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Niranjan Takle
Niranjan Takle


Spirited chase

86Peopleprotest Fight for justice: People protest the lack of progress in the Dabholkar murder case in Mumbai | PTI

Investigative agencies hot on the trail of Sanatan Sanstha

Virendrasingh Tawade is a man in demand. The CBI first arrested the ENT surgeon on June 10 in connection with the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013. A Pune court remanded him to police custody, following which the Maharashtra special investigation team obtained his custody, to question him about the murder of communist leader Govind Pansare last year. Now, the CID in Karnataka is seeking his custody in relation with the murder of rationalist writer M.M. Kalburgi last year.

Tawade is the Maharashtra coordinator of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a wing of the Goa-based Hindu cult Sanatan Sanstha. With the needle of suspicion pointing to Sanatan, revelations are expected in the coming days.

The CBI had found in Tawade's laptop more than 200 emails he had exchanged with another Sanatan activist, Sarang Akolkar. Tawade’s role in 'Project Dabholkar', the plot to kill the rationalist, was of a conspirator, said a CBI officer. “Tawade kept pretending that he had headaches and vertigo during questioning. We got medical tests done for six hours; he is absolutely normal. The pretension was only to damage the investigation,” the officer said.

The CBI also recorded the statement of a witness who claimed that Tawade had tried to kill Dabholkar and Pansare. According to the statement, Tawade had asked the witness, who has been in the metallurgy business for long, to make a pistol for him. In May 2013, Akolkar visited the witness's shop in Kolhapur and showed him a pistol. “I felt that Tawade was trying to push me into unlawful activities in the name of Hindu religion,” the witness said in the statement. Tawade met the witness in June 2013 and asked him to find accommodation for two youth. According to the statement, Tawade told the witness that the youth would like to study the movements of certain people—like when they left home for office and returned, etc.

A few days later, Vinay Pawar, a Sanatan member, went to the witness along with another youth. Pawar is suspected to be one of the men who shot Dabholkar. “These two walked towards Bindu Chowk [in Kohlapur] from my shop, loitered there for some time and went away,” the witness said in the statement. Pansare’s office is at Bindu Chowk. Tawade called the witness five times in July, 2013, saying there was an urgent need for “chocolates to be used in the instrument that Akolkar had shown him”. 'Chocolate', apparently, was the code word for bullets. On August 20, Dabholkar was shot dead. “I had witnessed Tawade's extreme hatred for Dabholkar during the Parit caste programme in Kolhapur,” the witness said in the statement.

Sanatan Sanstha denied all the allegations and questioned the credibility of the CBI witness. On June 1, in a news conference, Sanatan's lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar had admitted that he had been in touch with Akolkar until recently.

Prashant Juvekar, an accused in the Goa blast case of 2009, says in a statement that he attended, along with Akolkar, a bomb-making training camp in Goa in August 2009. In the statement, Juvekar says Punalekar offered refuge to five accused in the Goa blast case.

Said Dabholkar's son, Hamid: “We have been demanding the interrogation of advocate Punalekar. He has openly admitted to be in touch with ‘proclaimed absconders’. It is just not a coincidence that the CBI, the SIT and the Karnataka CID all are heading towards Sanatan.”

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