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

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

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

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

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

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

With the arrest of Hindutva Terrorist Vaibhav Raut, Butchers, Meat-traders breathe easy in Nala Sopara

Nalasopara has heaved a big sigh of relief after the arrest of suspected Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut, who had allegedly terrorized his neighbourhood with his activities, reports Mid-day.

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

According to the police, Raut, who called himself a gau rakshak, has been involved in a series of attacks on butchers in the area every Bakri-eid.

The ‘gau rakshak’ had terrorised the area with his activities, carrying out illegal raids on meat shops and creating communal tension in the area, say police

Raut allegedly tried to create communal tension, particularly in the neighbouring Sopara village, by harassing locals and carrying out illegal raids on mutton and beef shops.

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

Every year, the police would extern him from the area for short periods, by serving him notices under section 144 of the Mumbai Police Act.

Raut, however, would stay put by bringing in political influence in the name of cow protection, said an officer, adding that even the police will breathe easy after his arrest.

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

Living in terror
Sopara village’s Muslim community, especially the butchers, lived in fear and insecurity due to Raut’s activities — even when beef hadn’t been banned by the government, he would go around conducting ‘raids’ on meat shops and harassing the owners, said a local, Anis Qureshi.

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

Speaking to Mid-day, he added, “In 2014, Raut forcibly stopped my tempo in his area and assaulted the driver.

The driver called me and I went to the spot, but Raut and his colleague abused and assaulted me too, saying I was smuggling cow meat.

They forcibly took me and my tempo to Nalasopara police station.

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

I have never carried or supplied cow meat; after I showed all the relevant documents to the cops, they let me go and registered a case against Raut and his colleague.

“Large numbers of Muslims as well as gau rakshaks had gathered outside the police station that day… he had succeeded in creating communal tension; clashes could have erupted anytime. Huge police bandobast was then deployed in the area, for the first time in the history of Nalasopara.”

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

Policespeak
“There are two cases of rioting and one of not following the district collector’s order registered against Raut at Nalasopara police station. Since 2015, we have been serving him notices to leave the area during Bakri-eid to maintain law and order there,” said Datta Totewar, SDPO, Nalasopara Division of Palghar district.

Source: Mid-day