The Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing the murder of veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare, has seized a Tempo Trax vehicle allegedly used by arrested suspect Virendra Tawde, an ENT surgeon and member of pro-Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha. The police suspect the vehicle was used for carrying out reconnaissance before the rationalist was murdered in February 2015.
The SIT has already told the court in Kolhapur that Tawde, who has been named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as the key conspirator in the murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, is also the key conspirator in the Pansare murder case.
Two persons had opened fire at Pansare and his wife Uma in Kolhapur while the couple was returning home from morning walk on February 16, 2015. Pansare died while undergoing treatment on February 20. Uma received a bullet injury, but survived.
Sources from the SIT said the Tempo Trax recovered from a house in Washim town in Maharashtra was used by Tawde and other Sanatan Sanstha members for transport during the days when the conspiracy of 2009 Goa blast was hatched. They suspect the same vehicles were also used for transport by these Sanatan members when the conspiracies to murder Dabholkar and Pansare were being hatched.
“While the vehicle was registered in Tawde’s name, he had given it to the Sanatan Sanstha. We recovered the vehicle from the outfit’s ashram in Panvel last week when raids were carried out,” a senior official privy to the development told The Indian Express. Other than the vehicle, the SIT had also recovered around 20 boxes of psychotropic drugs that the investigators claim may have been used to “control the minds of sadhaks” in the outfit.
“A key witness in the Dabholkar murder case who has identified the shooters has also told us that Pawar and Tawde visited his Kolhapur home around ten days before Pansare’s murder. The visit was for the purpose of carrying out a recce of Pansare whose office was located less then a kilometre from the eyewitness’ house,” added the official.
Meanwhile, the SIT has also told the court that an eyewitness in this case has identified Sanatan Sanstha member Vinay Pawar as the person who was loitering around the crime scene before Pansare and his wife were shot at. The SIT thus suspects that Pawar is also involved in the crime along with Tawde and Sarang Akolkar, a Sanatan Sanstha member and wanted accused in the Goa blast case.
The CBI had arrested Tawde on June 10 this year to probe his role in the murder of Dabholkar, who was shot dead in Pune on August 20, 2013, by two bike-borne assailants, now suspected to be Akolkar and Pawar.
The SIT probing Pansare murder, which had earlier arrested Sanatan Sanstha seeker Sameer Gaikwad on December 14, 2015, got Tawde’s custody two weeks ago to probe his involvement in this case. The court had remanded Tawde in police custody till September 16.
Meanwhile, the SIT is also searching for the bike that was used by the assailants of Pansare and his wife.