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 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 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

Illegal activities tarnished the image of BJP and Narendra Modi govt. Centre decided to teach these fringe elements a lesson, claims Home official

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the Maharashtra government to submit a detailed report on its investigation into extremist Hindutva organisation Sanathan Sanstha, which is suspected to be involved in the killings of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, communist leader Govind Pansare, writer MM Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh.

Deepak Kesarkar, state minister for home, confirmed to DNA that they are updating the report daily with details daily.

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

“When something big happens, it is routine practice for us to inform the central government. The investigation is in a primary stage. We have not yet confirmed that Sanathan Sanstha was involved in the killing of Dabholkar and the others. The probe is under way and going in the right direction,” Kesarkar said.

He said the state is not interfering in the investigation. “The police are at complete liberty to find the culprit, irrespective of their affiliation. The guilty should be punished and we will not spare anyone who is involved in organised crime,” Kesarkar said.

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

Sources in the state home department said the central government has directed it to deal with “anti-social” and “anti-national elements” with an iron fist. “The Centre told us that Sanathan Sanstha or any other extremist Hindutva organisation causing violence in the name of cows and Hindu dharma has to be stopped.

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

These illegal activities have tarnished the image of the BJP and the Narendra Modi-led government. Therefore, the centre had decided to teach these fringe elements a lesson,” a departmental source said, requesting anonymity.

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

Another officer from the state home ministry said that the BJP-led government did not want to take any risk before 2019 elections. “So the police have got a free hand to probe this case and arrest the conspirators,” he said.

Source: DNA

Maharashtra government to fast-track proposal for ban on Sanatan Sanstha

After the latest breakthrough in the murder of rationalist and anti-superstition crusader, Dr Narendra Dabholkar, the state government is looking at fast-tracking its long-pending proposal to ban the controversial Sanatan Sanstha.

The senior state government functionaries said they were appraising the Centre about the developments in the case, in which members of the right-wing radical Hindutva group, which is headquartered at Ponda in Goa, have been accused of alleged involvement in Dabholkar’s killing in 2013.

Dabholkar, who headed the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti and edited the Sadhana weekly, was shot dead by two assailants riding a motorcycle on August 20, 2013, while on his morning walk, in Pune.

After an arms and crude bombs haul at Nalasopara and Pune, at least four right-wing workers — Vaibhav Raut, Sudhanva Gondhalekar, Sharad Kalaskar and former Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar were arrested by the state Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) since August 9 for allegedly planning terror activities in some cities of Maharashtra. Sachin Andure, who was arrested from Aurangabad, has been accused of shooting Dabholkar with Kalaskar.

Deepak Kesarkar, minister of state for home, said they would appraise the Centre of the investigations in the case. “It will depend on what is revealed in the probe. We have ensured compliance on the queries raised (by the Centre on the Maharashtra government’s proposal) earlier,” he added.

A senior home department official said their 2011 proposal to the Union Home Ministry to ban the Sanstha was still pending. This proposal had mentioned cases registered against the members of the outfit founded by Dr Jayant Balaji Athavale.

“The Centre raised some queries which we replied to. Since 2015, no fresh queries were sent. The delay may be because so far, no members of the group have been convicted and some cases are sub-judice,” he explained. Moreover, banning any outfit or organisation made their activities go underground and hence, tough for the law enforcement agencies to track.

“We have sent our report on the case involving Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar to the union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). As a protocol, if an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, case is registered by any agency, it has to send a report within 24 hours to the MHA and the state home department,” said an ATS officer.

Founded as the Sanatan Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha in the 1990s, the organisation have been registered in different names across states, making it difficult for agencies to track and ban them.

Leader of the opposition, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and other opposition figures have also sought that the outfit be proscribed. However, Sanatan spokesperson said Congress leaders were targeting the group to “save their own skin.”

Sadhaks (seekers or devotees) of the Sanstha have been allegedly linked to the murder of Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Govindrao Pansare in 2015 at Kolhapur and the group has been accused of being allegedly involved in planting explosives at theaters in Thane and Vashi. The group also publishes a daily called ‘Sanatan Prabhat.’

Source: DNA

ATS custody of 3 accused arrested with arms and explosives extended till Aug 28

A court here today extended till August 28 the police custody of three suspected members of a right-wing group, who were arrested for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to carry out blasts in Maharashtra, reports PTI.

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

Vaibhav Raut (40), who used to run a pro-cow protection outfit, was arrested by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra police on August 10 from Nallasopara near Mumbai.

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

It was followed by arrests of Sharad Kalaskar (25) from Palghar district and Sudhanva Gondhalekar (39) from Pune.

The arrested accused were produced before judge Vinod Padalkar after their police remand ended today.

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

The ATS told the court that it has seized arms and explosives from the house of one Prasad Deshpande at Natepute village in Malshiras tehsil of Solapur district, along with some letters.

These letters, as well as other documents and messages exchanged through mobile phones by the accused contained some code words which the ATS wanted to probe, the prosecution said.

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 defence lawyer argued that there was no need for further ATS custody of the accused as examination of seized evidence was the job of forensic experts.

However, the prosecution maintained that the probe will come to a halt without further custodial interrogation.

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

While the ATS wanted a 15-day extension to the custody period, the court extended the accused’s police remand till August 28.

After the arrests, the ATS had claimed that it had seized a huge cache of explosive materials and country-made firearms during raids at various places in the state.

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

Alleging that the trio were planning to carry out blasts in the state ahead of Independence Day and Bakri-Eid festival, the ATS had said it would also probe if the accused had any connection with the killings of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, and journalist Gauri Lankesh.

The trio have been booked under terror-related provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Source: PTI

ATS quizzes Vaibhav Raut for whereabouts of Narendra Dabholkar murder accused Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar of Sanatan Sanstha

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

“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.

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

“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.

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

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.

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

“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.

Huge cache of arms including pistols, unfinished pistols, choppers, knives, detonators, fake number plates seized from Sanatan Sanstha accused

Mumbai: A day after a terror ring was busted and three persons arrested, the Pune unit of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has laid its hands on a huge cache of arms at the residence of one of the arrested accused on Saturday.

The seizures, which officials say hints towards something sinister, include country-made pistols, firearms, an air gun, automobile number plates, choppers and knives.

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

The Maharashtra ATS has also detained and questioned 15 more persons from multiple locations in the state.

The suspects have been picked up from Pune, Pandharpur, Satara and Solapur, among other cities.

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

The names came to the fore during the questioning of the arrested trio. The suspects are being questioned to ascertain if they were part of a conspiracy to target several cities with the cache of crude bombs and the weapons that have been seized.

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

Following the arrest of the main accused Vaibhav Raut (40), a gau rakshak (cow protector) in the early hours of Friday with a cache of explosives and his accomplice Sharad Kalaskar (25), the ATS learnt of one Sudhanwa Gondhalekar (39), from Pune and apprehended him.

He is suspected to be associated with Sambhaji Bhide’s right-wing organisation Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan.

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

Searches conducted at the residence of Gondhalekar have led the ATS to 10 country-made pistols, crude firearms, an air gun, 10 pistol barrels, six incomplete pistol bodies, six magazines, three incomplete magazines, seven pistol slides, 16 relay switches, six automobile number plates, a trigger mechanism, a chopper and steel knife each from Gondhalekar’s residence.

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

“The house also had some electronic items, a handbook on explosives, printouts of explosive and mobile phones, circuit drawings of relay switches, some pen drives, hard disks and memory cards, all of which have been seized. We will have to send the storage devices for forensic analysis to ascertain their contents,” said an ATS officer.

They have been sent to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory at Kalina for analysis. The ATS will be adding fresh sections as per provisions of the Arms Act in the case.