By Rajesh Singh | 25 August, 2018: The Maharashtra Congress today alleged that the Devendra Fadnavis BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra had protected and shielded the killers of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and others for the last four years, in spite of having complete knowledge of the criminal activities of the hardliners who are indirectly part of the government.
It was only after the Karnataka police Special Investigation Team (SIT) arrested about 13 persons who spat out the names of their associates in Maharashtra, and the press began reporting on the Maharashtra link to the killers, that the government developed cold feet.
It was just a matter of time, before the names of the accused hiding in Maharashtra would be revealed publicly in the media.
The text of the remand and bail applications, as well as the confessional statements of the accused began appearing in the media, which forced the government to act and ordered the Maha ATS to make arrests immediately.
The Karnataka SIT had proof in terms of money trails and bank statements of several payments or transfers made by RTGS and IMPS from people in Maharashtra who had financially supported Gauri Lankesh’s killers in Karnataka.
The government was worried that the role of others in Maharashtra like Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar and Shrikant Pangarkar would be exposed during court proceedings in the Gauri Lankesh case and the role of the Maha government in shielding the accused and not making arrests, in spite of having information from the Karnataka police would come out in the open.
The credibility and very existence of the Maharashtra government was at stake, said a Congress leader from Mumbai. The Devendra Fadnavis government then consulted Delhi, including the PMO and the Home Ministry, which gave them the go-ahead to arrest all the accused in Maharashtra whose names had cropped up in the Gauri Lankesh investigation.
This would serve a dual purpose. While the field operators like Raut and Kalaskar would be arrested, the masterminds and their political masters or bosses could still be protected. The arrest of the small fry would save the big bosses from arrest.
A top Karnataka police official told IndiaScoops.com, the SIT had information that the weapon used to kill Gauri Lankesh was given to Gondhalekar who personally collected the weapon after the murder and took it for safe-keeping in Maharashtra. Forensic reports had matched the weapons, proving that only two weapons were used in all the murders.
The Karnataka SIT knew that country-made pistols were being manufactured in Maharashtra and a huge cache of arms and explosives was being readied for subversive activities during the coming festivals.
Sources told IndiaScoops.com, that the Karnataka SIT had asked for permission from the Maharashtra DGP and the Maharashtra govt home department to raid Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar and arrest them to recover the weapons used in the Gauri Lankesh murder.
The Karnataka SIT was all set to enter Maharashtra and arrest Kalaskar and Gondhalekar. The Maharashtra government had to do something and it did act in the nick of time to save it’s own skin.
The SIT was sure the weapon was with Gondhalekar or one of his associates hidden somewhere in Maharashtra.
In the light of all this, if the Karnataka SIT had to effect the arrests of Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, it would have been a big slap on the face of the Maha government and its role in protecting the killers would be completely exposed.
The Bombay High Court was also breathing down the neck of the CBI and the Maharashtra CID. It had openly praised the Karnataka SIT, while chastising the Maharashtra police and instructed the agencies to take inputs from their colleagues across the border.
The accused in the custody of the Karnataka SIT were singing like canaries and they had revealed the names of all the co-conspirators from Maharashtra. A diary found in the possession of the main accused Amol Kale listed the names of the accused as well as those on the hit-list of the killers.
Karnataka SIT sources told IndiaScoops.com, they were about to move court for search and arrest warrants against the accused hiding in Maharashtra. Had a Karnataka court to grant the SIT the search and arrest warrants, the Maharashtra government would have to run for cover.
Further, the Devendra Fadnavis government was also worried if Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, Sachin Andhure and Shrikant Pangarkar were to land up first in the SIT custody, more skeletons would tumble out of the closets as the SIT was going hammer and tongs with the investigation.
More big names – including those of some top politicians in other States would be revealed – this was the other major problem for the Maha CM. The only way to prevent this was to first arrest them and lock them up with the Maharashtra ATS where they could be debriefed, conditioned and tutored before the Karnataka SIT got hold of them.
By doing so, Devendra Fadnavis would be seen as a strict disciplinarian, unwilling to tolerate terror activity of any hue or color.
“The government was aware of what was happening,” said a senior Congress leader, adding that a former Shiv Sena corporator from Jalna, Shrikant Pangarkar has been arrested by the ATS and the CBI for the murder of Dr Dabholkar and according to media reports several senior Shiv Sena leaders were aware of Pangarkar’s activities as well as his plans to carry out several bomb blasts in Maharashtra.
The Congress leader claimed that Pangarkar had bragged of his ‘explosions’ and ‘bomb blasts’ activity to each and every Sena leader he met over the last 2-3 months. Why didn’t the government act against him earlier, he asked?
According to a July 2018 report in Mid-day, the Congress alleged that the BJP-led Maharashtra government was shying away from taking serious action against the Sanatan Sanstha because “supporters” of the right wing outfit are part of the ruling dispensation.
Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil also said that the style of functioning of the Sanstha can be equated with international terrorist organisation, the Al Qaida.
Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded a ban on Sanatan Sanstha and alleged that the State government is safeguarding the mastermind in the murder case.