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CBI SP probing Dhabolkar murder, AAP leader Ashish Khetan on Sanatan ‘hit-list’

When asked if the officer has sought any protection from the Maharashtra police as his office is located in Navi Mumbai, the official said that from the very beginning, Sanatan addressed him as a “demon”.

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai |
Updated: September 8, 2017 3:56:15 pm
AAP, Ashish Khetan, death threat, right-wing, Hindu Rashtra, india news, indian express AAP leader Ashish Khetan has received threat letters allegedly from Hindu right wing group Sanatan Sanstha

Between June 2016 and July this year, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former journalist Ashish Khetan allegedly received two threat letters from Hindu group Sanatan Sanstha. Khetan had earlier filed a writ petition in the Delhi court seeking uniform guidelines or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that could be followed by law enforcement agencies in the country whenever a citizen is threatened by any extremist group.

Now, sources have told The Indian Express that the investigating officer in the Pune-based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar’s murder case is also on the “radar” of the right wing group.

Nandakumar Nair, the Superintendent of Police with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who arrested Sanatan Sanstha’s Dr Virendra Tawde, an alleged western commander of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), an offshoot of the Sanatan Sanstha, in June 2016 for being the conspirator in the Dabholkar murder case has been identified as a “rakshasa” (demon) by the Sanstha.

In its chargesheet against Tawde filed last year, the CBI had stated that “rakshasa” was a code used by Sanstha members to address people on their “hit-list”.

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With the Karnataka Police probing if the murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh had any link to the murder of three rationalists — Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi — these threat perceptions have gained prominence. “Recently, when Sanatan Sanstha lawyer Sajeev Punalekar was questioned by the CBI in connection with the case, a Sanatan functionary informed Nair that they were aware of his recent trip to the Guruvayur Sri Vishnu temple in Kerala. This clearly indicates that the group is monitoring his movements,” said an official.

When asked if the officer has sought any protection from the Maharashtra police as his office is located in Navi Mumbai, the official said that from the very beginning, Sanatan addressed him as a “demon”.

While the news of his movements being tracked is a matter of concern, many Sanatan members always called him anti-Hindu and accused him of not following his ‘faith’ by arresting their members and therefore it wouldn’t be a surprise if his name is on their hit-list,” the official said.

Even in the writ petition filed by Khetan, in which the alleged threat letters have been attached, one of the letters addresses Nair as anti-Hindu.

“You have taken the help of Mr Nandkumar Nayar, who is working in CBI and is himself a rogue element and then deceived the pious Hindu saints,” the letter mentioned in the petition, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, states. “Miscreants like you are fit for receiving the death sentence in a Hindutva country and we wish that with the God’s grace, this task will be fulfilled very soon,” the letter reads.

In July 2014, Khetan had conducted a sting operation on retired senior police officer Gulab Rao Pol who had told him that the Pune police had resorted to a planchet to get a breakthrough in the Dabholkar case. Pol was the Pune commissioner when the murder took place.

“Both Dabholkar and Pansare had received multiple threats before they were eventually killed. The police were aware of it, but they failed to act. The purpose of my writ is to have SoPs to objectively assess the level of threat a journalist or an activist may face in case he receives direct threats from extremist elements. The unfortunate reality is that those who are ideologically aligned with the regime are having protection, while those who are opposed to the government don’t get a fair response from the police. This needs to change, lest we become a banana republic,” said Khetan.

When contacted, the Sanstha refuted the claims.

“We have never sent any threat letter to Khetan. He is claiming so to pursue his political agenda or police protection,” said Chetan Rajhans, Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson.

On the point of Nair, Rajhans said that Nair is not conducting a fair investigation. “We are neither following Nair nor have called him ‘anti-Hindu’. He was brought in by the previous government and is on deputation. In the past, we have requested that the investigation should be conducted by some other officer,” he said.

A senior Maharashtra police officer said there are procedures in place to provide security to citizens against whom there is any threat perception.

“In cases where intelligence agencies or the state intelligence department provides any input of threat to any private citizens or those in office, security is extended to them and the state bears the cost,” said a senior officer.

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