Mumbai : A man allegedly having links with rightwing outfit ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ was on Wednesday arrested in connection with the killing of veteran Communist leader and rationalist Govind Pansare in February this year. Sameer Gaikwad, in his early 30s, was arrested from Sangli in a joint operation by Kolhapur and local police, based on leads obtained through electronic surveillance.
Inspector General of Police Sanjay Kumar Verma, heading the SIT in the case, told reporters in Kolhapur that Sameer is an active member of Sanatan Sanstha since 1998. “Not only Sameer, but also his entire family is associated with Sanatan,” Verma said. Reacting to the charge, Sanatan spokesperson Sandip Shinde said Sameer is not guilty of the crime he is being accused of and has been falsely implicated in the case.
Sameer was taken into custody after police went through his ‘innumerable’ phone call records. He was produced in a court at Kolhapur in western Maharashtra which remanded him in police custody till September 23. Pansare (81) was gunned down outside his home in Sagar Mala locality of Kolhapur city on February 16 and succumbed to his injuries on February 20 at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital.
Sanatan Sanstha had grabbed headlines after the Panvel, Thane and Vashi blasts that took place in Maharashtra in 2007 in which the Mumbai ATS had chargesheeted six members of the organisation and its front, the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti.
In 2009, a low intensity bomb went off in Goa for which members of the right wing organisation were chargesheeted. The blast took place at Madgaon in Goa on October 16, 2009, the eve of Diwali. Two activists of the Sanstha had succumbed to injuries when the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) they were carrying in a scooter – also owned by a Sanstha member – exploded prematurely.
Pansare, a senior Communist Party of India (CPI) leader, was a prominent social activist in Maharashtra and worked for the welfare of the poor and suppressed. His popular book Shivaji Kon Hota (Who was Shivaji), projected Shivaji as the people’s king as against his portrayal as a Hindu bigot by certain right wing outfits and fringe groups.
The book countered the propaganda of the Hindutva outfits and pointed out that Shivaji was a secular ruler whose top generals and associates were Muslims. Pansare’s frequent speeches challenging the communal agenda of right-wing outfits angered them.
His family has been demanding a probe into his murder. They had also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court which had asked Maharashtra government to file its response to the petition seeking constitution of special investigation team (SIT) to probe the killing. Till now, the probe by police teams had not yielded much apart from vague probable sketches of the assassins and the recovery of a couple of motorbikes from Kolhapur city which were suspected to have been used by the killers.
In April, the state government constituted a SIT to probe the case. The arrest comes close on the heels of the recent killing of Kannada scholar and researcher M M Kalburgi at Dharwad in Karnataka on August 30. Another rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was killed in Pune in 2013.
[alert type=”e.g. warning, danger, success, info” title=””]FACT FILE: The Sanatan Sanstha is a non-profit organisation registered in India. It was founded in 1990 by Jayant Balaji Athavale with the blessings of Bhaktaraj Maharaj and is based on the study of spirituality as a science. The stated main aim of the organisation is to present spirituality in a scientific language for the curious (Jidnyasu) and to guide seekers. The Sanstha has a chain of centre in different parts of India and abroad.[/alert]
Left parties and rationalist forums have voiced deep concern over the delay in tracking down and apprehending the killers of these social activists and held that fundamental elements could be behind these murders. The Karnataka government yesterday announced Rs 5 lakh reward to those who could provide clues about the murder of Kalburgi. Dabholkar, who spent much of his life exposing sham rituals, miracles, black magic, and godmen, was murdered in Pune in 2013 and there has been no breakthrough in his case yet.
“Gaikwad is arrested on the basis of suspicion. Even the police are stating that he is a suspect. The truth behind this will come out soon. Since Sanatan Sanstha is a spiritual organisation, it cannot provide direct legal assistance to Gaikwad. However, since he is innocent, he will be provided with legal assistance by either Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad or any well-wisher advocate,” he added.
“The police have hatched the conspiracy to implicate innocent Gaikwad. It is suspicious to arrest him in such a manner. When anybody is arrested, he is questioned and verified during initial 24 hours and then produced before the court within next 24 hours.
“For this purpose, the police have to prepare papers for seeking his remand, which may take few hours. He was arrested in the morning and produced before the court immediately thereafter. This means the remand papers were prepared beforehand itself. This goes to show that the entire matter is a conspiracy. Police needs to inform the family of arrested person immediately after the arrest. However, the police informed the family of Gaikwad after few hours. This is a serious matter and raises the question mark over the operating procedure of the police,” Marathe said.
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