The three persons arrested by the Maharashtra ATS – Vaibhav Raut (40), Sharad Kalaskar (25), both from Nalla Sopara near Palghar and Sudhanav Gondhalekar (39) from Pune for possession of a huge cache of arms and explosives, had allegedly planned to blow up or create blasts at six 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.
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The locations targeted were close to Muslim localities, as a result of which the finger of suspicion would automatically point to anti social elements from the minority community.
2-3 anti-Hindu voices were also on the hit list and the Hindutva terrorists who had planned to use the crowds and chaos as a screen during the coming Ganpati festival to carry out their sinister plan to eliminate the liberal and rationalist voices in the State.
Goa-based writer Damodar Mauzo was among those targeted, sources claimed. Mauzo has been given police protection since the last 3 weeks by the Goa government as threats to his life were revealed.
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The Maharashtra ATS refused to officially confirm the information regarding the targets, but said that they were investigating all angles.
The arrested persons were definitely planning bomb blasts in Maharashtra and other parts of the country to spark off riots between communities, a plan which was foiled by the cops in the nick of time, the ATS said officially on record.
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The arrested hardliners Vaibhav Raut and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar wanted to procure about 150 pistols, 100 bombs and over 3000 bullets of different caliber for use in the coming 6-8 months and were planning to recruit a ‘small army of like-minded persons’ to carry out various terrorist activities.
They were trying to arrange funds to a tune of Rs 15 lakh to purchase this hardware for their heinous acts.
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The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) found a mini arms-making unit or factory and is now probing their links in Uttar Pradesh and Assam, official sources said on Monday.
The arrested persons were in the process of procuring machines and lathes to make country-made pistols and also fabricate bullets. They had obtained training from illegal arms manufacturing units in UP and Bihar, ATS sources revealed. Imported arms were procured from Assam.
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Vaibhav Raut a violent gau rakshak was the co-founder of a cow protection group, Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti set up in 2014. The group is allegedly associated with Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Shiv Prathisthan and the Sanatan Sanstha, all of which are radical far-right Hindutva organizations.
Gondhalekar is connected with the Shri Shiv Pratisthan, spearheaded by the controversial 85-year-old Sambhaji Bhide alias Bhide Guruji, which has patronage of the PM Narendra Modi.
Modi has openly admired Bhide and called him his guru or mentor. The Shiv Pratisthan confirmed Gondhalekar was earlier associated with them, but said he is now no longer part of the outfit.
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Local Congress politicians and meat traders in Palghar from where Raut was arrested have termed him an extortionist who would extort money from meat transporters and fund his illegal arms manufacturing activity.
On Friday, last week, the ATS created a sensation by claiming to have unearthed a terror plot targeting Mumbai, Pune, Satara and Solapur ahead of Independence Day celebrations and the upcoming Bakri Eid festival.
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Continuing the raids and probe over the weekend in Palghar, around 60 km north of Mumbai, the ATS has found a mini arms production unit and seized at least five country-made pistols, three incomplete pistols, 11 cartridges of 9 mm pistols and 30 cartridges of 7.65 mm pistols, springs, triggers and other material, reports news agency IANS.
The arrested three persons were part of a larger inter-state network of radicals set up to eliminate anti Hindu voices and create mayhem in the country. The ultimate aim was to create fear in the majority community by linking the blasts and acts of violence to minority community elements.
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Nearly 20 other associates or suspects have been interrogated to ascertain their connections in other parts of the state or outside and certain email exchanges between the accused with references to Uttar Pradesh and Assam shall be probed.