Sanatan Sanstha (SS) and its many splinters have been named in the killings of rationalists by the investigative agencies; however, these organisations continue to function. Sanjeev Punalekar, the lawyer for SS and his assistant Vikram Bhave have been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on May 25, 2019, in relation with the case of political assassination of Narendra Dabholkar on August 20, 2013.
Bhave is said to be an active member of the SS. The CBI, while presenting the both in the Pune High Court, said that Punalekar had helped destroy the weapons used in the crime. Dabholkar was shot dead early in the morning in Pune while he was out for his routine morning walk. Two bike-borne unidentified had opened fire at him and then had fled.
This is, however, not the first time that Punalekar has been accused of destroying evidence. Earlier, Sharad Kalaskar, an accused in Dabholkar’s case had confided to the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) that Punalekar had asked him to destroy the guns used in assassinating Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh.
In November 2018, the Mumbai High Court had questioned CBI and the Maharashtra SIT for delaying the investigation into the murders of activists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. The investigative agency has been severely criticised by the civil societies both in Maharashtra and across the country for being extremely slow in its investigation. The High Court is now monitoring both the cases now.
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In the beginning of this month, both Hamid and Mukta, son and daughter of Dabholkar, had submitted an affidavit to the CBI, asking the investigative agency to expand its investigation’s ambit. In this affidavit, both have noted that the CBI should investigate Amol Kale, a key accused who is in the custody of Karnataka SIT in relation with Lankesh’s case, as Kale, in many of his statements, has mentioned a certain “master” for whom he worked. Hamid and Mukta argued that the CBI has not only not taken this into consideration, but also has not named Kale in its chargesheet. The CBI has not recorded the testimonies of the two eye witnesses under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code in the supplementary chargesheet that it filed in February, which would make these eye witnesses admissible to the Court as an evidence and in this affidavit this decision of the CBI is questioned.
The CBI arrested Sachin Prakashrao Andure of Aurangabad on August 18, 2018, alleging that he was among those who shot Dabholkar. Andure is the fourth person to be arrested in the case. On June 20, 2014, Manish Nagori and Vilas Khandewal were arrested by Pune police. Following a PIL filed by journalist Ketan Tirodkar, the CBI had taken over this case in May 2014, on the directions of the Bombay High Court. In May 2016, Virendra Tawde of SS was arrested in connection with the case. Along with Tawde, the CBI has named Vinay Pawar, who is missing since 2009, Sarang Akolkar, who is absconding in the October 2009 Goa blast case, as prime suspects. Sharad Kalaskar, who had confided to the Karnataka SIT that Punalekar had asked him to destroy evidence, was arrested by Maharashtra ATS in the Nalasopara case, and he was been taken in custody by the CBI as she confided that he and Andure were involved in the killing of Dabholkar.
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Punalekar, who is the national secretary of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad (HVP) – a voluntary organisation of “nationalist and devout” Hindu advocates that was formed as a result of the All India Hindu Convention in Goa organised by HJS – is the advocate defending all the arrested by the investigative agencies, in the cases of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Lankesh, along with those arrested in Nalasopara explosive hoarding case, by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
He has been defending the SS ever since the organisation was named in the bomb blast cases. Advocates of HVP vow to work for the “Hindu cause”, and believe that its members “have experienced the divine help coming to them when they thrived to achieve their goals”. HVP proudly says that they successfully “established that Sanatan’s seekers are innocent in cases where they were falsely implicated on charges of so-called Hindu terrorism in Madgaon Blast Case, Goa.” With the arrest of Punalekar now, the SS is back in the spotlight.
Our sources have informed us that the case will soon be registered under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and will be transferred to a UAPA Court that will be set up in Pune.
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