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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.