The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Sunday, 12 August, reportedly recovered “around 10 pistols” from the residence of Vaibhav Raut, a man who is allegedly linked to right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha.
Raut, along with Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar were arrested on 10 August, from Nala Sopara and Satara for allegedly planning bomb blasts across the state.
Right-Wing Hindu Activist Held in Maharashtra With Explosives
A senior investigating officer told The Indian Express that the confiscation was based on interrogation of the accused, and it “looks like these were procured from Uttar Pradesh.”
The ATS is reportedly investigating if the arrested or their associates were operating a manufacturing unit themselves or had procured it from other states.
DID YOU KNOW?
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.
Gondhalekar had earlier been booked twice, once in 2014 and later in 2016, for allegedly resorting to violence in Satara, The Times of India reports.
In the first incident, he was charged for pelting stones at an MSRTC bus in Powai Naka area. In the second, he was held for alleged “misbehaviour” with a police team, while on a mission to “save cows”, the report added.
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 official told the newspaper.
THE IMPACT OF RAIDS
The raids on 10 and 11 August, led to the confiscation of 11 country-made pistols with magazines, an airgun, 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 IED.
Around 16 people, who were considered accomplices of the three accused, were also arrested.
THE OTHER SIDE
On Sunday, 12 August, around 500 people had gathered outside Raut’s home in Nalasopara to demonstrate their support for him, Scroll reports.
His wife, Lakshmi told the newspaper that the police had confined her son, mother-in-law, and her to one room, taken away their phones, and searched the house without showing a warrant.
Diptesh Patil, co-founder of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti and childhood friend of Raut said: “He (Raut) is a Hindutvawadi and a rashtrawadi. How can he be a terrorist?… I ask you to support us for the Bhandaris, for Hindutva and for the nation. We will show everyone what the Bhandari community really is,” Scroll reports.
In another statement reported by The Indian Express, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) termed Raut’s arrest “Malegaon part II”.
The Malegaon case centres around the 29 September 2008 bomb explosion near Bhiku Chowk in the Muslim-dominated Malegaon town of Nashik district, which killed six people and injured 101 others.
“Vaibhav Raut is a daring cow protector. He was active through an organisation – Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti – dedicated to the protection of cows,” HJS state organiser Sunil Ghanvat said, adding, “He used to participate in the programmes and agitations organised through uniting Hindu organisations under the aegis of HJS.”
(With inputs from The Indian Express, Scroll and The Times of India)