Maha CM instructed State ATS to go slow and soft on Hindutva Terror Suspects, alleges ATS official

According to a senior Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) official, the Maha CM Devendra Phadnavis has instructed the ATS to go slow and soft on the arrests of Hindutva hardliners. So far 5-6 persons have been arrested by the ATS in the arms and explosives seizure case.

Sources in the ATS told IndiaScoops.com the orders have come from Delhi and PM Narendra Modi is personally monitoring the case on a day to day basis. While the Modi Government does not want to be seen as supporting any terror activity, they do not want to be seen as anti-Hindu or against Hindutva.

The Devendra Phadnavis government was openly criticized by far-right Hindutva proponents after the arrests. The Sanatan Sanstha and its allied organisations have got very active behind the scenes to protect the interests of their own people.

The Government at the Center is afraid some big names may tumble out. While the persons arrested so far can be considered as “small fry” the government does not want any links to Ministers or other senior RSS and VHP functionaries tumbling out.

The ATS official who spoke to IndiaScoops.com on condition of anonymity said the ATS head has been told in clear terms to get clearance from the CM’s office before making any more arrests.

CM Devendra Phadnavis was unavailable for comment and several attempts to contact the CM or the CM’s office for a quote on the issue went unanswered. The CM is trying to do a balancing act – between the Hindutva hardliners and others who condemn terror in all hues and colors.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) three days ago arrested another suspect in connection with the Nalasopara Explosive haul. The accused, Ganesh Kapale, a DTP operator, is a friend of the accused former Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar and is considered close to several top RSS leaders.

Kapale’s name cropped up during the investigation of Pangarkar and he was picked up for questioning from his residence in Shani Mandir Chowk last Wednesday.

Kapale, a DTP operator, owns a Xerox shop in Jalna and was very close to Pangarkar. The ATS had suspected that Kapale was working with Pangarkar. The latter can be a part of the terror plot hatched by the right-wing terror outfits. This suspicion of the ATS was confirmed after they scoured through Kapale’s computer and recovered certain e-mails. The said e-mails were sent to Kapale by Pangarkar in connection with the bomb blasts, based on which the arrests were made.

The Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad’s (ATS) interrogation report in the arms case involving sympathisers of the right-wing spiritual group Sanatan Sanstha once again mentions a certain MD Murali as the mastermind behind all killings and terror plots involving the group’s members or sympathisers.

Hindustan Times reported on September 5 that officers of the ATS were investigating the role of Murali. HT has has reviewed the interrogation report (IR) of the five individuals arrested by the ATS in August 2018.

To be sure, there is no other evidence other than the IR to even show that Murali, who is described as an elusive figure, exists. Still, the report names him as the brain behind several bomb blasts and the murders of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in Pune, social activist and writer Govind Pansare in Kolhapur, Kannada writer and academic Dr MM Kalburgi in Dharwad and Bengaluru-based activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh.

The IR also adds that he is the chief recruiter for a shadowy organisation spanning Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa that spread terror. The IR was filed in arms cases involving Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanva Gondhalekar, Shrikant Pangarkar and Avinash Pawar.

All five were arrested from different parts of Maharashtra last month for allegedly plotting terror activities in various parts of the country, and are currently in judicial custody. Bombs, detonators, and guns were recovered during the operation.

According to the report, Murali headed the unit responsible for the blasts and the killings. Amol Kale, a 37-year-old engineer from Pune who was arrested for murdering Lankesh was his deputy. Virendrasinh Tawde, accused of murdering of Dr Dabholkar, reported to Kale

The report mentions a 2014 meeting of right-wing organisations in Goa hosted by the Sanatan Sanstha which is headquartered in the state as one of the important milestones in the terror organisation built by Murali.

It was here, it claims, that he met Raut and eight others, some of whom have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of Lankesh.

According to the report, Raut speaks of Murali as an inspirational figure who incited his recruits by highlighting alleged atrocities perpetrated by Muslims on Hindus.

The report describes the entire indoctrination and training process: a training session with air guns soon after the 2014 meeting; indoctrination meetings at Belagavi, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Jalna, during which the recruits were shown inflammatory videos; another training session with air guns at Belagavi (and a subsequent session on making Molotov cocktails); a training session with pistols at the Aravalli Hills near Udaipur; and a final training session with pistols at a farm near Ahmedabad .

It isn’t clear how Murali communicated with the recruits.

The report claims that all the accused got to know each other really well during these sessions. The recruits chose Ganesh festivities to test their skills with the explosives at Pangarkar’s farmhouse in Jalna, as they could couch it as crackers being burst.

The IR adds that Murali, who was aware of the growing number of police-monitored closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in major cities, asked each of the recruits to wear caps and sunglasses to protect their identity.

Under Murali’s instructions, Raut and Pawar conducted reconnaissance in Mumbai earlier this year to target a person (HT has withheld the individual’s identity due to security concerns).

The reconnaissance was to be done in stages of three days each. After each stage, they would lie low for a fortnight before resuming the surveillance.

However, before Raut and Pawar could execute the hit, the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing Lankesh’s murder arrested Kale. After Kale’s arrest, Murali asked his recruits to go into hiding.

The IR states that the recruits were given pseudonyms, and expected to address each other only by that name at all times, including phone conversations.

with inputs from Hindustan Times and Agencies

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

Ex-Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar assembled bombs, funded purchase of explosives and boasted of ‘explosions’ in Mah to MoS Arjun Khotkar

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Sunday arrested a former Shiv Sena corporator, Shrikant Pangarkar, as part of its investigation into the plot to carry out attacks in five cities of Maharashtra by radical Hindu groups.

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

Three persons Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar were earlier arrested earlier in the case, but Pangarkar’s is the first political arrest.

The others were linked to far-right organisations Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and were associated with other hardliners across the country.

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

Sources said during interrogation, the other accused claimed that Pangarkar had helped assemble the explosives and store them, reports The Indian Express.

ATS sources told IndiaScoops.com that Pangarkar wanted to set off explosions in 12 to 14 places in Maharashtra and shake up the government machinery.

Also Read: Dabholkar, Pansare, Kulbargi and Lakesh murders inter-linked: Same group of killers involved in murders

The aim of this group was to create a fear psychosis in the minds of the people, creating fear among Hindus and pointing the finger of suspicion towards the minority community, an officer told IndiaScoops.com.

While the Shiv Sena said it didn’t have any links with Pangarkar now, senior leader and Minister of State Arjun Khotkar admitted several party leaders were in touch with him, and that he had talked about his Sanatan Sanstha links and even “explosion” plans, reports the Indian Express.

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

Twenty-two crude bombs and 21 country-made weapons have so far been recovered from the accused in the case, who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks in Mumbai, Solapur, Satara, Pune and Nalasopara.

Pangarkar was a corporator in Jalna Municipal Council for two terms, from December 2001 to December 2011.

The Shiv Sena said he had not been with the party for many years and was not an office-bearer.

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

“He had not been in touch with the Sena for almost eight years,” said Khotkar, MoS, Textiles, Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development and a senior Sena leader from Jalna.

Party sources said Pangarkar had rebelled after being denied a Sena ticket in 2011.

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

However, Khotkar admitted meeting him “twice or thrice in the past few years”, and hinted that Pangarkar had links with the controversial radical Hindu outfit, Sanatan Sanstha, and had even dropped hints of carrying out some blasts in the State, reports the Indian Express.

“During our conversation, when I asked him what he was doing, he said he was working for the Sanatan Sanstha in Assam, Goa and a few other states and was addressing big gatherings and holding workshops,” said Khotkar.

“Around 10 days ago, he had met Bhaskar Ambekar, the Mumbai chief of the Sena. Later, Ambekar told me about the conversation, in which Pangakar said to watch out for something big in the future and talked about explosions. But Pangarkar didn’t say anything specifically about where and how. Also, we don’t know whether he was speaking the truth. Police may be able to ascertain that.”

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

Ambekar’s phone remained switched off and he was unavailable for comment.

The other three arrested by the ATS in the case are Vaibhav Raut (40), an alleged member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, who is also said to be a sympathiser of the Sanatan Sanstha, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar (39), who hails from Satara and is a member of the Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan, and Sharad Kalaskar (25), who was arrested along with Raut from Raut’s Nalasopara residence.

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

Sanatan Sanstha activists are believed to have links with the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi and senior journalist Gauri Lankesh.

Pangarkar’s name first cropped up during the questioning of Kalaskar, and he was called to join the investigation on Saturday. “He is being probed in connection with the explosives recovered. We suspect he was aware of the conspiracy of the blasts and also the previous killings executed by the group. We are questioning him on the same,” a senior ATS official said.

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

Sources in the CBI, which is investigating the Dabholkar killing, said, “So far Pangarkar’s name hasn’t emerged in the case and therefore we haven’t summoned him.”

with inputs from The Indian Express