Accused in Gauri Lankesh Murder, Ganesh Miskin Confesses Involvement in Kalburgi Murder

New Delhi: Confirming speculation that the same group of people were behind the assassinations of rationalists and anti-Hindutva writers, one of the suspects arrested in the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh has confessed to the SIT that he was also involved in the murder of professor M.M. Kalburgi, claims a report in The Wire.

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

According to a Bangalore Mirror report, Ganesh Miskin, who was arrested for ferrying suspected Lankesh shooter Parashuram Waghmare to her home, confessed he was one of the people who arrived at Kalburgi’s home and knocked on the door to shoot him dead.

Also Read: 36 Targets and 50 Shooters: Gauri Lankesh Murder Suspect’s Diary Reveals Chilling Details

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) is probing Lankesh’s murder, while the CID is investigating the killing of Kalburgi.

The SIT had already established that the same gun was used for both the assassinations.

Kalburgi was shot dead at his residence on August 30, 2015, while Lankesh was also killed at her doorstep on September 5, 2017, reports The Wire.

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

According to Bangalore Mirror, the SIT probe has found that the mastermind behind Lankesh’s killing, Amol Kale, was also one of the key players in the killing of Kalburgi.

Earlier this week, a formal report was forwarded by the SIT to the CID on the link between the two murders and also the statements of Miskin and three others.

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

While Miskin has confessed to his presence at the Kalburgi crime scene, he claimed he was not the shooter.

A report in The Hindu quoted CID officials as saying, “Statements by any suspects before the police were of little value and they had to be corroborated with material and technical evidence to be able to pin them down.”

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

Of the 12 suspects arrested in the Lankesh killing, several belong to extremist groups Hindu Janajagruti Samithi (HJS) or Sanatan Sanstha.

Members of these two organisations have also been accused in the murders of communist Govind Pansare and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, in addition to Lankesh and Kalburgi. Miskin’s confession seems to have further corroborated these links.

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

According to a report in The News Minute, Miskin told investigators that mastermind Kale and Amit Degwekar, the latter of whom was living in a HJS ashram in Goa, were also involved in murders which were carried out in Maharashtra.

Probing these links, the SIT is expected to soon arrest three more members in Maharashtra.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with inputs from The Indian Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with inputs from Indian Express

Right-wing hardliners wanted to set up a ‘saffron army’ of 2000 mercenaries equipped with weapons and bombs

Bengaluru: Some indoctrinated and trained right-wing hardliners in Maharashtra, who are members of organisations that are reportedly linked to Goa-based ‘Sanatan Sanstha’, were reportedly working towards establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by 2023 with a ‘saffron army’ when the ATS blew the lid off their alleged conspiracy.

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 aim was to set up a force of about 2000 ‘killers’ in groups of 4-6, armed with weapons and bombs and get them to span across the country.

With that aim in mind, the hardliners were trying to set up a manufacturing unit to manufacture pistols and bombs on a mass scale.

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

Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa were identified as recruiting grounds for the group, with the interior rural areas of Maharashtra serving as the training grounds for the army.

An all-out attack by the hardliners would have meant a disaster for the BJP-led government in the state on the eve of Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and Lok Sabha elections next year, reports the Deccan Chronicle.

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

“Sir, please alert the Maharashtra (Anti Terrorist Squad) before it is too late” – a ‘Most Urgent’ communiqué from the Special Investigation Team (SIT), Karnataka to Maharashtra ATS literally saved the day for the state and helped the police unearth the ‘covert’ operation.

The “inputs” from the Karnataka SIT had come from the accused in the journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh murder case and the diary of Amol Kale (a key accused in the case).

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

The contents of the diary were shared at the “highest level” in Maharashtra and the immediate follow-up action by the ATS led to the arrest of three right-wing hardliners – Vaibhav Raut, a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, who is a member of the Shri Shivpratishthan Hindustan headed by Sambhaji Bhide, and Sharad Kasalkar from Nala Sopara and Satara and recovery of huge cache of firearms, explosives and incriminating literature.

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

During the raids the ATS reportedly recovered a deadly cache of contraband firearms – 11 country made pistols with magazines, one air gun, 10 pistol barrels, six pistol magazines, six incomplete pistols, three partially made magazines, seven partially made pistol slides, several half-made parts of illicit firearms from the accused.

“The ATS has unearthed an illicit manufacturing and assembling unit of arms and explosives, which was being assembled for a major attack in Maharashtra. The 7.65 mm country-made pistol, which was used to kill Gauri Lankesh may be part of the cache of illegal firearms that was seized by the ATS,” said an official source on condition of anonymity.

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

Recovery of the killer weapon will help the SIT in cracking the case.

The team has so far arrested 12 accused in the sensational murder case. Deccan Chronicle in 2008 had reported about the alleged plans of the extreme right-wing group in Karnataka to raise a pan India ‘army’ – ‘Bhayotpadana Nigraha Sena’ – comprising of nationalist Hindu youth in the age group of 18 and 30 years, who would be trained by former army and police officers, to purge the country of Islamic jehadi outfits.

Karnataka and Maharashtra were designated fields of operation for the recruitment and training of hardliners.

with inputs from Deccan Chronicle

Chidambaram blasts BJP, RSS after ATS arrests 3 with a huge cache of arms and explosives and links to extremist Hindu outfits

A day after the Maharashtra ATS arrested three men affiliated to radical Hindu outfits for plotting terror attacks, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday, August 11 asked if the RSS and BJP would condemn those outfits.”Maharashtra ATS announced the arrest of three men affiliated to radical Hindu outfits.

Who rules Maharashtra? The BJP. Hindu, Muslim or any other religion, radicalism is radicalism. Terror is terror. There is no purpose in burying one’s head in the sand,” said Chidambaram on Twitter.”Will the RSS and BJP condemn those who are plotting and planning terror attacks?” he asked.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Friday claimed to have foiled a terrorist attempt to strike in different parts of the state following the arrest of three persons and seizure of at least 20 crude bombs and explosives and material used in bomb-making.

Official sources said the first to be arrested early Friday was Hindu Janjagran Samiti (HJS) activist Vaibhav Raut from his home in Nala Sopara, Palghar district, just north of Mumbai.Later, his accomplice Sharad Kalaskar was arrested from there by the ATS teams, which were accompanied by a dog squad and forensics experts.

A third right-wing activist Sudhnava Gondhalekar—allegedly linked to Shri Shiv Pratisthan—was arrested from Pune.The sources said that the accused planned to carry out terror hits in Mumbai, Pune, Solapur and Satara districts in the coming few days.

Source: Nagpur Today

Muzaffarnagar DM May Be Sacked For Opposing Yogi Govt, Says Can’t Withdraw Riot Cases Due to Administrative Reasons

Lucknow: The Muzaffarnagar district administration in its report to the government has advised that the withdrawal of 113 cases related to Muzzaffarnagar and Shamli riots would not be advisable on an administrative level, reports News18.com.

IndiaScoops.com has learnt that Yogi Adityanath was infuriated with the DM who refused to obey what was seen as a direct order and is considering shunting the officer to a far-off location.

In March this year, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh had initiated the process to withdraw 131 cases related to the riots in 2013.

District magistrate Muzaffarnagar, Rajiv Sharma said, “Under the constitutional process anyone can apply for rollback of cases. This practice is being continued by this government and was used by the previous government as well.

After a thorough investigation on 13 points by the police, we have recommended to the government that the withdrawal of cases will not be advisable on administrative level.”

The riots, which took place during Akhilesh Yadav’s tenure as CM in August-September of 2013, left more than 40,000 homeless. A total of 502 cases were registered in connection with the riots, in which 6,867 people have been accused.

News18 had reported in February that Hindu-Muslim communities had organised Hindu-Muslim panchayats to amicably resolve the issue without political intervention. Hindu-Muslim Mahapanchayat was organised in Bulandshahr district’s Barabasti on February 4 which saw the Jat community in Purbaliyan and Muslims of Kutuba village coming together. A decision was taken to withdraw 20 cases registered against members of the two communities.

According to some reports, the panchayat had also raised eyebrows ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as some political leaders felt that the improving ties between the two communities would prevent them from earning “brownie points”.

Former Union minister Sanjeev Balyan met UP CM Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow, along with BJP MLA Sangeet Som, farmer leader Naresh Tikait and a few others to deliberate on issues pertaining to the riots.

The leaders demanded that most cases of arson filed against Jats be quashed. They claimed that of the 502 cases, around 400 were of arson, with most being bogus filed to get compensation. The Yogi government had then promised to look into the matter.

with inputs from News18.com

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.

About 35-40 bombs could be manufactured from the explosives recovered from Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut’s Palghar house

ATS and police sources revealed that over two dozen bombs or nearly 35  to 40 small explosive devices – enough to create a small blast and widespread terror – could be manufactured from the total quantity of gun powder, other explosives and detonators seized by the Maharashtra ATS from Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut’s house and office at Palghar on Friday morning.

Also Read: Besides Sanatan Sanstha & HJS member Vaibhav Raut, two more persons arrested by Maha ATS

According to media reports, the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has recovered at least eight country-made bombs from the house of a man related to Sanatan Sansthan in Nala Sopara.

The squad also recovered raw material to make explosives, gun powder and detonators and timers  from a nearby shop, which served as the office of the arrested accused Vaibhav Raut.

Also Read: Vaibhav Raut from whom 8 bombs and explosives were seized was actively involved with Sanatan Sanstha for last 6 years

According to sources, the raw material found at the shop includes large quantity of gun powder and detonators, enough to make over two dozen bombs, reports India TV.

The Hindustan Times reports that the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra police arrested a suspected member of a right-wing Hindu organisation at Nallasopara in Palghar district near Mumbai and seized eight crude bombs and explosives from his house late Thursday.

The activity at the Palghar office was going on for the last six months or so.

Raut was under surveillance by the Maha ATS after receiving intelligence from the Kerala SIT investigating the murder of writer and journalist Gauri Lankesh. Amol Kale, another Sanatan Sanstha member arrested for the murder of Gauri Lankesh had revealed the name of Vaibhav Raut and told investigators that Raut was a member of a right-wing extremist group, involved in murder and killing of anti-Hindu voices. A diary with about 36 names was recovered by the SIT.

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

Vaibhav Raut (40) allegedly belongs to Sanatan Sanstha and has been a member of the group since 2012. He will be produced before the Bhoiwada court on Friday afternoon, reports HT.

An ATS team with a dog squad searched Raut’s ground floor house at Bandarali village in Sopara, Nalasopara (west). The search operations continued till early Friday, said ATS sources.

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

“Raut used his estate agency office to store and make the bombs and we have seized materials like gun powder, detonators and other articles which could make a dozen more crude bombs. We believe Raut used his office as a front to make the bombs,” an ATS officer was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.

Suvez Haque, deputy inspector general of the ATS refused to comment on the incident and said all queries will be answered from HQ ATS as per protocol.

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

In April 2017, the Maharashtra government sent a proposal to the Centre seeking a ban on Sanatan Sanstha.

The Goa-headquartered outfit was linked to two high profile murder cases, including that of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, and also terror activities in Goa and Maharashtra.

with inputs from India Tv and Hindustan Times

Bofors scam ‘insignificant’ before Rafale, which is the mother of all scams, say Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan

New Delhi: (PTI) The Rafale deal is a case of “monumental criminal misconduct” by the NDA government and the scam involving it is much bigger than the Bofors scandal, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie alleged on Wednesday, demanding a time-bound probe into the contract by national auditor CAG, reports news agency PTI.

The duo were accompanied by senior counsel and activist Prashant Bhushan and held a press conference at the Delhi Press Club on Wednesday.

In a tweet, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected the charges as “baseless”, asserting that the government had already responded to the allegations on the floor of Parliament.

She said a recent attempt in Parliament to malign the government through baseless charges had collapsed.

Sinha and Shourie, addressing a press conference along with lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, raised a number of questions over the Rs 58,000 crore deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

Both Shourie and Sinha have served in the previous BJP-led government at the Centre.

The trio, known as strong critics of the NDA government, also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of single-handedly changing the parameters of the deal and that there was gross violation of mandatory procedures in finalising the contract.

The entire deal was a “textbook case of criminal misconduct, of misuse of public office and of enriching parties at the expense of the national interest and national security”, they alleged, adding there was an “effort” by the government to “conceal” facts.

The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the Rafale deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government for the procurement of 126 Rafale jets.

The deal negotiated by the UPA could not be inked.

The trio also rejected government’s contention that the prices of the aircraft have gone up due to India-specific add-ons and weapons systems, citing a joint statement by India and France during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in 2015.

They said the joint statement mentioned that the aircraft and the associated systems and weapons would be delivered to India on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force for the deal negotiated for procurement of 126 jets under the UPA government.

Shourie alleged that there had been “gross misuse of office” by which the original project for the acquisition of 126 fighter aircraft had been “sabotaged”. “I can tell you, as a person who handled the matter with regards to Bofors, that Bofors was absolutely nothing compared to this (Rafale scam). There was never a sudden change (in the deal) like this in which you suddenly give up the entire project,” the former minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government said.

The Congress has also been pressing for price details of the deal but the NDA government has refused to divulge them citing confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact. The government has asserted that there were no irregularities in the deal.

“I would suggest, on our behalf, that the audit which Comptroller and Auditor General was supposed to take up, that should be a forensic audit and it should be completed within three months,” said Sinha, adding “It is a huge scam. Bofors pales into insignificance before this scam.”

The Bofors scandal involving procurement of howitzer guns in late 1980s had rocked the then Rajiv Gandhi government. Terming the Rafale deal as the “biggest defence scam” that this country has seen so far, Bhushan alleged that it involved a loss of at least 35,000 crore to the public exchequer.

The trio said the ever-shifting statements of the ministers of defence, invoking of secrecy clauses in the contract and the inexplicable dropping of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), from the project were among the factors which convinced them of the deal being “a major scandal”.

“We are convinced that this is an enormous scandal that jeopardises national security and hence we feel the government must reveal the facts, especially the facts in relation to what the whole deal is going to cost the public exchequer,” Shourie said.

“We hope that the opposition parties will relentlessly pursue this matter, the way the BJP had pursued Bofors at that time. With the same tenacity, the opposition parties must pursue the matter,” he said.

The three leaders also accused the government of benefitting Reliance Defence, saying that the company which was under Rs 8,000 crore in debt and had no experience in making aircraft was involved under mandatory offset obligations of the French firm. Strongly rejecting the charges, CEO of Reliance Defence and Aerospace Rajesh K Dhingra said no contract has been given to any Reliance Group company by the Ministry of Defence related to the purchase of the 36 Rafale aircraft. “As all 36 aircraft are to be delivered ‘fly-away’, to be manufactured in France by Dassault and exported to India, how is the question of experience in manufacturing aircraft relevant here?,” he asked.

Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.

Source: PTI

Atrocities against women happening today in PM Modi’s rule, didn’t happen in 3,000 years: Rahul Gandhi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of remaining silent on incidents of alleged rape, including in shelter homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and asserted that what is happening against women during his tenure, had not happened in the previous 3,000 years in India, reports PTI.

Mr. Gandhi also said that his aim was to have 50% women in the Congress while asserting that the BJP cannot put forward such a vision as its “parent organisation”, the RSS, was a “male chauvinist organisation”.

Taking a swipe at the government’s campaign of “beti bachao, beti padhao”, he said that it was actually for “saving the daughters from BJP MLAs”, an apparent reference to some BJP leaders accused in rape cases.

He alleged that Mr. Modi had remained silent over the atrocities against women in the backdrop of rapes of girls in shelter homes in Muzaffarpur in Bihar and in Uttar Pradesh.

“The Prime Minister speaks on everything — bullet train, aeroplanes, toilets, but not women. Whenever there are atrocities on women, he does not speak up,” Mr. Gandhi said.

“[He] had talked about changing India, had talked about 70 years…what they have done against women in the last four years, had not happened in the previous 3,000 years in this country, leave alone 70 years,” Mr. Gandhi said.

The Congress leader, while addressing a “Mahila Adhikaar Sammelan” at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi, promised to extend his party’s full support to the passage of the women reservation bill and said if the Modi government does not bring it, the Congress will do so soon after coming to power.

He also talked of empowering women within the Congress and bringing them forward in the organisation, for them to lead a State or the country one day.

He promised to include more women in central units of the AICC, saying “the country needs them”.

“In U.P. women are raped, the Prime Minister does not say a word on it. In Jharkhand and in various States women are raped, in Bihar small girls are raped, but our Prime Minister cannot speak a word on it,” he said.

In a reference to the Unnao rape case, Mr. Gandhi said that in U.P. “their MLA is accused of rape”, but the Prime Minister does not say a word.

Women across the country go out scared, he claimed.

The Congress chief also said that whenever the prime minister goes abroad, he embraces leaders, but has no answer to the question — why women are not safe in India.

He promised to bring women to the forefront of the party in framing policy, manifesto and strengthening the organisation. He said his job as the Congress president is to ensure women have equal space in the organisation.

“We are going to create space for you in the Congress party. We need to create special space for women in our party. We need to create a space at every level.

“The RSS and the BJP will never be able to show the country a similar vision. Their parent organisation, the RSS, in its history has never allowed a woman into its organisation,” Mr. Gandhi said.

“There are other organisations in the BJP that have females in it, but the RSS is a completely male chauvinist organisation that does not believe in giving space to women,” Mr. Gandhi alleged, adding that they simply “can’t do what we can do“.

The day one woman enters the RSS, it will not remain the RSS, Mr. Gandhi said.

The ideology of the BJP and the RSS is that India will be run by men, women cannot run this country, he said.

“Women’s place is at the back and men’s place is in front. This is the biggest difference between us and them,” the Congress leader said.

Launching a fierce attack on the Prime Minister, Mr. Gandhi said various institutions were under attack from the BJP and the RSS, who have “devastated” the country, and that the Congress party will unitedly defeat them in the coming days.

“Institutions are under attack in the country, be it Parliament, vidhan sabhas and the judiciary. Minorities, Dalits, women, tribals, small businessmen are under attack. We will fight the BJP and defeat them in the coming days.

“The Congress party and the opposition are working together to fight the ideology of the BJP. We are fighting an ideological battle,” he said.

Talking about the women reservation bill, which is pending for the last few years, the Congress chief said the BJP lacks commitment on the issue.

Promising to bring women forward within the Congress and give them their rightful place, Mr. Gandhi while pointing to the slogan “your fight is our fight” put up at the conference, said you can add “your right is Congress president’s fight”.

He said if he faced with a choice between a man and a woman for selecting election candidate, he will choose whoever is more capable.

“If both are equally capable, I will choose the woman as a candidate,” Mr. Gandhi said.

Mr. Gandhi, along with Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev, unveiled the flag and the symbol of Mahila Congress.

Mr. Gandhi also said that the media should no longer worry, while alleging that the BJP and the RSS are frightening them.

Source: PTI