File Photo : Will Maharashtra Govt Keep Its Word and Investigate Sanatan Sanstha?
An accused in the Narendra Dabholkar assassination case, Sharad 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, according to a report in the Bangalore Mirror. 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.
Kalaskar, who was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) over the Nallasopara arms and explosives haul case, was named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as the shooter, along with Sachin Andure, in the Dabholkar case.
The SIT, CBI, and Maharashtra and Karnataka Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) have been investigating the murder cases of Lankesh, Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, respectively. With the arrests made by the SIT and the affiliation of the arrested to the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), the speculation – that these murders have been ideologically motivated – has almost been turned out to be true.
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Along with the evidence like possession of a “hit-list”, literature of the SS recovered from the arrested, the raids and arrests by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on August 10, 2018, brought to light a larger conspiracy of a ‘Hindutva terrorist’ network. The ATS raided the house of Vaibhav Raut – an SS sympathiser and a member of Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti – on August 10, 2018, and recovered at least eight country-made bombs, along with other explosives and literature of the SS. On the same day, ATS arrested Kalaskar in Nallasopara and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar in Pune for hoarding explosives.
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 Raut and all the others arrested by the investigative agencies. Punalekar has been defending the SS ever since the organisation was named in 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 (of defending Hindutva extremism).” 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.”
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A forensic lab report of 2017 had stunningly revealed that the same gun was used to kill Kalburgi, Pansare and Lankesh. The three murders occurred at different places and were months apart. It cannot be a coincidence that the same murder weapon was used everywhere. However, one should note that the guns haven’t been recovered, and this has also been the biggest challenge in front of these agencies.
Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Punalekar said, “I have met many accused persons. Yes, Raut and Kalaskar came to meet me in June/July. But how can a lawyer ask anyone to destroy the gun? It is a baseless charge. Bengaluru police can come and check CCTV footage and carry out the investigation.”
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One wonders how the CCTV footage can provide any evidence in his favour. It can only prove that the both visited him in his office, which he admits himself. This seems to be the way the SS and its protectors function. They would make sure that the evidence isn’t left behind, and would mislead or delay the investigations by helping the accused to abscond, probably using the political patronage, or by delaying the legal procedure and eventual closure of the cases. So, if the organisation has not been directly implicated so far, it is because of the hardened criminal minds, and not because it is not guilty. Under Section 201 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), it is punishable to destroy evidence and screening the offender, and if found guilty, Punalekar shall be booked under it.
Also Read: MGP Gives a “Clean Chit” to Sanatan Sanstha in Cases of Rationalists’ Murders
There have been several times in the past when Punalekar has ridiculed the ongoing investigations.
At a press conference in Mumbai, in 2016, he had said, “We are well-wishers of SS. We will stand by SS till our last breath, and expose malpractices and wrongdoings of Dr. Dabholkar and his family members; then, let the police nab whomsoever they want. HVP would have sent Dr. Dabholkar to jail if he would have been alive today. We shall not sit quietly till we expose all the wrongdoings of Dabholkar family and they are sent to jail.” This conference was in association with Bharatiya Yuva Shakti, Dr. Upendra Dahake, BJP’s vice president for Kalyan city, Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, HJS and SS.
Appearing on a Times Now debate in 2018, Punalekar also ruled out SS’s involvement in Lankesh’s assassination. Refuting the findings of the investigation in the case, he had said, “The accusations hurled at SS in the Gauri Lankesh murder case are absolutely fake. Till date, all the murders in the country have been committed using 7.65 0r 7.32 mm revolvers. Since these two types of firearms are cheap, they are easily available. An AK47 or an airgun is not used for any kind of murder. Hence, this is like saying men wearing shirts have committed murder just because the murderer of an individual was wearing a shirt. Thus, an unreasonable attempt is being made to implicate Sanatan in the Gauri Lankesh murder case.”
Punalekar and SS have been saying that the accused so far arrested are not members of the SS or any of its affiliates. However, the investigations have established that all of them arrested are members of some or the other Hindutva organisation. The question here is, if they weren’t the members of SS, why is it providing legal aid to the accused? The answer that Punalekar has been giving for this question is, “Hindu cause”. According to the chargesheet filed by the SIT, Shashikant Rane alias Kaka (some earlier reports had said that Kaka was a certain Shankar Narayana) a former editor of Sanatan Prabhat, the mouthpiece SS, had funded the mission of killing the rationalists. And now we know that the lawyer of SS might have played a role in the destruction of evidence.
Also Read: Ex-Editor of Sanatan Prabhat Funded Group to Murder Rationalists