Seven years after anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune, the CBI probe in his murder is still incomplete and the masterminds of the conspiracy are still unknown. Family members of the rationalist, in a statement issued on Tuesday, said it was “extremely painful” that the agency has not been able to complete the probe.
Dabholkar was shot dead on August 20, 2013, on the Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune while he was out for a morning walk. Till now, the CBI has arrested eight persons in connection with the crime and has chargesheeted five of them.
In the statement, Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta and son Dr Hameed have said, “This August 20, it will be seven years since the murder. After the unforgivably bungled investigation by Maharashtra Police in the first nine months after the murder, the case was handed over to the CBI following a High Court order. It is extremely painful that even seven years after the murder, an agency like the CBI has not able to complete the probe.”
The CBI had made the first arrest in the case in 2016 by apprehending Sanatan Santha member Dr Virendra Tawade, an ENT surgeon and alleged key conspirator. In 2018, the agency named Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar as the two shooters, who allegedly opened fire at Dabholkar, and arrested them.
In May 2019, Mumbai-based Sanatan Sanstha lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave were arrested in connection with the case. While these five have been chargesheeted till now, Punalekar is currently out on bail and the other four are in prison. CBI has also arrested three others — Amol Kale, Amit Digwekar and Rajesh Bangera — who are also accused in the 2017 murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Kale, Digwekar and Bangera have not been chargesheeted yet.
In the first week of March, the CBI had said parts of a pistol were recovered from a creek of the Arabian Sea near Thane, following a search for weapons suspected to be dismantled and dumped in July 2018 by one of the accused in the Dabholkar murder case. At the time of the recovery, the agency said that the weapon would be examined by forensic and ballistic experts to ascertain whether it was linked to the murder. The outcomes of these examinations are unknown.
The statement by Mukta and Dr Hameed further stated, “On one hand, Kale, Bangera and Digwekar have not yet been chargesheeted. On the other hand, the progress in the case has stagnated around Tawade and Kale’s roles. The CBI must find the masterminds of the conspiracy, otherwise the threat to rationalist thinkers, activists and journalists will continue to exist. The murders of Dr Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh are interlinked. There are common perpetrators and the same weapons have been used in more than one of them.”
The statement added, “In the last seven years, Maharashtra has seen different governments. When Dr Dabholkar was murdered, the Congress-NCP government was in power. At the time of Comrade Pansare’s murder, BJP-Shiv Sena government was in power. Now it is the Shiv Sena-Congress and NCP government. All these parties like to use phrases like ‘progressive Maharashtra’ or ‘Phule Shahu Ambedkar’s Maharashtra. But it’s painful that the probes in the murders of those who strived for these notions, remain incomplete.”
The statement highlighted that the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), of which Dabholkar was a founder, has taken his work forward. Every year, on August 20, MANS activists and many others have gathered at places across the country to protest the killings and express their resolve to take forward the rationalist’s work.
This year, social activist Yogendra Yadav will be the speaker at the Dr Narendra Dabholkar Memorial lecture on August 20, which will be conducted online due to Covid-linked restrictions.
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