Is the Probe into Pansare’s Murder Just Skimming the Surface?
Image Courtesy: The Hindu
Sharad Kalaskar, a Sanatan Sanstha (SS) sympathiser is now in the custody of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Maharashtra police that is investigating the assassination of communist leader Govind Pansare. Kalaskar is said to have destroyed the weapons used to shoot at Pansare and his wife. As Newsclick had reported earlier, Kalaskar has confided in the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) that Sanjeev Punalekar – the lawyer of Sanatan Sanstha (SS) – had called him to his office in June-July 2018. The lawyer is said to have asked Kalaskar to destroy the gun he used to allegedly murder Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. Punalekar and his assistant Vikram Bhave have been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on May 25, 2019 related to the case of Dabholkar.
Kalaskar was earlier arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in the infamous Nallsopara explosives hoarding case. An officer from the SIT probing the Pansare case told The Indian Express: “Kalaskar was taken into our custody from Mumbai, in the early hours of Tuesday and produced before the court in Kolhapur in the afternoon. The court has remanded him to our custody till June 18. He is the seventh person to be arrested and ninth person to have been named as accused in the case till now.” Kalaskar along with Sachin Andure allegedly assassinated, rationalist Dabholkar on August 30, 2013, according to the CBI that is investigating the case.
The investigations in both Pansare’s and Dabholkar’s cases have been very lethargic. In November 2018, the Mumbai High Court had questioned the CBI and the Maharashtra SIT for delaying the investigation into the murders of activists Dabholkar and Pansare. The investigative agency has been severely criticised by civil society groups both in Maharashtra and across the country for being extremely slow in its investigation. The High Court is now monitoring both the cases.
Investigation into Pansare’s case so far
One must note that there has been no real progress in the case. Pansare was attacked by two unidentified gunmen in Kolhapur, on February 16, 2015. He died on February 20. He was a member of the Communist Party of India and a supporter of Dabholkar’s movement. He was a vehement critic of Hindutva organisations. An SIT had implicated Virendra Tawde, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar – suspects in the Dabholkar murder case – in the Pansare case as well, in 2016. Here too, Tawade was named as a key conspirator, and Akolkar and Pawar were suspected of firing at Pansare. However Tawade was granted bail by the Kolhapur court in 2018; and both Akolkar and Pawar have been absconding since the Margao blast in 2009.
In its 400-page-long chargesheet, the SIT also had named Amol Kale, Vasudev Suryawanshi, Bharat Kurne and Amit Digwekar. However, both Kale and Digwekar are named in other cases too. Kale who was taken into custody by the Karnataka SIT in the case of Lankesh is now known to be involved in planning all the four -- Dabholkar, Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Lankesh -- assassination and also recruiting people to execute the plan.
When Parashuram Waghmore, who was arrested on June 12, 2018, confessed to have shot at Lankesh to the SIT, a larger conspiracy had come to light. An unnamed SIT official had mentioned the existence of a gang of hardline Hindutva recruits functioning in five states: Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. The same official is reported to have said that this “unnamed organisation/gang” comprises at least 60 people and has “recruited people from hardline Hindutva organisations like Maharashtra-based SS and HJS.” As investigations into these cases continued, it was in fact established that all those arrested were involved in all the four cases and were also members of SS and HJS.
It is the same set of men, being named in all the cases by three different investigative agencies but the shooters are different in each of the cases. However, the shooter in the case of Pansare is still not been named. It is also important to note that, the arrests made so far do not go higher up the ranks of the hardline Hindutva organisations. Punalekar is the highest the investigative agencies have been able to reach. Why is this the case? We now know who are all the men involved in these assassinations, the reason and their affiliations. The question of who is the mastermind behind these assassinations, remains unanswered.
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