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Maharashtra ATS names Murali as mastermind behind terror plots since 2008

The report names MD Murali as the brain behind several bomb blasts and the murders of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2018 14:52 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Maharashtra ATS,MD Murali,Rationalists' murders
A candlelight vigil organised after the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, in New Delhi. (Burhaan Kinu/HT File Photo)

The Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad’s (ATS) interrogation report in the arms case involving sympathisers of the right-wing spiritual group Sanatan Sanstha once again mentions a certain MD Murali as the mastermind behind all killings and terror plots involving the group’s members or sympathisers. Hindustan Times reported on September 5 that officers of the ATS were investigating the role of Murali.

HT has has reviewed the interrogation report (IR) of the five individuals arrested by the ATS in August 2018.

To be sure, there is no other evidence other than the IR to even show that Murali, who is described as an elusive figure, exists. Still, the report names him as the brain behind several bomb blasts and the murders of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in Pune, social activist and writer Govind Pansare in Kolhapur, Kannada writer and academic Dr MM Kalburgi in Dharwad and Bengaluru-based activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh. It also adds that he is the chief recruiter for a shadowy organisation spanning Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa that spread terror. The IR was filed in arms cases involving Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanva Gondhalekar, Shrikant Pangarkar and Avinash Pawar.

All five were arrested from different parts of Maharashtra last month for allegedly plotting terror activities in various parts of the country, and are currently in judicial custody. Bombs, detonators, and guns were recovered during the operation.

According to the report, Murali headed the unit responsible for the blasts and the killings. Amol Kale, a 37-year-old engineer from Pune who was arrested for murdering Lankesh was his deputy. Virendrasinh Tawde, accused of murdering of Dr Dabholkar, reported to Kale

The report mentions a 2014 meeting of right-wing organisations in Goa hosted by the Sanatan Sanstha which is headquartered in the state as one of the important milestones in the terror organisation built by Murali.

It was here, it claims, that he met Raut and eight others, some of whom have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of Lankesh.

According to the report, Raut speaks of Murali as an inspirational figure who incited his recruits by highlighting alleged atrocities perpetrated by Muslims on Hindus.

The report describes the entire indoctrination and training process: a training session with air guns soon after the 2014 meeting; indoctrination meetings at Belagavi, Aurangabad, Mumbai and Jalna, during which the recruits were shown inflammatory videos; another training session with air guns at Belagavi (and a subsequent session on making Molotov cocktails); a training session with pistols at the Aravalli Hills near Udaipur; and a final training session with pistols at a farm near Ahmedabad .

It isn’t clear how Murali communicated with the recruits.

The report claims that all the accused got to know each other really well during these sessions. The recruits chose Ganesh festivities to test their skills with the explosives at Pangarkar’s farmhouse in Jalna, as they could couch it as crackers being burst.

The IR adds that Murali, who was aware of the growing number of police-monitored closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in major cities, asked each of the recruits to wear caps and sunglasses to protect their identity.

Under Murali’s instructions, Raut and Pawar conducted reconnaissance in Mumbai earlier this year to target a person (HT has withheld the individual’s identity due to security concerns).

The reconnaissance was to be done in stages of three days each. After each stage, they would lie low for a fortnight before resuming the surveillance.

However, before Raut and Pawar could execute the hit, the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing Lankesh’s murder arrested Kale. After Kale’s arrest, Murali asked his recruits to go into hiding.

The IR states that the recruits were given pseudonyms, and expected to address each other only by that name at all times, including phone conversations.

First Published: Sep 15, 2018 14:52 IST