The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) made its first arrest in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case on Friday. Dr Virendra Tawade of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti was arrested in connection with the case.
The CBI had taken over this case in May 2014 on the directions of the Bombay High Court. Dabholkar, a rationalist and an anti-superstition activist who had founded the Maharashtra Andhashradhha Unmoolan Samiti, was shot dead on August 20, 2013 while he was on a morning walk on the Omkareshwar bridge near the Balgandharva Rangamandir.
Dabholkar was 68 at the time of his death. He was the influence behind the anti-superstition bill which was pending in Maharashtra Assembly for 18 years.
The bill sought making human sacrifice in the name of religion, torture on the pretext of driving out evil spirits, and rituals supposed to ensure a pregnant women gets a son. It looked at punishment for self-styled godmen who claim to perform miracles, witch-hunters and those who practice aghori.
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On August 29, 2013, a Sanatan Sanstha worker was picked up by the police from Goa as part of it’s probe. After its name cropped up during the investigation, the organisation claimed that even though it had differences with Dabholkar, they had no reason to kill him. It also said that the police investigation was not headed in the right direction.
For a year, the investigation proceeded at a slow rate with several activists demanding Maharashtra Governor to take action. In April 2014, CBI told the Bombay High Court that it was considering taking over the case after a PIL was filed by journalist Ketan Tirodkar demanding a CBI probe.
On May 10, 2014, the court transferred Dabholkar’s case from Pune Police to CBI. However, the probe moved in the same fashion for about a year. In July 2015, Dabholkar’s family members approached the court requesting it to monitor the CBI probe.
They alleged that the CBI didn’t seem to be serious about the investigation and questioned the transfer of the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) who was the investigating officer in the case.
In May 2016, the Court again pulled up CBI for ‘shoddy’ investigation in the case after which it began fresh searches in Panvel and Pune. The Pune residence of Sarang Akolkar, an activist of Sanatan Sanstha also wanted in the 2009 Goa blast case, and the Panvel residence of Dr Virendra Tawde, who works as a medical officer for the Hindu outfit, were searched.
CBI is questioning Tawde and he is expected to be produced in a sessions court on Saturday.