Pune police say they are keeping a watch on the activities of radical Hindu outfits, suspected to be on the rise in Pune. One man from the city the police are rigorously searching for is a Sanatan Sanstha member, Sarang Dilip Akolkar alias Kulkarni (33), a suspect in the Goa blast of 2009.
Akolkar is among the 12 named in the chargesheet by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for the bomb blast in Madgaon on October 16, 2009. An electronics engineer from a private college in Pune, Akolkar has been missing since the blast. An Interpol notice has been issued against him.
As per police records, Sanatan Sanstha was against “Narkasur effigy” competition in Madgaon, Goa. To oppose the competition on the eve of Diwali on October 16, two Sanatan members Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, then living in Goa, were allegedly carrying the bomb in their scooter to plant it near the competition spot.
The duo died as the bomb went off prematurely. Police arrested six Sanatan Sanstha members, Vinay Talekar, Vinayak Patil and Dilip Mangaonka of Goa, and Dhananjay Ashtekar, Prashant Ashtekar and Prashant Juvekar of Ratnagiri, in connection with the case. Akolkar, Rudra Patil of Sangli and Jay Prakash alias Anna of Managlore are absconding. The investigation has been taken over by the NIA.
Investigators suspect that Dhananjay Ashtekar, an engineering student, played a key role in preparing the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) carrying detonators and timer devices for the blast. Police told the court that suspects including Malgonda, Yogesh, Dhananjay, Akolkar, Jai Prakash, Mangaonkar and Talekar had “prepared IEDs” and conducted “test blasts” on the hill behind the house of one Laxmikant Naik in Talaulim village of Goa between “August 26 and 28, 2009”.
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The NIA received a major setback as a special court at Mapusa, Goa, acquitted all the six Sanatan members in December 2013. NIA moved the High Court against the acquittal. A police officer said: “The blast is a fact, and also that the bomb carriers died in it. Also, there are records of phone calls between bomb carriers Malgonda and Dhananjay, and also between Akolkar and Dhananjay on the day of blast and even earlier.”
Sanjiv Punalekar, the lawyer who represented the suspects, said the NIA’s allegations were baseless. “All six arrested were acquitted. There is no evidence against Akolkar and other absconding suspects,” he said.
Akolkar stayed at Shaniwar Peth. He is known to have stayed in Wadgaon Dhayari on Sinhagad Road. Investigators from multiple agencies have been visiting his Shaniwar Peth residence. Summons issued by a special court in Goa were also put up there in presence of his parents.
His house remains locked. Akolkar’s parents were not available for comment. Sources close to the family said they now lived in a Sanatan Sanstha ashram. Before he went missing, Akolkar was a full-time activist of Sanatan Sanstha and was appointed the Pune district convener of its sister outfit Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS). He co-ordinated several campaigns launched by HJS in Pune, including one in June 2009 against Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, claiming the film showed Hindus in bad light.
Police sources said Hindu extremists were operating from Pune. Police said Vikram Bhave, a Sanatan activist convicted in Thane auditorium blast, and now on bail, had been seen in the city. Bhave has penned a book on the Malegaon blast probe, which was released in Pune by Dhananjay Desai, chief of the radical Hindu Rashtra Sena, who is currently in jail for alleged involvement in the murder of techie Mohsin Shaikh.
Abhinav Bharat members Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Major (retired) Ramesh Upadhyay, Ajay Rahirkar, Sameer Kulkarni and Rakesh Dhawade, all from Pune, were arrested for alleged involvement in Malegaon blast of 2008.