The family of communist lawyer Govind Pansare, who was shot dead last February, suspect the involvement of Dr Virendrasingh Tawade, who was recently arrested by the CBI for the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
Pansare’s daughter Smita told Hindustan Times she was going to approach the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the agency’s verification of witness accounts alleging Dr Tawade’s possible role in the Pansare case.
“There are certain witnesses who have come forward and told me that it was Virendra Tawade who traded angry words with my father at a seminar held at Kolhapur’s Shivaji University weeks before his murder in 2015,” Smita said.
“If the claims are correct, what was Tawade doing in Kolhapur? The verbal duel apparently broke out since my father had made certain critical references to Nathuram Godse and freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar according to witnesses accounts,” she said.
“While my father was talking, a man interrupted and asked him to stop presenting wrong facts on Veer Savarkar. There were others there however who protested and the man who interrupted had left.”
An ENT specialist, Dr Tawade was arrested in Panvel, Maharashtra on June 10 for his suspected key role in the conspiracy behind Dabholkar’s murder in Pune in August 2013.
According to Smita, after Tawade was arrested, those who claimed to have allegedly seen him at the seminar approached her.
“We will tell the CBI to verify these witness accounts to find out if it was indeed Tawade who interrupted my father. If it was him, it could mean my father was being shadowed,” she said.
“Before he was targeted, father had received a letter in Marathi, asking him if he wanted to meet Dabholkar’s fate,” Smita claimed. “But, father tore the letter.”
According to Pansare family’s lawyer, Abhay Nevagi, they requested Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to hand over the murder probe to CBI from the state police.
The CBI identified a case suspect, Sarang Akolkar, who was named in the National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s chargesheet in the 2009 Madgaon blast, as one of the two alleged shooters who targeted Dabholkar, a source told HT. Akolkar also has an Interpol Red Corner Notice pending against him since January 2012.
“The identification is on the basis of the finding that one of the two sketches on the two gunmen prepared with the help of witnesses matched with Akolkar,” the source said.
The CBI also zeroed in on an email exchanged allegedly between Tawade and Akolkar in which the former told the latter about the need to raise money and weapons to set up an army of 15,000 trained volunteers.
Tawade is a member of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), an affiliate of the Sanatan Sanstha. Tawade, the HJS and the Sanatan Sanstha have denied CBI’s allegations against them. After Tawade’s arrest on June 10, a Sanatan Sanstha press release said, “The CBI has now taken steps to incriminate Sanatan by arresting Dr Tawade late last night. Dr Tawade is innocent, and he visits the Sanatan Ashram in Panvel to perform his Spiritual Practice.”
The agency maintains that forensic opinion is that a single 7.65 mm firearm was used to target Dabholkar as well as Pansare. It is also suspected that a black motorcycle was used by the hitmen in both the cases. Both activists were killed in an almost identical fashion by bike-borne assailants.
Though the country’s top investigation agency is probing only the 2013 murder of Dabholkar, the subsequent killing of Pansare and Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi in Karnataka last August came under CBI’s ’s scanner because of the similarities in the three crimes. Spent shells of a 7.65 mm calibre firearm, recovered from the sites where both Pansare’s and Dabholkar were killed, are being sent to United Kingdom’s Scotland Yard for a conclusive “ballistic the opinion” on whether a single firearm was used in the cases.