The CBI probe into the gunning down of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar by suspected ultra-right activists appeared to gather pace with the agency on Thursday naming six men it believed had a direct role in it. Besides, the CBI has apparently identified two men who trained the shooters and could question them soon.
Sanathan Sanstha follower and ENT surgeon Virendra Tawade, who was arrested from Panvel on Friday, was on the list submitted to a Pune court by the CBI. The court extended the CBI custody of Tawade, whom the agency described as the architect, for four more days, till June 20.
The other five too are Sanstha members. Sarang Akolkar, Rudra Patil, Jaiprakash Hegde, and Praveen Limkar are also suspects in the 2009 Margao (Goa) blasts case and are absconding. Vinay Pawar, a native of Umbraj near Karad, was interrogated in connection with the February 2015 murder of leftist Govind Pansare and has gone missing since.
Sanatan Santha, while denying the involvement of its members in Dabholkar’s murder, has accused the CBI of hatching a conspiracy to “malign” its name.
The names cropped up after the CBI scrutinised Tawade’s emails. Considering the sensitiveness of its remand report, CBI requested the court to consider it a special case and not to share it with anyone including the defence counsel.
The CBI submitted in the court that Tawade was asked by an unidentified Sanatan activist through an email to focus on Dabholkar just before the rationalist’s murder. “Around two-three months before Dabholkar was murdered [on August 18, 2013], Tawade received an email from unidentified ID. Through the email, Tawade was asked to concentrate on Dabholkar,” said CBI counsel B P Raju.
According to the CBI, some of the suspects frequently changed their identity to evade arrest and using code to exchange information.
Besides the six suspects named in the remand report, the CBI submitted in the court that it wants to interrogate two men, Agrawal and Vinay Panvalkar, who provided training in weapons at Sangli in 2009. These two are suspected to have trained security personnel too, though the connection was not clear.
CBI sources said a witness who came forward to record his testimony before a magistrate under section 164 of CrPC had identified Akolkar after studying his sketch. “The witness has said the person who was seated on the pillion of the bike was Akolkar,” CBI counsel said. Two men on a bike had shot Dabholkar when he was out on his morning walk.
In his testimony, the Kolhapur-based witness also claimed that Tawade had introduced him to Pawar and Limkar, who were given the responsibility to monitor a particular person’s movements. “Of the two youngsters I was supposed to arrange stay for, one was Vinay Pawar, the other was Praveen Limkar, whom I knew because we had in the past protested against Dabholkar and even manhandled him,” the witness said in his testimony.