explosives and how Raut intended to use them and therefore his custodial interrogation is necessary,” said an official requesting anonymity.
It seems that Raut was a professional and was into the activity for at least a year. He was involved with a few far-right extremist Hindutva organisations and was also involved in harassing meat traders in Maharashtra, by intercepting vehicles transporting meat or cattle.
While the right-wing terror outfit denied Raut being an active member, Sanatan Sanstha advocate Sanjeev Punelikar told the media that Raut was acquainted to one of its members.
“Raut had been externed by the Palghar police in connection with a beef ban case. While he is a Hindutva worker, he isn’t our member.
The Sanatan Sanstha claimed Raut was part of another Hindutva organisation, while the police claim that he was associated with at least one dozen far-right hardline Hindutva organisations in the country.
More facts will come to light as police interrogate the accused after obtaining remand. Sources claim that Raut was also linked to the group involved in the murder of writer and journalist Gauri Lankesh.
“However I doubt the ATS claim of he hoarding explosives,” he said. Punelikar added that the outfit Sanatan Sanstha will provide Raut legal aid.
Sanatan Sanstha officials said Raut is being framed by the police because he was an active gau-rakshak.
Persons owing allegiance to Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested in four bombings in Vashi, Thane, Panvel (all in 2007) and Goa (in 2009) and in the murders rationalists – Narendra Dabholkar (in 2013), Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi (both in 2015) and senior journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Both the Maharashtra police and the Central Bureau of Investigation probing the cases have questioned the outfit’s founder Jayant Balaji Athavale in the past.
Calling the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha an “extra-constitutional authority” and a “cancer” whose spread should be stopped, prominent activists from Goa have demanded a ban on it.
Stressing on the need for such a move, Prashant Naik, a social activist, told PTI that legal luminaries should be roped in by the state government to place before the court the need for a ban.
“We lost an ‘open-and-shut’ 2009 Margao blast case due to poor legal support during the trial,” he pointed out.
Two men, including one allegedly from the Sanatan Sanstha, died in 2009 while they were transporting explosives to be reportedly planted in a crowded area in Margao.