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CBI recovers pistol possibly used to murder rationalist Narendra Dabholkar

Three aides of the main accused, Sachin Andure, were also detained in a raid conducted at Aurangabad on Monday night.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2018 08:08 IST
Nadeem Inamdar
Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Virendra Tawade was arrested by the CBI in connection with rationalist Narendra Dabholkar’s murder from Panvel in June 2016.(Bachchan Kumar/ HT File)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday said it has recovered a pistol that may have been used to murder Dr Narendra Dabholkar – a social activist and rationalist – in August 2013. The weapon has been sent for forensic tests.

The investigative agency recovered the 7.65mm bore pistol and some sharp weapons in a raid conducted with the assistance of the anti-terrorist squad at Aurangabad on Monday night. Three close aides of the prime accused, 26-year-old Sachin Andure, were also detained. They were identified as Rohit Rege, Nachiket Ingale and Ajinkya Surle – all residents of Aurangabad.

“Andure had handed over the pistol to his brother-in-law before his arrest, who – in turn – gave it to Rege. We have recovered the pistol and sent it for ballistic examination. As of today, we cannot say with certainty that the same pistol was used to shoot at Dr Dabholkar,” said SR Singh, the CBI officer investigating the case, adding that the trio are being questioned.

The CBI said that Andure, who was arrested on Saturday, had been trained in marksmanship at multiple places across Maharashtra and Karnataka. It was on the basis of his confession that investigators were able to conduct the raid, resulting in the recovery of the weapons.

According to investigators, Andure had named Virendra Tawade – an ENT surgeon and member of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) – as the main conspirator in Dr Dhabolkar’s murder. The HJS is an offshoot of the Sanatan Sanstha, a larger rightwing group.

Tawade was arrested by the CBI from Panvel in June 2016.

CBI officials further said that six names were found in the diary of right-wing activist Amol Kale, who was arrested for the murder of Kannada journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. Arrested by the Karnataka special investigation team in the case, he is also believed to be one of the key conspirators in Dhabolkar’s killing.

Kale – a resident of Pimpri-Chinchwad near Pune – was first arrested by the Bengaluru police on May 21. He was taken into custody in connection with Lankesh’s murder ten days later.

Another name found in Kale’s diary was that of Nandkumar Nair, the CBI official who arrested Tawade. He was codenamed ‘Rakshas’, investigators said. All the six on the alleged hitlist have been accorded police protection.

Special judge Archana S Mujumdar has remanded Andure in seven days’ CBI custody until August 26.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 22:13 IST