Sanatan Sanstha Knew All About It’s Foot Soldiers’ Activities, Claims Gauri Lankesh Probe SIT

BENGALURU:  (PTI) The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka police probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case is hunting for at least five more people.

Also Read: Terror Suspects Planned to Bomb Mahim Dargah, Bandra Fair at Mount Mary’s Church and Pune Sunburn Festival

The SIT insists the leadership of Hindu right wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha was fully aware of the activities of its “foot soldiers” in the killing of some rationalists.

Also Read: Shiv Sena leaders including Uddhav Thackeray were fully aware of Shrikant Pangarkar’s terror links, ‘explosions’, ‘bomb blasts’ plot?

The five men are based out of Goa and Maharashtra adjoining the Karnataka border, an SIT official said, adding that they had taken part in the crimes.

As the SIT started cracking the murder case of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist-activist with strong anti-Hindutva views, leading to the arrest of key players in the killing of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi, it discovered the wide network of operatives of the gang involved in these incidents.

Also Read: Shrikant Pangarkar assembled bombs, funded purchase of explosives and boasted of ‘explosions’ and ‘bomb blasts’ to MoS Arjun Khotkar

“The leadership of Goa-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha was aware of the activities of its foot soldiers and lower rung cadre. We cannot subscribe to this statement that the leadership was not aware of it. They definitely knew about these plots,” the official claimed.

Also Read: Nikhil Wagle, Shyam Manav, Mukta Dabholkar, Ritu Raj, Jitendra Awhad and others on the hit-list of far-right terrorists

He, however, said it was “tricky” to say the outfit had morphed into a terrorist organisation.

The official, however, said there were sufficient reasons to invoke the stringent Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) against the gang members.

Also Read: Hindutva hardliners Raut, Gondhalekar and Kalaskar planned to blow up 6 theaters, Ganapati mandaps in Maharashtra

KCOCA is the Karnataka version of the law in place in Maharashtra to curb underworld activities, often dubbed as draconian by civil rights groups.

Several people with alleged links to the Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested in connection with these killings, but the outfit has insisted they were not its members.

Also Read: 150 pistols, 100 bombs, 3000 bullets were on the shopping list of arrested hardliners

Sanatan Sanstha spokesman Chetan Rajhans recently said some people with so-called “progressive mindset” and political parties like the Congress and the Left were trying to put the organisation in the dock without providing evidence of any wrongdoing.

Also Read: Ex-Sanatan Sanstha seeker alleges “members hypnotized, made into killing machines and human bombs ready for mass murder or genocide”

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara had said on Tuesday the state police was yet to establish the role of Sanatan Sanstha in the killing of Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken critic of pro-Hindutva ideology, who was shot dead outside her residence on September 5 last year.

Source: PTI

Terror Suspects Planned to Bomb Mahim Dargah, Bandra Fair at Mount Mary’s Church and Pune Sunburn Festival

According to a Hindustan Times report, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Tuesday claimed in a special court that the five recently arrested sympathizers of the Hindu right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha (the group has distanced itself from the accused and said they are not its members) planned to plant explosives at last year’s edition of Sunburn, an annual electronic dance music festival in Pune.

Also Read: Shiv Sena leaders including Uddhav Thackeray were fully aware of Shrikant Pangarkar’s terror links, ‘explosions’, ‘bomb blasts’ plot?

All five were arrested earlier this month from Nalla Sopara, Pune and Jalna in connection with an arms case, and were remanded to ATS custody.

Meanwhile, sources in the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) told IndiaScoops.com that Amol Kale who was the leader of the fringe group responsible for the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh told his interrogators that the Maharashtra unit or cell of the far-right terror group was planning to plant bombs at the very popular “Bandra Fair” at the Mount Mary Church at Bandra, which attracts thousands of devotees in September.

Also Read: Shrikant Pangarkar assembled bombs, funded purchase of explosives and boasted of ‘explosions’ and ‘bomb blasts’ to MoS Arjun Khotkar

There were 6-7 locations in Mumbai alone and about 20 different locations all over Maharashtra which were being considered by the terror suspects, Kale is understood to have told his interrogators.

“They also had plans to set off bombs at some Ganpati Mandals across Maharashtra, the Mahim dargah during Muharram as well as the Mount Mary Church during the peak festive season starting in September. The bombs would be of low-intensity, which were meant to create a scare and fear psychosis in the mind of the people,” the SIT official told IndiaScoops.com.

Also Read:  With nearly 16-18 bomb blasts across the State, Sharad Kalaskar’s group plotted to rain terror and chaos in Maharashtra during Eid and Ganpati festivals

ATS officials claimed in court that two of the accused – Gondhalekar and Raut – planned to attack the music festival scheduled in Pune for December 2017 because they felt it was “against Hindu culture”.

Sunburn was held in Goa until 2015, and shifted to Pune in 2016.

Also Read: Hindutva hardliners Raut, Gondhalekar and Kalaskar planned to blow up 6 theaters, Ganapati mandaps in Maharashtra

Prosecutors appearing for the ATS made these assertions before a special court constituted to try Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act cases. On Tuesday, four of the five accused – Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanva Gondhalekar and Shrikant Pangarkar – were produced in court, with prosecutors seeking an extension of their custody.

Special court judge Sameer Adkar extended their custody by seven days. The fifth accused, Avinash Pawar, will be produced in court on August 31, reports Hindustan Times.

Also Read: 150 pistols, 100 bombs, 3000 bullets were on the shopping list of arrested hardliners

ATS also claimed that the five accused were involved in throwing petrol bombs outside cinema halls in Kalyan (a city in Thane district, 50 km north-east of Mumbai), and Belagavi (earlier known as Belgaum) in Karnataka for screening the Hindi movie ‘Padmaavat’, Hindustan Times reported.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha’s bank account was used to channel funds for Gauri Lankesh murder, pay off killers

ATS further claimed that the accused planned to attack individuals who they thought were propagating or engaging in activity that was “against the Hindu religion”.

Atulchandra Kulkarni, Maharashtra ATS chief, said he could not “confirm the names because it will pose a security threat to the individuals.”

Also Read: Ex-Sanatan Sanstha seeker alleges “members hypnotized, made into killing machines and human bombs ready for mass murder or genocide”

The individuals include an author-historian; a former Marathi newspaper editor and three Marathi authors and playrights, ATS officials said on condition of anonymity. Hindustan Times did not name them because of the perceived security threat to the individuals.

The ATS officials also said they had recovered three motorcycles, including one from Nalla Sopara and two from Pune, and claimed one of three bikes, allegedly owned by Kalaskar, may have been used in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru in September 2017.

Also Read: Maha Govt Protected and Shielded Right-Wing Murder-Accused for Four Years, Gauri Lankesh Probe Forced Mah Govt to make Arrests

In their raids, ATS officials claimed to have recovered 10 pistols, one air pistol, one country-made revolver, 10 pistol barrels, six pistol bodies, six magazines, three handmade magazines, one half-prepared country-made revolver, and seven hand-made pistols from Gondhalekar.

Also Read: Journalist Nikhil Wagle was No 2 on the hit list of Maha Terror Suspects

Sunil Gonsalves, the public prosecutor appearing for ATS, told the court that the weapons used by the accused had been dismantled and were thrown away at different places to avoid detection, and that they needed to be recovered. He didn’t elaborate.

with inputs from Hindustan Times

With nearly 16-18 bomb blasts across the State, Dr Dabholkar’s killer, Sharad Kalaskar’s group plotted to rain terror and chaos in Maharashtra during Eid and Ganpati festivals

August 19, 2018: The trio arrested by the Maharashtra ATS last week – Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar. Sudhanav Gondhalekar and about 12 other persons who are under the scanner of the ATS, and under interrogation, had planned to rain terror and chaos in Maharashtra in the coming two months.

The ATS is looking into various angles and is verifying a list of targets on the hit list of radical extremist elements, obtained from the diary of Amol Kale who was arrested by the Karnataka SIT probing the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

It was the Karnataka SIT that tipped off the Maharashtra ATS, resulting in the arrest of the trio from Nala Sopara and Pune along with a huge cache of arms, ammunition, explosives and bomb-making materials.

Also Read: 150 pistols, 100 bombs, 3000 bullets were on the shopping list of arrested hardliners

With Eid, Dahi Handi (Gokulashtami) and Ganpati around the corner in the next 35-45 days, the motive was to scare the common man into believing that he was not safe in his own home.

Reliable sources revealed that over 16-18 low-intensity bomb blasts were planned at different parts and different venues across the State with a view to create a fear psychosis in the psyche of members of the majority community, while passing the blame and pointing the needle of suspicion on fringe elements in the minority community.

Also Read: Hindutva hardliners Raut, Gondhalekar and Kalaskar planned to blow up 6 theaters, Ganapati mandaps in Maharashtra

The venues included theaters, vegetable markets, places of worship and even during the Maratha agitation morchas, where hundreds of protesters from lower income groups would be present.

Rumors would also give rise to local skirmishes, leading to full-scale riots and the organisations behind or supporting the arrested conspirators had a ready machinery to instigate the youth in the majority community into attacking the others.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha’s bank account was used to channel funds for Gauri Lankesh murder, pay off killers

Investigators revealed that the right-wing extremist group had planned to blow up or create blasts at 6-7 theaters and at least 4-5 Ganapati mandaps in different parts of Maharashtra including Mumbai, Pune, Sangli and Solapur during the upcoming Eid and Ganapati festivals in Maharashtra and pin the blame on Muslim anti-social elements, police sources have claimed.

The blasts were planned over a period of 30 days and the bombs to be used in the explosions were being assembled in the office of gau rakshak Vaibhav Raut at Nala Sopara.

The ATS seized over 22 assembled bombs and explosives, timers, detonators and relay switches enough to manufacture another 30 to 40 low-intensity improvised explosive devices or IEDs.

Also Read: Ponda-based Sanatan Sanstha was the main Agency to carry out Killings, Gauri Lankesh was Second on a ‘Hitlist’ of 36 targets

In Mumbai the targeted areas were near Bhendi Bazar, Malwani and Govandi, police sources claimed. 

According to the ATS, the three men were also planning to carry out attacks in Mumbai, Pune, Satara, Solapur and Nallasopara and the bombs they had assembled were low-intensity explosive devices meant to cause a commotion and create a scare in society.

Also Read: Vaibhav Raut, other Gau Rakshaks were involved in extortion in the guise of cow protection: Extortion money was used to fund purchase of arms

Claims a report in The Indian Express, “The Maratha morchas were among their targets. During questioning, the accused have said that the crude bombs were assembled for the purpose of triggering a blast at the next Maratha protest. They planned to hurl low-intensity country-made bombs a few hundred meters away from the protest sites so that a strong message is sent to the establishment,” said a senior official.

Also Read: Shoot her in the head as it was done in Kalburgi murder, Gauri Lankesh killer taught during training

In another related development, the Maharashtra ATS and the CBI in a joint operation arrested one more person alleged to be the main shooter, who pulled the trigger in the murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar.

According to sources, information leading to the arrest came from the interrogation of Sharad Kalaskar, arrested by the ATS last week with two other members of radical Hindu outfits for allegedly planning to carry out bomb attacks in five cities in Maharashtra.

Also Read: Gau Rakshaks chant anti-police, anti-govt slogans, take out protest march demanding release of terror suspect Vaibhav Raut

“Sachin Prakasrao Andure of Aurangabad was arrested from Pune in the Dabholkar murder case. He was allegedly one of the shooters who fired at Dr Narendra Dabholkar. Investigation is continuing,” the CBI said in a press release on Saturday.

A senior ATS official said Kalaskar told his interrogators that he had played an active role in Dabholkar’s murder. He reportedly claimed that he and Andure were the shooters.

Also Read: 35-40 bombs could be manufactured with explosives seized from Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut residence and office

The ATS summoned Andure for interrogation and after he admitted to his role in the murder, placed him under arrest.

He was subsequently handed over to the CBI investigating the Dabholkar murder case.

“The duo also arranged for the motorcycle used in the murder of the rationalist. Andure was summoned and, after he confessed to the crime, he was handed over to the CBI,” said the ATS official. Sources said the CBI would seek Kalaskar’s custody later, reports The Indian Express.

with inputs from The Indian Express

Arrested hardliners trying to hoodwink ATS, now claim the bombs were for Maratha agitation

The three arrested accused affiliated to far-right Hindutva groups told the Maharashtra ATS on Wednesday, they wanted to support the Maratha agitation for reservation in jobs and education by setting off bombs near Maratha morchas to send the government a “strong” message, reports the Indian Express.

Also Read: Hindutva hardliners Raut, Gondhalekar and Kalaskar planned to blow up 6 theaters, Ganapati mandaps in Maharashtra

However, senior ATS officials debunked their statements saying the accused are hardened criminals and are experts at delaying tactics. They are probably trying to gain the sympathy of the interrogating officers, by making emotional statements.

The actual plan may be very different. We are investigation all angles, the officer told IndiaScoops.com.

Also Read: 150 pistols, 100 bombs, 3000 bullets were on the shopping list of arrested hardliners

ATS investigations following the arrests at Nallasopara and Satara and the seizure of a huge cache of explosives on August 9 have found that the three men planned to trigger a blast around 100 to 150 metres away from the next Maratha morcha.

Sources said that the men wanted to send a stern message to the establishment to take note of their demands even if there were no casualties, reports Indian Express.

Also Read: Vaibhav Raut, other Gau Rakshaks were involved in extortion in the guise of cow protection: Extortion money was used to fund purchase of arms

The ATS officials are taking these claims with a pinch of salt. The hardliners have an inter-state network with bases in Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

They received logistical and financial support from various States. The Maratha agitation is a localized issue and confined only to Maharashtra. It is very unlikely that the bombs were intended for the Maratha reservation issue, an ATS official told IndiaScoops.com.

Also Read: 35-40 bombs could be manufactured with explosives seized from Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut residence and office

The ATS received a tip-off from the Karnataka SIT investigating the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Vaibhav Raut’s name was found in Amol Kale’s diary – one of the arrested accused in the Gauri Lankesh’s murder,

Kale was also part of the same inter-state gang, headed by unknown persons one of whom is alleged to be a retired army colonel.

The Karnataka SIT sent an SOS to the Maharashtra ATS detailing the role of Raut and others and his association with Kale. The ATS kept watch for a couple of days and then raided Raut’s residence and office, where a huge cache of arms and explosives were found, enough to support about 20 assassins.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha has 22 different outfits, registered in different States under different names

Why would such an inter-state team of killers be interested in a local agitation. The agenda was much bigger on a national scale, an ATS official suggested.

According to the ATS, the three men were also planning to carry out attacks in Mumbai, Pune, Satara, Solapur and Nallasopara and that the bombs they had assembled were low-intensity and meant to cause commotion and chaos, besides instill fear.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha wants to set up a Saffron Army of 2000 trained killers and shooters for terrorist activity

“The Maratha morchas were among their targets. During questioning, the accused have said that the crude bombs were assembled for the purpose of triggering a blast at the next Maratha protest. They planned to hurl low-intensity country-made bombs a few hundred metres away from the protest sites so that a strong message is sent to the establishment,” said a senior official, according to the Indian Express report.

Also Read: Arrested for possession of explosives, Vaibhav Raut was an active member of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and a vociferous Gau-Rakshak

One of the arrested men, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar (39) is a member of the Shri Shivpratishthan Hindustan whose chief is Sambhaji Bhide. Bhide has been booked by the Pune Police in two criminal cases in connection with the violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1. He is considered close to PM Narendra Modi who has openly declared him to be his guru and source of inspiration.

Sources said that Bhide had also supported Maratha groups demanding reservation in education and jobs.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha’s bank account was used to channel funds for Gauri Lankesh murder, pay off killers

The other two arrested are Vaibhav Raut (40), a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, who is also an alleged sympathiser of the right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha and Sharad Kasalkar (25) who was arrested with Raut from Raut’s Nallasopara residence. The ATS had recovered 22 crude bombs from Raut’s residence and shop.

Also Read: Ponda-based Sanatan Sanstha was the main Agency to carry out Killings, Gauri Lankesh was Second on a ‘Hitlist’ of 36 targets

“Gondhalekar has been closely tracking the stir called by Maratha groups. He was also part of many WhatsApp groups that were floated in support of the Maratha morchas. We suspect it was his idea to carry out the blasts during these morchas to support the cause,” said an official. “These are claims made by the accused, we are verifying this with digital and electronic evidence to see if what they are saying is true or if they are misleading us.”

While the digital footprint of their activities on various social media platforms and messenger services are being retrieved and studied, investigators are also combing CCTV footage from various locations they claimed to have visited.

Also Read: Vaibhav Raut wanted to do a repeat of Malegaon Blasts

“Kasalkar and Raut were assigned the task of conducting reconnaissance and they claimed to have visited a few cities during and after the stir,” a senior official said. Sources said that besides the Maratha morchas, there are other protests and agitations on their radar, reports the Indian Express.

Police also said that several crude bombs recovered from Raut’s house were found hidden in a storage cavity in the bed.

Also Read: More Air Pistols, Pellets, Explosives Seized From Suspect Vaibhav Raut

“Eight bombs recovered from his residence were kept hidden in his bed. Since Raut was a local leader and a self-styled gaurakshak, he offered his residence to assemble and keep the bombs for safekeeping,” said an official.

An ATS team Wednesday conducted fresh raids at Raut’s Nallasopara residence and seized a Toyota Innova vehicle registered in his name.

The ATS also seized four air pistols, 20 air pistol pellets stored in matchbox-sized boxes, two CPUs, two notebooks, a diary, three mobile phones and two SIM cards, reports Indian Express.

with inputs from The Indian Express

ATS claims Sanatan Sanstha has 22 different registered outfits, wants to set up a Saffron Army of 2000 men for terrorist activity

A senior official from the Maharashtra State Home department told the Indian Express, that the Sanatan Sanstha “has around 20-22 registered organisations. The units at various districts or cities are registered independently and are said to function independently of each other”.

Also Read: Vaibhav Raut, other Gau Rakshaks were involved in extortion in the guise of cow protection: Extortion money was used to fund purchase of arms

In one of the communique, the Maharashtra ATS had said that while in 1990, Jayant Athawale founded the Sanatan Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha, the organisation changed its name and claims to be floated in 1999.

Also, its various ashrams in Goa are registered in different names and as different entities.

Also Read: 35-40 bombs could be manufactured with explosives seized from Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut residence and office

IndiaScoops.com has learnt that the Goa setup of the Sanatan Sanstha in Ponda has over 10 different entities or outfits operating from the same address, but under different identities with 5 of them registered individually.

A report by the ATS submitted by former ATS chief Rakesh Maria had said the Sanatan Sanstha were involved in an IED attack on February 20, 2008 at Cineraj Cinema at Panvel during the screening of the movie Jodha Akbar; a live bomb being hurled at Vishnudas Bhave Auditorium on May 31, 2008 while the play Aamhi Pachpute was underway and a bomb blast on June 4, 2008 in the parking lot of Ram Ganesh Gadkari Auditorium during the staging of the play Aamhi Pachpute.

Also Read: Arrested for possession of explosives, Vaibhav Raut was an active member of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and a vociferous Gau-Rakshak

“Of the six arrested, five were seekers (sadhaks) of Sanatan Sanstha and one was their servant,” the report, accessed by The Indian Express, stated.

It report added: “Sanatan Prabhat is a mouthpiece of Sanatan Sanstha. Articles regarding Jodha Akbar and Aamhi Pachpute were published in the said newspaper… it contents said that cinema and Marathi play are desecration of Hindu God, Hindu religion and Hindu epic, which is against the Hindu religion… with the intention to stop the play and cinema the articles were published… It evidently appears that the accused have committed the terrorist act to fulfill the aims of Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliated trust.”

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha’s bank account was used to channel funds for Gauri Lankesh murder, pay off killers

A senior official said that after a lukewarm response from the Centre to the 2011 request, a fresh attempt was made in 2015 when late IPS officer Himanshu Roy was heading the state ATS.

“Following this, there have been many queries raised by the Centre. During one such queries, the state ATS had expressed reservation that banning one outfit won’t serve the purpose as its registered in different names,” the official added, according to an Indian Express report.

Also Read: Ponda-based Sanatan Sanstha was the main Agency to carry out Killings, Gauri Lankesh was Second on a ‘Hitlist’ of 36 targets

IndiaScoops.com has learnt from the Maha ATS that the recent arrest of 3 far-right wing members and the seizure of a huge cache of arms, pistols, explosives and weapon and bomb manufacturing materials and hardware, was part of a larger plan to set up an army of about 2000 trained shooters or killers trained in warfare and bomb assembly and use.

The Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliates or related outfits like the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and the Shri Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, the Sri Ram Sene were part of a much larger national network of Hindu extremists whose plan was to carry out bomb blasts in different parts of the country and target minorities who would be made responsible for the blasts.

Also Read: Sanathan Sanstha a nodal agency for radicals involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh, money for hits, was routed through donations made to Sanstha

The Sanatan Sanstha had activated a huge social media network and network of right-wing news outlets which would ‘pin’ the blame of the blasts on Muslims, leading to a hue and cry and a polarization within the majority community.

with inputs from Indian Express