Narendra Dabholkar murder case: CBI arrests Sanatan Sanstha’s lawyer, aide
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday arrested Sanjeev Punalekar, advocate and legal advisor of right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha, and his associate Vikram Bhave in connection with the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
Dabholkar, the founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), was gunned down by two bike-borne assailants on August 20, 2013, in Pune when he was returning from his morning walk. A case of murder was registered by the Pune police and the probe was transferred to the CBI in 2014.
The central agency confirmed Punalekar’s arrest from Mumbai on Saturday.
“He was in touch with one of the shooters, Sharad Kalaskar. We found his involvement in Dabholkar’s murder,” said SR Singh, additional superintendent of police, CBI. “He was called in to the CBI office for inquiry and was arrested. He will be produced before a court in Pune on Sunday.”
The arrest comes after Kalaskar, in a statement to the CBI, said that he was asked by Punalekar to destroy all weapons and barrels used in the murder of Dabholkar and later to kill activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru in 2017. Kalaskar told the CBI he had met Punalekar in his office at Fort in south Mumbai in June-July 2018.
The Goa-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha called Punalekar “innocent”.
“To arrest Punalekar and Bhave when the pro-Hindutva government is in power smacks of conspiracy,” said Chetan Rajhans, national spokesperson, Sanatan Sanstha. “It is very serious to arrest Punalekar, who proved the falsehood of saffron terrorism in the Malegaon blasts case. Punalekar, who performs seva of the society, the nation and dharma without any expectations, is innocent.”
In its initial charge sheet, the CBI had claimed that Dabholkar was killed by people affiliated to Sanatan Sanstha over ideological differences. “Investigations revealed that the motive for the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar was the longstanding enmity/hatred that existed between Dr Narendra Dabholkar and his Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANIS) with Sanatan Sanstha,” read the charge sheet.