THE same motorcycle and weapon were used by assailants in the killing of two Maharashtra rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar and CPI leader Govind Pansare, a probe by the CBI has ascertained. Sources said details regarding this will be shared with the Bombay High Court Thursday when the agency submits its status report on the case.
Sources said the CBI found that on January 22, 2013 — nearly eight months before the murder of Dabholkar — Virendra Tawde, an alleged commander of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) who has been arrested in connection with the murder, rode his black-coloured Honda Splendor motorcycle from Panvel to Pune.
Sources said the motorcycle was used by the two assassins — one is Sarang Akolkar and the other is still to be identified — for reconnaissance and for the killing of Dabholkar on August 20, 2013 outside his Pune residence.
In December 2014, Tawde, sources said, took the same motorcycle to Kolhapur and stayed at a Sanatan Sanstha sevak’s residence, located a few kilometres from Pansare’s office. This was also for reconnaissance, two months before Pansare’s murder.
According to sources, Tawde handed over the motorcycle to the assassins who carried out the killing in February 2015. The CBI is still to recover the motorcycle which is key to solving the two cases.
“While our probe has indicated that the same bike was used in the two murders, the accused never revealed what happened to the bike after it was used in the Pansare case. We suspect that the wanted accused may have disposed of the bike but we are still trying to recover it,” a senior officer told The Indian Express.
“With the Kolhapur police now taking Tawde’s custody, we hope they probe him at length on this angle,” the officer said.
Sources also indicated that the ballistic report on the cartridges in the two cases revealed that the same weapon may have been used in the two killings. The CBI is waiting for the bullet shells recovered from the murder spot of Karnataka social activist M M Kalburgi and will send these to Scotland Yard for a final opinion.
Meanwhile, analysis of a hard disk recovered from the Sanathan Sanstha office in Panvel revealed that the outfit, after failing to carry out blasts in Vashi, Thane and Goa, decided to change strategy and make it ‘personality specific’, allegedly to eliminate ‘anti-Hindu activists’.
“The analysis of the hard disk reveals that they had a hit-list of anti-Hindu activists who they planned to eliminate. These personalities were discussed through codes and were referred as ‘rakshash’ (demons) by the members,” another senior officer said.
With the CBI probe indicating that Tawde might also have been a key conspirator in the 2009 Goa blast case, the families of the two rationalists plan to approach Goa High Court to monitor the probe and fast-track the case.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Hamid Dabholkar, Narendra’s son, said, “We plan to file a writ in Goa High Court, asking them to direct the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which had probed the case to investigate the new evidence against Tawde brought to light by the CBI.”
“The arrested accused were let off for want of evidence. If Tawde’s role is probed in depth by the agency, it may give a new direction to the probe and bring the accused to justice,” Hamid said.
The CBI claimed that Dabholkar’s murder was planned in 2007 but was put on hold by the module to carry out the Goa blast in 2009 on the eve of Diwali. The plan to kill Dabholkar gathered steam in June 2013, the agency claimed.
According to the CBI, call data record (CDR) of Tawde’s phone shows he was in touch with the accused during the blast and was also the key conspirator. Investigations revealed that on October 16, 2009 — the day of the blast — Tawde made a call to Akolkar at 4.36 pm. After the blast around 7 pm, five-six calls were made by Akolkar to Tawde.
“The CDR of Tawde shows that he was in close contact with the Goa blast accused. He had also frequented Goa in 2009 and was the one who helped the accused with training in handling of weapons and explosives. His CDRs show that he was in touch with the wanted accused — Sarang Akolkar, Rudra Patil, Prakashanna Patil, Vinay Pawar, and Praveen Nimkar,” a senior officer said.
On Tuesday, the CBI questioned Tawde’s wife Nidhi at the agency’s Belapur office. Nidhi who arrived from London on Monday was a former Sanatan Sanstha member and had even accompanied her husband to a protest staged by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Kolhapur at an anti-superstition event held by Dabholkar in 2007. Her Panvel home, which was previously sealed by the agency, was also searched on Tuesday.
“In her statement, she has claimed that two years ago the couple started having trouble in their marriage and since then have been staying separately. She has distanced herself from the case, claiming that she was not aware of email exchanges between Tawde and Akolkar and did not probe her husband on his links with the HJS or Sanatan Sanstha,” another officer said. Nidhi has been summoned again on Wednesday.