Vaibhav Raut And Gang’s Main Targets Were Mumbai and Pune During Ganpati Festival

Vaibhav Raut, 40, who was named by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) following investigations and arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly plotting terror attacks at numerous places, had stored the crude bombs under his bed at his Nalasopara home.

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.

This is what the ATS remand report, filed while seeking police custody of Raut and his accomplices – Sharad Kalaskar, 25, held from Nalasopara, and Sudhanva Gondhalkar, alias Pandeji, 39, held from Pune – states.

As per the remand report, an informant gave the agency a tip-off on August 7 along with certain phone numbers, after which the three suspects were located.

Incidentally, one of the numbers the agency got was registered in someone else’s name in Vile Parle. Inquiry, however, revealed that the person had shifted to Nalasopara.

When the person was found, he told investigators that he had given the SIM to Raut, who had given it to Pandeji.

This helped the ATS to zero in on the three. Officers suspect that someone else’s SIM was being used to throw the police off track.

Line of investigation
The report has also revealed that though the suspects recceed many places, their main aim was to create disturbance in Mumbai and Pune.

Interrogation of the three led to the recovery of the bombs and other material, including two handwritten letters from Kalaskar in which the bomb-making technique was described in detail.

The agency is investigating whether Kalaskar was the sole in-charge of bomb-making, or the other two had a hand in it too. The ATS has also seized two one-litre bottles of poison.

A senior officer said samples have been sent to the Kalina forensic lab for testing, and they are trying to find out what the accused needed poison for.

Arms haul
ATS has recovered 20 crude bombs, several country-made pistol with magazines, country guns, airguns, pistol barrels, partially-made pistols, trigger mechanism, number plates of vehicles, a chopper, hard disks, pen drives etc.

The questioning of the trio led to the arrest of former Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar, 40, from Jalna.

He was the financier, who funded the bomb-making, and also the facilitator said ATS officers.

with inputs from Mid-day

Dabholkar, Pansare, Kulbargi and Lakesh murders inter-linked: Same group of killers involved in killings

As the CBI made one more arrest on Sunday, the realization is slowly dawning upon the investigating agencies including the Karnataka SIT, that all the murders of rationalists Dabholkar, Pansare, Kulbargi and journalist Gauri Lankesh are inter-linked and the same group of Hindutva hardliners supported from afar by the Sanatan Sanstha and its offshoot Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) were involved in the planning and execution of the targets.

Also Read:  With nearly 16-18 bomb blasts across the State, Sharad Kalaskar’s group plotted to rain terror and chaos in Maharashtra during Eid and Ganpati festivals

In fact, the same two weapons were possibly used in all four murders – forensic tests and reports have proved that there were two pistols that were used in the four murders.

The CBI team investigating the murder case of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar has claimed that it has arrested the alleged shooter who fired bullets at Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, reports News18.

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

The CBI team has been able to nab the alleged shooter Sachin Prakashrao Andure, just two days before the fifth death anniversary of Dabholkar.

On Sunday, the CBI arrested a former Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar who was riding pillion on the motorbike of the shooter Andure.

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

Sachin Andure, a right wing Hindu activist, was a regular reader of Sanatan Prabhat, the mouthpiece of the Sanatan Sanstha.

According to sources, Sachin Andure’s name surfaced during the interrogation of three suspects arrested by the Maharashtra ATS on August 10.

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

Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar were arrested from Nala Sopara, whereas the third suspect Sudhanva Gondhlikar was arrested from Pune on the same day.

Vaibhav Raut is a member of the ‘Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti’. He has participated in several events organised by Hindu organisations, including the Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS.

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

Sharad Kalaskar, who hails from Satara district, is also a right wing Hindu activist actively involved in protecting cows. He was working  with Vaibhav Raut in Nala Sopara.

Kalaskar during interrogation told the ATS he was involved in the Dabholkar murder.

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

Sudhanva Gondhalekar is allegedly associated with ‘Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan’, an organisation headed by Sambhaji Bhide alias Bhide Guruji. PM Narendra Modi is a great admirer of Bhide who is also known as Bhide Guruji among his people.

Sudhanva has also shared dais with several members of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha.

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

ATS said that the arrests were made based on a secret information received on August 7, that certain people were conspiring terror activities in Pune, Satara, Solapur, Mumbai and Nala Sopara.

A huge cache of explosives, including 20 country made bombs and material to make IEDs, was seized along with several firearms from raids carried out at Nala Sopara, Pune and Solapur.

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

ATS also arrested Shrikant Pangarkar, former Shiv Sena corporator from Jalna district on August 19. It is suspected that he financed the fire arms and explosives recovered from the three suspects.

If sources are to be believed, the secret information received by ATS was given by the Special Investigation Team from Karnataka probing the murder case of Journalist Gauri Lankesh.

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

According to sources, the name of Vaibhav Raut and others surfaced during the interrogation of Amol Kale, who allegedly masterminded murder of Gauri Lankesh.

Amol Kale was arrested by Karnataka Police on May 21, on charges of attempt to murder.

However, his custody was taken by the SIT of Bengaluru police as it was suspected that he was involved in the murder plot of Gauri Lankesh.

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

A diary was also seized from Kale which has several names of targets, including that of Gauri Lankesh.

The Karnataka police SIT investigating the Gauri Lankesh murder claimed that about 36 to 40 persons were on the hit list of Kale and gang.

The families of Dabholkar and late Communist member Govind Pansare have been given security following inputs from Kale’s diary, which reportedly had the names of the family members on the hit list.

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

Sources claim that the diary is written in code language and also talks about 50 potential shooters from Karnataka and Maharashtra who were to be recruited to carry out the operations. About 40 persons were on the hit list of the shooters.

Several of these were being trained in using guns, pistols and air guns in Belgavi, Hubballi and Pune.

Also Read: Gau Rakshaks chant anti-police, anti-govt slogans, take out protest march demanding release of terror suspect Vaibhav Raut

When Amol Kale was interrogated by the SIT about the names in the diary, he revealed information about Vaibhav Raut and others. The information was passed to Maharashtra ATS.

Based on this information, the Call Data Records of Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar were tracked by the ATS, which revealed information regarding a terror conspiracy and their suspicious activity was exposed.

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

Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar were detained by the ATS and after several hours of questioning, the residence and shop of Vaibhav Raut, located in Nala Sopara, were raided and both were arrested.

Another suspect named Sudhanva Gondhlikar was also arrested from Pune as he was found to be constantly in touch with the Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar.

Also Read: Protest rally at Nala Sopara in support of arrested Vaibhav Raut was organised by Sanatan Sanstha and HJS

Apart from firearms and explosives, in the raids conducted at Nala Sopara, Pune and Solapur, ATS also seized vehicle number plates, motor bikes and parts of pistols along with other articles, including several documents handwritten in code language.

ATS suspects that these articles were used in the murders carried out in Maharashtra and Karnataka, including that of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. Raut’s office was used as a store-room by the killers.

During interrogation of Sharad Kalaskar regarding these murders, the ATS claims he revealed that he played a major role in the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar. He also gave information about Sachin Andure’s role in the murder.

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

Based on this input, Sachin was detained by the ATS from Aurangabad district of Maharashtra on August 14. After questioning him for several hours, it was found that he was involved in the killing of Dabholkar. The information was shared with the CBI team investigating the case after which he was arrested by the CBI.

It has been found that Sachin, who was staying in Aurangabad was one of the shooters, who fired at Dabholkar. He has also been trained to use firearms in different parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra.

CBI stated that the conspiracy to kill Dabholkar was hatched by Virendrasinh Tawde along with Sachin and others.

Virendrasinh Tawde, a member of the Sanatan, was arrested in 2016 for his involvement in the murder of Dabholkar, he is also an accused in the murder of Govind Pansare.

Sachin Andure’s arrest is considered as an important development in the Dabholkar Murder case.

Speaking to News18, Hamid Dabholkar, son of late Narendra Dabholkar, said “CBI should reach the masterminds of this conspiracy. I hope that the killers of Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh will also be arrested soon”.

with inputs from News18.com

Vaibhav Raut wanted to do a repeat of Malegaon Blasts

According to media reports, on August 11, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) arrested Vaibhav Raut for possession of explosives and after interrogating him, they arrested two more people Sharad Bhausaheb Kalaskar and Sudhanwa Sudhir Gondhalekar from Pune.

The accused are hardened criminals are are expert at hoodwinking the police. They have now started claiming that they wanted to support the Maratha agitation and planned low-intensity bomb blasts to create chaos and fear in society. This is a ploy by the accused to take the police off-track from the main investigation.

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

During the investigation, the trio revealed that they were planning to target Malegaon during Bakri Eid.

In a second search of Vaibhav Raut’s house on 14th August, the ATS recovered a laptop, two CPUs, one Innova car, four air pistols, 20 air pistol bullets, a notebook, a diary, three mobiles, three SIM cards and two sets of flat documents.

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

Sources claims the accused said the motive behind attacking Malegaon again was to avenge the atrocities committed against the earlier accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case.

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

Along with being associated with the assassination of rationalists Dabholkar, Pansare and journalist Gauri Lankesh, the organisation had allegedly entrusted the Bakri Eid plot to Vaibhav Raut and his colleagues.

So far, the Maharashtra ATS has investigated 35 to 40 people in this case.

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

In addition to this, the Anti-Terrorism Squad will also verify the connection of the accused in the Ahmednagar Parcel Bomb case.

Similar to the Ahmednagar case, the accused were assembling low-intensity bombs which could cause a minor explosion and cause a scare in society without causing much physical harm.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Sanatan Sanstha workers have complete and free access to Maha Govt Ministers, always seen at Mantralaya and Legislature coordinating with govt

Speaking to media persons Congress Maharashtra chief Ashok Chavan alleged that the “Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare had also tried to investigate the Malegaon bomb blast case, but he couldn’t complete it.

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

The BJP government in Maharashtra may give a clean chit in the Malegaon case too as the Sanatan Sanstha workers are always seen in at the Mantralaya and legislature offices coordinating with the government.

They have free access to the entire government machinery, Ministers and MLAs, Chavan alleged.

Also Read: Arrested far-right extremists were trying to procure 70 pistols and 50 bombs for blasts across the country

After the seizure of explosives and pistols from Sanatan Sanstha member Vaibhav Raut, Opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly and Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil alleged on Friday that communal forces had hatched a conspiracy of bomb blasts on Bakra-Id, to create communal riots across the state.

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

Vikhe Patil and Congress state president Ashok Chavan demanded a ban on outfits like the Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti immediately, saying that the BJP-led government in Maharashtra must not protect those who promote violence and terrorism.

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

Vikhe Patil said Vaibhav Raut was involved in the riots and other offences and explosives were seized from him. Hindu Janjagruti Samiti declared it’s a second part of the Malegaon blasts which proves that, a conspiracy was hatched to create bomb blasts and communal riots.

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

Role of the organisations like Sanatan Sanstha and HJS were suspicious from day one in the context of murders of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Gouri Lankesh.” Vikhe Patil asked whether now the State would approach the Union government in order to ban such organisations.

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

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) state president Jayant Patil demanded an investigation into the recovery of country-made bombs from the ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ member Vaibhav Raut.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged that Sanatan Sanstha was indulging in terrorist activities and thus the government should ban these organisations.

Raut, Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar were trying to procure 70 pistols and 50 bombs: ATS recovers 10 pistols from Vaibhav Raut’s residence

August 13, 2018: Interrogation of the arrested accused by the Maharashtra ATS Raut, Kalaskar and Gondhalekar owning allegiance to the Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and the Shri Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan has revealed that the trio were trying to procure about 70 pistols and about about 2000 rounds of ammunition.

The Maharashtra ATS had arrested Vaibhav Raut from Nalla Sopara and Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar last week from Pune.

They were trying to manufacture bullets at a hardware factory in Satara, but were unsuccessful in their attempts till now. They had manufactured 11 bombs and had accumulated enough material to manufacture at least 30-40 more bombs.

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

In addition to the above explosives the ATS has recovered at least 20 unfinished pistols or parts of pistols from the three locations at Pune and Maharashtra.

The trio wanted to manufacture 50 bombs by next month, which were to be used to create blasts in different parts of the country.

The trio are part of a hit squad of about 30 persons hand-picked from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka by the main conspirators whose identity is still a mystery.

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 Karnataka SIT investigating the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh feels the main group is headed by a retired Indian Army colonel and three others who are senior members of a well-known right-wing association.

The leads were obtained from the Karnataka SIT. The SIT has arrested 13 persons, 2-3 of them are actively linked to the Sanatan Sanstha. Their interrogation led to the names of 10 others, three of whom were arrested by the ATS last week.

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 ATS raids on 10 and 11 August, led to the confiscation of 11 country-made pistols with magazines, an air gun, ten pistol barrels, six pistol magazines, six partially-made pistol bodies, three partially made magazines and several parts of firearms, reported PTI.

Besides, materials used to make bombs, a chopper, six number plates of vehicles, CDs, pen drives, hard discs and handbooks and other literature on bomb-making were also found. The investigators suspect that materials seized were to be used for making IEDs.

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

Around 16 people, who were considered accomplices of the three accused, were also arrested.

ATS sources told the Indian Express that all three accused blamed each other for bombs and claimed innocence for themselves.

“Raut claimed that he was not aware that they were bombs and that he had kept the consignment for safe-keeping on the request of the other two accused. The other two have been claiming that the explosives were found at Raut’s residence and they had nothing to do with them,” an ATS official told Indian Express.

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

All the suspects are reportedly linked to the Sanatan Sanstha, which was allegedly responsible for the murder of three rationalists – Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, as well as the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

One of the arrested accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Satara is a active member of the Shri Shiva Pratishthan Hindustan whose chief Sambhaji Bhide had been booked in two criminal cases in connection with the violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 by the Pune police.

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

Gondhalekar was actively involved as an activist with several far-right Hindutva groups including the HJS and is a known sympathizer of the Sanatan Sanstha.

Bhide who has a huge following in interior Maharashtra is held in high respect by PM Narendra Modi as well as Uddhav Thackeray and several RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders. PM Modi has openly and publicly admitted that he considers Bhide his ‘guru‘.

with inputs from PTI and Indian Express

Arrested for possessing explosives, Sanatan Sanstha members Raut, Gondhalekar, etc., linked to PM Modi, Amit Shah, VHP and RSS

August 11, 2018: Among the three accused persons, arrested by the Maharashtra ATS on Friday,  for possession of 20 crude bombs, explosives, timers, detonators, bomb fuses and other material, Vaibhav Raut, a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti and the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), is also believed to be a sympathizer or worker of the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha which is allegedly involved in the murder of three rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi and the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka.

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

Another arrested accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Satara is a active member of the Shri Shiva Pratishthan Hindustan whose chief Sambhaji Bhide had been booked in two criminal cases in connection with the violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 by the Pune police.

Gondhalekar was actively involved as an activist with several far-right Hindutva groups including the HJS and is a known sympathizer of the Sanatan Sanstha.

Bhide who has a huge following in interior Maharashtra is held in high respect by PM Narendra Modi as well as Uddhav Thackeray and several RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders. Modi has openly and publicly admitted that he considers Bhide his ‘guru‘.

Gondhalekar who was arrested on Friday by the ATS after a tip from the Karnataka SIT investigating the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh is reportedly Bhide’s close confidante and an active member in his outfit.

All the arrested accused or the outfits they work for are involved in 4-5 murders –  those of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind PansareM M Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh. Their outfits have been involved in bomb blasts at Panvel, Thane and Margao. 

Sanatan Sanstha members have been arrested in four bombings in Vashi, Thane, Panvel (all in 2007) and Goa (in 2009) and in the murders of Narendra Dabholkar (in 2013), Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi (both in 2015).

The third accused, Sharad Kasalkar was arrested along with Raut from his residence in Nallasapara. Live crude bombs, detonators, electronic equipment and parts and gelatin sticks were allegedly recovered from the accused.

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

The ATS arrests materialized after information passed on by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka police probing the murder of Gauri Lankesh revealed the names of 10-12 persons who were actively involved in terror activities, including plots to eliminate anti-Hindu voices. In all a total of 20 persons are under the Maharashtra ATS scanner.

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

Two names that stood out in the Bhima-Koregaon violence that left one dead and several injured, were Sambhaji Bhide, a former RSS worker and Milind Ekbote, a former BJP corporator from Pune.

Sambhaji-Bhide-Narendra-Modi
Former senior RSS leader and founder of Shiv Pratishthan in Maharashtra Sambhaji Bhide whose member was arrested by the ATS for possessing explosives with PM Narendra Modi

The heavyweight leader from Sangli who was earlier a senior RSS leader, heads a self-formed organisation Shiv Pratishthan in Kolhapur which enjoys huge support from the public.

Bhide’s aura is such that he is admired by several heavyweight political figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and several senior RSS and VHP leaders.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sangli during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he specially met Sambhaji Bhide and said that he had come to see Guruji not on his request but on his order.

Another instance which proves the steel of Bhide is when the current Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis halted his helicopter convoy to meet with Guruji and discuss an imperative political matter.

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

According to media reports, Narendra Modi and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray have high respect for Bhide. Modi during his campaign in 2014 elections had visited Bhide’s home at Sangli to seek his blessings. Moreover – according to the fact checking website Boom Live, in a campaign speech at Raigad, Maharashtra Bhide said, “mein Bhide guruji ka bahut abhari hoon. Kyunki unhone mujhe nimantran nahi diya tha. Unhonhe mujhe hukum kiya tha. Aur aap lok aathi guruji ka hukum, sunhe ke aur palan karne ke. Mein bhide guruji ko bahut saalon se jaanta hoon….”

“I am extremely grateful to Bhide Guruji as he did not give me any invitation. He ordered me. And all of you are aware of his orders and to hear them and follow them. I know Bhide Guruji from many years now and when we were learning about public service, we were given Bhide Guruji’s example…” – Narendra Modi

Modi addressed Bhide as a mahapurush (great personality) and tapasvi (sage) in his speech and praised him for his devotion, hard work and discipline that he displays in life.

Boom Live states that both Narendra Modi and Uddhav Thackeray had approached Bhide for blessings and support in 2014 Lok Sabha elections as quoting a report by the Indian Express. Bhide showed his displeasure to both the parties for the split in the saffron alliance at that time and stressed that the Shiv Sena and the BJP must stay together.

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At his 2014 election rally in Sangli’s Tasgaon Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to staunch Hindutva activist Sambhaji Bhide (Guruji) as one of his inspirations, reports the Indian Express.

The same reports says the former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist, Bhide is the founder president of the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan, an outfit with sizeable clout in Sangli, Satara, and Kolhapur districts of Western Maharashtra.

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At the Tasgaon rally, Modi had said he had come to seek  blessings of Bhide Guruji, who had been an inspiration during the early days of his life. Modi also reminded crowds that “at the instance of Bhide Guruji, he had visited the Raigad fort to gain inspiration from Maratha warrior king Chatrapati Shivaji, before accepting the responsibility of leading the BJP to power at the centre.”

The Indian Express report terms Bhinde a rabble-rouser with a huge fan following among the poor, jobless youth in interior Maharashtra.

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Several senior RSS and VHP leaders have prostrated themselves before Bhide, seeking his blessings. Sources claim he has a hotline to the PM and can call the PM anytime, anywhere.

with inputs from Boom Live, Indian Express, PTI & NewsX