Eight months after rationalist and leftist Govind Pansare was murdered, the police investigation is going nowhere. It has been five weeks since the police arrested Sameer Gaikwad, a 32-year-old member of the Sanatan Sanstha, but there has been no progress.
The only development is that an 11-year-old witness has identified Gaikwad as one of those who shot at Pansare outside his home in Kolhapur on February 16. However, there are doubts whether this will strengthen the case against Gaikwad.
Pansare supporters now fear the investigation will hit a dead-end just like that into the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in August 2013. “Either he [Gaikwad] is a hardened criminal or he really doesn’t know anything about the murder. So far he has not given us any lead,” said a senior police officer, who is also a member of the Special Investigation Team formed by the government in April to probe the case. “We picked up several people who spoke to him on phone but nothing has been found yet,” he added.
Gaikwad was on the radar of the Sangli and Kolhapur police for three months. “He was picked on the basis of a phone call about the murder. The signals showed his location in Kolhapur where Pansare was murdered, but what we have is not enough to nail him,” said the officer.
Pansare sympathisers allege that police are not doing much and that they are under political pressure. “The police are still trying to prove his links with the Sanstha when he has confessed that he is from it and even the organisation has admitted it,” said advocate Amit Shinde, one of the lawyers for the Pansare family.
“From the beginning, we were telling the police that they should consider the case as a murder for ideological reasons. Initially, they were looking for the usual angles such as personal enmity and property dispute. It was only after rationalist MM Kalburgi was murdered in Karnataka and their police started investigation based on this angle, that the Maharashtra police paid attention to what we were demanding,” Shinde said.
Rahul Thorat, an aide of the late Dabholkar, wonders why the police have not been able to lay their hands on another suspect, Rudra Patil. The name of Patil, a former Sanstha seeker (as the outfit’s adherents are known) and a suspect in the 2009 Goa blasts, keeps cropping up. The local police say he is absconding.
“We are not happy with the way the probe is going on. We strongly doubt whether the case will stand judicial scrutiny,” said an irked Shinde.
So are the police planning to interrogate senior leaders of the Sanatan Sanstha? “At this juncture, we don’t have any concrete proof... We don’t want to do anything in a hurry and fall flat on our faces,” said the officer.
“First there is no proof in our hands. Second, organisations such as the Sanstha are difficult to crack... We have an uphill task on our hands,” said the officer.
“We have got some leads and we are working on them. At this juncture, I can say only this,” said Sanjay Kumar, additional director general (CID), who is heading the special investigation team probing the Pansare murder.
Meanwhile, the Sanstha maintained that Gaikwad was innocent. “It is important to note that the police have been naming Sameer Gaikwad as a suspect and not accused,” said the Sanstha spokesperson Abhay Vartak.
“Regarding identification of Sameer by a witness, there is no official statement on this account from the police,” he added. He, however, insisted that the Sanstha has nothing to do with Rudra Patil. “Rudra Patil is absconding since 2009 and Sanstha has no contact with him since,” said Vartak.
The way things look, the investigation is stuck and no breakthrough is in sight.