Goa PWD Min Sudin Dhavalikar and family helped raise funds for terror outfit Sanatan Sanstha, MGP MLA vociferously defends Sanatan Sanstha after India Today sting?

Reacting to INDIA TODAY TV’s big expose which nailed Sanatan Sanstha’s terror activities and their involvement in the Navi Mumbai blast in 2009, the Goa PWD minister was seen and heard defending Sanatan Sanstha, reports India Today.

According to the Karnataka Special Investigating Team (SIT) officials – investigating the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh – who spoke to IndiaScoops.com, the Sanatan Sanstha “ashrams” at Ponda in Goa and Panvel in Maharashtra can be considered equal to the terrorist training camps in Pok.

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

Here recruits are first mentally conditioned, brainwashed and sophisticated psychological mind-control and hypnotic techniques are used to indoctrinate and condition the new recruits, claim Karnataka SIT officials.

“The recruits from all over India are also mentally hardened and taught how to attack the cops when presented in court, after being arrested and make false allegations of torture, etc., against the investigating officers to enable the courts to go soft on them, resulting in hampering the probes,” says the head of Maharashtra ATS Atulchandra Kulkarni.

Also Read: Hindutva hardliners associated with Sanatan Sanstha had planned to blow up 6 theaters, Ganapati mandaps in Maharashtra

When Goa PWD minister and Maharashtawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) leader Sudin Dhavalikar spoke to INDIA TODAY TV, he clearly said: “Sanatan (Sanstha) is doing the great work of spreading Hindu culture and religion in Goa. They don’t believe in violence.”

When the INDIA TODAY TV reporter told him about the sting aired on Monday in which two Sanstha sadhaks (spiritual practitioners) accepted their involvement in violent acts, Dhavalikar said that their identity needed to be ascertained. Dhavilkar has been defending the Sanstha from from day one, say officials associated with the probes in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

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

The India Today sting also revealed that Dhavalikar and his family are associated with Sanatan Sanstha for a long time. On being asked about this, Dhavalikar said: “My family and I are associated with Sanatan. I don’t fund them but do give them advertisements. My family and I support all such organisations that are working to spread Hindu culture and religion.”

Dhavilkar’s wife is an office bearer of the Sanstha and his in-laws are also actively involved in fund raising and other activities of the outfits. One more MGP leader has been funding the Sanstha and at least six BJP leaders in Goa have donated funds to the activities of the Sanatan Sanstha.

Dhavilkar has also indirectly routed official Goa State government advertisements to the Sanatan Sanstha, claim officials familiar with the probe. 

MGP president Dipak Dhavalikar, who is Sudin Dhavalikar’s brother, had last month claimed the Sanatan Sanstha was not involved in the killings of rationalists and activists and that some people want to project the outfit as a “wrong-doer”. He had also vociferously defended the Sanstha before the media.

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

Both the Karnataka SIT and the Maharashtra ATS officials are of the view that Dhavilkar and his family have created a security umbrella for the Sanatan Sanstha in Goa, along with a few far-right BJP leaders., thus protecting the Sanstha from any police action.

The Sanstha does not submit a list of persons from other states staying at their ashrams to the ATS, as is mandatory by law. Sanstha officials have had several run-ins and clashes with Goa and Maharashtra ATS officials for non-submission of the lists of inter-state visitors at their Panvel and Ponda ashrams.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha like cancer, a killing agency and breeding ground for murderers, ban it, demands Goa-based Sahitya writer Damodar Mauzo

“Sanstha officials are raising funds from all over the country in the name of Hindu culture and religion and these funds are then used to fund terror activities like the purchase of arms and ammunition and to fund the murders of liberals, as was seen in the Gauri Lankesh case, where funds procured from donations, were first parked in the bank accounts of various sister outfits of the Sanatan Sanstha, including its in-house publication (Read Here) which was headed by now arrested masterminds Amit Dhagvekar and Amol Kale,” revealed a Karnataka SIT official.

Over Rs 1.5 lakh in cash was withdrawn from the Sanatan Sanstha bank accounts to pay the killers of the Gauri Lankesh murder and to fund their travel, training and accommodation expenses. The envelopes bearing the cash were in the possession of the two masterminds Amit Dhagvekar who was the editor and promoter of the publication Sanatan Prabhat.

Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha members Raut, Gondhalekar, etc., linked to PM Modi, Amit Shah, VHP and RSS

When Amit Degwekar, 38, a resident of the extreme radical Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram in Ponda, Goa, was arrested in May this year for the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka Police had found in his possession several envelopes with varying amounts of cash. The money came to over Rs 1.5 lakh, as reported by the Indian Express.

The cash found in the envelopes had been withdrawn from a Sanatan Sanstha bank account and were meant to be given to field workers associated with a secret covert activities unit of the ultra-right wing Hindutva group, allegedly involved in assassinations and subversion in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

A bank pass book of the Sanstha account from where the money was drawn was found in Degwekar’s possession, states an Indian Express report. The promoter and editor of ‘Sanatan Prabhat’, a publication of the Sanstha, Amit Dhagwekar – now one of the main culprits in the Gauri Lankesh murder, was in regular touch with MLA Sudin Dhavilkar of the MGP and other top Goa BJP leaders who supported his fund raising activities.

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

Dhavalikar refused to disassociate himself from the Sanatan Sanstha in light of the facts revealed in the investigation and demanded that the expose should be proven in a court of law, reports India Today.

The Goa Congress has taken cognizance of INDIA TODAY TV’s agenda-setting expose of Sanatan Sanstha. It has decided to write to the state governor seeking an immediate ban on the Sanatan Sanstha which is headquartered in South Goa’s Ponda district.

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

Speaking exclusively to INDIA TODAY TV, Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar said: “We congratulate INDIA TODAY TV on this big expose. We will be writing to the governor to seek an immediate ban on Sanatan Sanstha which is trying to spread hatred in society. I would also like to tell the Dhavalikar brothers that the time to introspect on their association with such outfits which are involved in terror-like activities has come.”

The Sanstha is being investigated in connection with the murders of journalist Gauri Lankesh and rationalists M.M. Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

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

All the accused persons are either sympathisers of the Sanatan Sanstha, or have regularly attended their programs or worked and lived at the Sanatan Sanstha ashrams at Ponda and Panvel.

In 2009, two of the sanstha’s alleged sadhaks were killed when a bomb they were trying to plant at Goa’s Margao exploded prematurely.

The attack, aimed at Goa’s pre-Diwali Narakasur festival, was planned to stir communal tensions, prosecutors said. Senior police and anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officers, who probed the Sanatan Sanstha for its alleged role in the Margao blast, told INDIA TODAY TV reporters that their investigation was hampered by ‘political pressure’.

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

“There is political pressure. Had there been no political pressure, it would have been banned long back,” said CL Patil, the then station house officer (SHO) in Ponda, where the Sanstha is headquartered.

Around a dozen suspects have been arrested so far in connection with the murder of Gauri Lankesh in September last year. Amit Degvekar is one of them. INDIA TODAY TV accessed copies of his voter ID and bank receipts, which show the Sanatan headquarters in Ponda, Goa as his residential address.

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

CBI investigators suspect that several sadhaks involved in planning the Margao blast in 2009 — now absconding — are involved in the murders of Lankesh in 2017, Pansare and Kalburgi in 2015 and of Dabholkar in 2013.

Nearly 20 persons associated with other sister organisations of the Sanatan Sanstha like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti,  or related outfits like the Shiv Pratishthan founded by Sambhaji Bhide have been arrested for terror activities.

with inputs from India Today, Indian Express, PTI & agencies

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 Maha 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

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

Alleged mastermind of group involved in Gauri murder took a house on rent in Belagavi; other accused met him there, reports Bangalore Mirror.

According to a report in the Bangalore Mirror, the ongoing SIT probe in Gauri Lankesh murder case has revealed that Amol Kale, the alleged mastermind of the group that killed her, was active in Karnataka since 2013. Kale was residing in the garb of a social worker at a modest rented room in Khade Bazar in Belagavi.

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh murder: SIT uncovers covert pro-Hindutva outfit that recruits assassins

The Bangalore Mirror report claims that “Kale had been focusing on Karnataka much before the Gauri Lankesh’s murder. The investigation agency suspects that he was working for a Goa-based organisation Sanathan Sanstha that acted as a sort of nodal agency for this underground group of radicals,” sources added.

Kale was initially arrested from Belagavi in the last week of May and his Pune residence was subsequently raided by the SIT in an attempt to locate the firearm used to murder the writer and activist.

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

“It is a modest one-room kitchen set up in Khade Bazar. It is inside a maze of streets and Kale had taken it on rent more than four years back. He used to stay there and once in a while go to Pune and Goa,” said SIT officials.

The SIT officials have identified owner of the house who rented it to Kale and has recorded his statement. It has also been pointed out that all six accused so far arrested in the case, including KT Naveen Kumar, had visited Kale at Khade Bazar, reports Bangalore Mirror.

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh shooter kept in house rented by man from Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha

Kale was reportedly in touch with multiple recruiters working for the outfit, who were identifying ‘like-minded’ youths at various spiritual and religious events to be roped into the outfit. Suchith Kumar alias Praveen, another accused arrested in the Gauri Lankesh case, was one such recruiter and Manohar Edave is also suspected to have been part of this group that arranged logistics for their operation, says the Bangalore Mirror report.

“We are collecting more details from some of the documents and diaries recovered from Kale,” sources added.

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh killers planned to kill actor Prakash Raj, a Goan Congress leader and a Mumbai-based journalist

The proximity of Belagavi from Ponda in Goa is being ascribed as one of the main reasons for the group to choose Belagavi as Kale’s base. Amit Degvekar, another suspect arrested in the case, was an inmate of this Goa-based ashram and used to often visit Kale in Belagavi claims Bangalore Mirror.

Degwekar was also questioned in connection with 2009 Margao blasts and was also a roommate of Malgonda Patil. Patil died when a bomb accidentally exploded while being it was being transported on a scooter.

Also Read: Probe into Gauri Lankesh’s murder reveals links to extremist Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha

“Belagavi also has a strong presence of fringe outfits like Sri Ram Sene. More details could be revealed only after we finish the probe. It seems some splinter right wing groups collaborated in murdering Gauri,” sources added.

As of now, the SIT has arrested six persons- Amol Kale, Amit Degwekar , Suchith Kumar , Manohar Edave, Parashuram Waghmare and KT Naveen Kumar for the Gauri Lankesh murder.

Also Read: Plot to kill Lankesh took root at Sanathan Sanstha’s Hindu Conclave in June 2017

Parashuram Waghmare, a 26-year-old from Vijayapura allegedly associated with Sri Ramsene is suspected to have been the shooter, who arrived with another accomplice outside Gauri Lankesh’s residence in Raja Rajeshwari Nagar and shot her dead on September 5, 2017.

According to an Indian Express report, the Hindutva extremist K T Naveen Kumar arrested in connection with the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh attended at least five different meetings of the Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), last year in Bengaluru and Maddur in Karnataka, and Ponda in Goa, investigations have found.

Source: Bangalore Mirror / Indian Express

Ponda-based Sanatan Sanstha’s bank account was used to channel funds for Gauri Lankesh murder, pay off killer

When Amit Degwekar, 38, a resident of the extreme radical Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram in Ponda, Goa, was arrested in May this year for the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka Police had found in his possession several envelopes with varying amounts of cash. The money came to over Rs 1.5 lakh, reports the Indian Express.

The cash found in the envelopes had been withdrawn from a Sanatan Sanstha bank account and were meant to be given to field workers associated with a secret covert activities unit of the ultra-right wing Hindutva group, allegedly involved in assassinations and subversion in Karnataka and Maharashtra, the SIT has surmised, following investigations after the arrest of Degwekar and four others for direct involvement in Lankesh’s murder.

A bank pass book of the Sanstha account from where the money was drawn was found in Degwekar’s possession, it is learnt, says an Indian Express report.

Gauri Lankesh murder: Shooter kept in house rented by man linked to Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha

A promoter and editor of ‘Sanatan Prabhat’, a publication of the Sanstha, Degwekar, who worked ostensibly under supervision of a senior member of the Hindutva outfit, has been identified by SIT as a channel for funds to a covert activities group headed by Amol Kale, 37, a Pune resident and former convenor of Sanstha-affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS).

The probe has so far found that besides serving as a direct link for the covert group to the Sanatan Sanstha, Degwekar was also closely associated with Kale in plotting Lankesh’s murder. They ostensibly travelled together on one occasion to study her daily movements in the lead-up to the murder on the evening of September 5, 2017. Lankesh had at the time just returned from work to her home in Bengaluru.

Degwekar was arrested along with Kale and Manohar Edave, 29, a Karnataka resident, from Davangere in southern Karnataka in May this year. The SIT arrested them on the basis of information from a former HJS activist identified as Sujeet Kumar, 38.

The SIT had arrested Sujeet for allegedly playing a central role in organising logistics for the murder.

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh murder accused confesses to being indoctrinated at Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha, other Hindu outfits involved

A resident at Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram for several years, Degwekar, according to investigators, was a roommate of Malgonda Patil, one of the two Sanstha men killed in October 2009 in a blast in Madgaon, Goa.

He was at the time allegedly ferrying an IED bomb to plant it at a Diwali celebration that was opposed by the Sanstha for apparently bein, g against Hindu belief.

The SIT says Degwekar is currently the only direct link between the Lankesh assassination plot and the Sanstha, although several others arrested have had strong links to the Sanstha in the past, or have been associated with the outfit through splinter radical Hindutva groups such as the Hindu Yuva Sena or Sri Rama Sena.

According to sources in SIT, the envelopes carrying cash found with Degwekar were meant to be given to field workers co-opted into the radical unit — such as the main shooter Parashuram Waghmare, 26, who was recruited from Sri Rama Sena in Vijayapura to shoot Lankesh; and K T Naveen Kumar, 37, recruited from Hindu Yuva Sena in Maddur to allegedly provide logistics for the murder, reports the Indian Express.

Also Read: Plot to kill Gauri Lankesh was hatched at Sanathan Sanstha’s Hindu Conclave in June 2017

In the course of his interrogation, Degwekar has reportedly claimed that cash found on him were payments made by subscribers of Sanatan Sanstha’s publications, which he claimed to promote by travelling around the country.

“My brother has been wrongly arrested. He is a member of Sanatan Sanstha for a decade now. He lives and works at the Sanatan Sanstha ashram in Goa,” Degwekar’s brother Viraj had said after his arrest in May.

Sanstha spokesperson Chethan Rajhans has stated: “Amit Degwekar promoted ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ – he used to come to the ashram for that work. The Sanstha is involved in spiritual enhancement of Hindus. We are not killers.”

Since identifying Parashuram Waghmare as the man who pulled the trigger on Lankesh and arresting him on June 11, the SIT has found that he was paid around Rs 13,000 to cover expenses after the murder. The assassin was also given a similar amounts by Kale after he was recruited two years ago and trained in 2017 in firing guns, sources said.

The probe has found that the men in charge of the covert activities group like Kale went to great lengths to ensure that operatives at the lower levels like Waghmare and Naveen Kumar had access to only a minimum amount of information about the assassination plots they were roped into.

On two occasions he came to Bengaluru — in July 2017 for a recce and in September 2017 for the murder — Waghmare was apparently taken blindfolded to hideouts.

Source: Indian Express

Gauri Lankesh murder: Main shooter kept in house rented by man linked to Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha

Investigations into the shooting of journalist Gauri Lankesh, 55, outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017, has thrown up more indications of links to the Goa, Ponda-based radical Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), following the arrest of six suspects in recent days, reports the Indian Express.

A Karnataka Police SIT, which is probing the case, has found that the alleged shooter, Parshuram Waghmare, 26, was called to Bengaluru in July 2017 and housed in a remote home on the outskirts of Bengaluru by a key planner of the murder, Amol Kale, 37, a Pune resident, and former HJS convenor.

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh murder accused confesses to being indoctrinated at Goa’s Sanatan Sanstha other Hindu outfits involved

The house where Waghmare was kept was rented by a man Amit Degwekar associated with the Sanatan Sanstha and let out for a few days to “friends’’ who have emerged as the main suspects in the murder plot, the SIT has found.

The house, 20 km from Lankesh’s home, was used in July 2017 as a base by Waghmare and Kale — who are among six persons linked to Sanatan Sanstha and HJS who have been arrested for the murder — to survey the journalist’s home and prepare plans to kill her, the SIT has found.

The house was originally rented by building contractor Suresh Kumar for his family – wife and two children — around June 2017, but for around 10 days in July 2017 “the inhabitants of the house went away and the suspects lived there”, SIT sources told Indian Express.

The SIT stumbled upon the house after finding entries for locations, identities and contact numbers in diaries belonging to two arrested suspects —- Kale and Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen, 38, a former HJS activist from Karnataka – after their arrest in May. The SIT has found that the contractor let out his home on “terms of friendship” after he was requested to do so by Sujeet.

The SIT confronted Suresh and he confessed to letting out his rented home to friends while his family was away for 10 days, but stated that he was not directly involved in the murder plot.

“Police came a few days ago and took Suresh away. The police asked us if we had seen any strangers living in the house but we had not seen anybody. They are a very decent family. I cannot believe they could be involved in any crime,’’ said Jagadish, an autodriver who lives next door.

Also Read: Plot to kill Gauri Lankesh was hatched at Sanathan Sanstha’s Hindu Conclave in June 2017

“We did not expect trouble because they were a family,’’ said the sister of the landlord, who lives next door and collects rent from the tenants of the building.

Suresh has now gone incommunicado. “They said they were going for a wedding,’’ the neighbour Jagadish said.

Suresh has provided a voluntary statement before a magistrate’s court stating that he provided shelter at his home for the suspects for several days after he was requested to do so by his friend Sujeet.

“We are treating him as a witness, and will review the situation if evidence emerges regarding his involvement in the murder plot,’’ an SIT official said, indicating that Suresh was acquainted with Sujeet through their association with Sanatan Sanstha.

Suresh is closely associated with Sanatan Sanstha and HJS along with many family members, including one family member who is a full time activist, police and SIT sources said.

“The suspect (Waghmare) was called to Bengaluru by other suspects and housed at a remote location by other suspects and together they watched the daily routine of the victim Gauri Lankesh and carried out recces on 3-4 occasions,’’ the SIT said in a remand application filed for the custody of Waghmare after his arrest on June 12.

The suspects are believed to have used two separate places as shelters in the planning phase and execution phase of the murder of Lankesh. After the house at Seegehalli Gate on Magadi Road was chosen for the planning phase, Kale and Waghmare traveled regularly to the location of Lankesh’s home by using routes not tracked by police cameras.

The suspects used at least one other shelter for the execution of the crime, SIT sources told Indian Express.

The Sanatan Sanstha has denied involvement in the Lankesh killing, claiming it had no idea what its members were up to.

Source: Indian Express