The testimony of a key witness in the Narendra Dabholkar murder has raised serious questions about the conduct of the Maharashtra police who, while probing the case in 2013, chose to ignore crucial details that form a central part of the CBI’s investigation.
In his statement, recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the witness, a resident of Kolhapur, said he had told the police about Dr Virendra Tawade’s alleged murder plan soon after Dabholkar was killed on August 20, 2013.
According to the witness, who was once associated with the right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha, the Kolhapur police and Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) did nothing after he alerted them about Dabholkar’s alleged killers. The witness, who was approached by the CBI after it took over the probe, was brought to the agency’s Belapur office to confront Tawade.
Reacting to the witness’ testimony, Dabholkar’s son Hamid said, “It’s very unfortunate that the police did not act on the witness’ statement. Had they acted on it promptly, my father’s murder case would have been solved immediately and we could have saved Govind Pansare’s life too.
He added, “Going by the testimony, it appears that probe by Maharashtra police was quantitative, not qualitative. It was lacking in substance.”
The Dabholkar family has termed the CBI’s arrest of Tawade a step in the right direction. “The previous Congress-NCP government did not heed us when we repeatedly said that [Sarang] Akolkar’s face resembled one of the sketches issued by the police.” Akolkar, a Sanatan activist, has been declared absconding by the National Investigation Agency, which is probing the 2009 Madgaon blast case. On October 16, 2009, two Sanatan Sanstha activists were killed while allegedly transporting the bomb through Madgaon. A special court in Madgaon acquitted six of the 11 people associated with the organisation, citing a lack of evidence, while the others, including Akolkar and Patil, are still at large.
The witness has testified that when he met Akolkar in 2013, the latter was carrying a revolver. According to the witness, Tawade and others knew the exact whereabouts of Dabholkar. The witnessed also said that after Dabholkar’s murder, he shared his apprehensions about Tawade and others with police inspector Shrikant Mohite and an ATS officer. “I told the ATS officer that I am willing to testify in court if required. He said ok but did nothing about it,” the witness said, according to a report in Mumbai tabloid.
Reacting to the witness’ testimony, BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said the Congress-NCP government was not serious about the Dabholkar murder case.
The CBI arrested Tawade on Friday from his Panvel residence following revelations that he had exchanged emails with Akolkar.