NIA, other agencies join probe into Sanatan Sanstha terror plot
The investigation into the roles the six alleged sympathisers of the right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha played in a series of killings and attacks over the past five years widened on Friday, with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and three other state anti-terror units joining the probe.
While agencies in Karnataka and Maharashtra are primarily investigating the shootings of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, writers Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, and journalist Gauri Lankesh, anti-terrorism agencies from Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are now in Mumbai to question Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanva Ghondalekar, Shrikant Pangarkar and Avinash Pawar, the five men arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) over the past few weeks in connection with the attacks. The sixth arrest was that of Sachin Andhure, who allegedly shot Dabholkar dead. Andhure is the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
So far, the ATS has found out how the accused had travelled across the country, for both reconnaissance, and to identify their targets. They had made lists of such targets.
On Saturday, the Maharashtra ATS gave a special Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act court a fresh list of names these men had been targeting, when they produced Avinash Pawar before the court. The agency said it had unearthed these lists during custodial interrogation of the accused.
For the safety of those on the list, the court requested that their names be withheld. Pawar’s questioning also revealed the name of another one of the accused men, currently on the run, chief public prosecutor Jaisingh Desai said. The ATS also said it had recovered a diary from a locker belonging to Pawar. The book has notes in code words, which the agency is yet to decipher. The court has remanded Pawar in ATS’ custody till September 4.
Meanwhile, ATS officials told the same court they would take custody of Amol Kale — the main accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case — from the CBI, as he too was part of this group and would have information on the other attacks that had been planned.