Three years after anti-superstition committee founder Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) charged Right-wing Sanatan Sanstha activist Virendra Tawade with conspiracy and murder of the rationalist, identifying longstanding enmity between the two groups as the motive behind the crime.
The chargesheet, filed in a Pune court on Tuesday, also named Tawade’s Sanstha colleagues Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar as those who gunned down Dabholkar near Omkareshwar bridge in the city on August 20, 2013, when he was on a morning walk.
Tawade, a 48-year-old surgeon, had personal hatred against Dabholkar since 2002, when the ENT specialist was carrying out activities of his Sanstha and its offshoot Hindu Janjagriti Samiti (HJS). The Goa-based Sanstha, known for its hardlined stand on Hindu practices, was founded in 1999 by hypnotherapist Jayant Balaji Athavale — and claims to spread spirituality.
Akolkar, an electronics engineer, went missing after his name cropped up in the 2009 blast at Margaon (Goa). A resident of Pune, Akolkar faces red-corner notice from the Interpol.
Pawar, a native of Miraj in Sangli district, too, has been untraceable — since 2010. That was following his name was mentioned by fellow Sanatan seeker Prashant Juvekar in the Margaon blast. Both Akolkar and Pawar have been full-time workers of the Sanstha and their names are under scanner in the case of murdering Leftist politician Govind Panare in February last year.
In 2005, Dabholkar launched an anti-pollution campaign against the immersion of Ganesh idols, inviting the wrath of Right-wing organisations. Tawade led the Sanstha and HJS protests, but Dabholkar continued his work.
Tawade was born into a middle-class family at Satara, where he did his schooling. After a few years, he moved to Mumbai for education but then to Kolhapur in 1995 as a changed man, devoting most of his time to the Sanstha’s activities. In 2009, Tawade shifted base to Panvel and began offering services to the group’s ‘sadhaks’ (seekers).
Two years before he moved to Kolhapur, Tawade withdrew from the public and stayed away from his group’s overt activities. According to the CBI chargesheet, Sanstha spokesperson Durgesh Samant instructed Tawade to monitor Dabholkar and his anti-superstition activities.
During his stay in Kolhapur, Tawade used to notice Dabholkar continuing with his work of confronting the anti-superstitious practices. His enmity against the rationalist grew. Eventually, Tawade, along with Akolkar, Pawar and others, hatched a conspiracy to eliminate the opponent.
In April 2013, Tawade met his then colleague Sanjay Sadvilkar, who later turned as key witness in the case, and requested him to arrange a revolver. Tawade also introduced Akolkar and Pawar to Sadvilkar, and requested him to make arrangements for their stay.
The CBI investigation established through oral and documentary evidence that Tawade, “who harboured enmity and hatred” towards Dabholkar owing to ideological differences, conspired with Pawar, Akolkar and others to murder Dr Dabholkar.” The chargesheet also read, “…in pursuance of the said criminal conspiracy, Pawar and Akolkar shot dead Dr Dabholkar... thereby Tawade has committed criminal offence punishable under 120(b) and 302 of Indian Penal Code.”
On June 1 this year, the CBI carried out searches at Tawade’s Panvel residence and recovered a hard disk, which contained his email interaction with Akolkar. Based on the evidence, the CBI arrested Tawade on June 2. The probe agency is now trying to locate Akolkar and Pawar.
Currently, Tawade is in the custody of a special investigation team probing the Pansare murder. Its officials suspect Tawade’s involvement in the Pansare murder after forensic report said the revolver used in the murder of Dabholkar, 67, and Pansare, 81, could be the same.