On Sunday, the CBI produced Hindutva activist Sachin Prakashrao Andure in a city court, claiming that he and one more Hindutva activist, Sharad Kalaskar, shot dead Dr Narendra Dabholkar in the morning of August 20, 2013. Andure was arrested on August 18, two days before the fifth anniversary of Dabholkar’s killing. Till then, two other people, Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar, were accused by CBI of having shot at Dabholkar.
The five year-long investigation into Dabholkar murder has produced interesting twists and turns. Here are the important characters in the story so far.
Manish Nagori and Vilas Khandelwal, the first suspects
Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), was shot dead by two persons around 7.25 am on August 20, 2013, while he was on his morning walk on the V R Shinde Bridge.
In the afternoon on the same day, Mumbra Police arrested 24-year-old Manish Nagori and his 22-year-old colleague Vilas Khandelwal, both alleged illegal firearms dealers hailing from Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district, for allegedly demanding extortion money of Rs 15 lakh from a Mumbra-based businessman.
In October that year, Nagori and his aides were arrested by the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS). About 40 illegal firearms were supposed to have been recovered from them. The seized weapons were sent for ballistic tests. The ballistic reports suggested that one of the firearms, seized from possession of Khandelwal, matched with the ‘markings’ on a cartridge recovered from the spot where Dabholkar was murdered in Pune. That was the link that connected Nagori and Khandelwal to the Dabholkar murder.
On November 20, 2013, the ATS wrote to Pune police, which was investigating the Dabholkar murder at that time, about the ballistic report. On November 28, Pune Police arrested Nagori, Khandelwal and two others, not for the murder of Dabholkar, but that of a security guard Prahlad Jogdandkar, who was shot dead at the Savitribai Phule Pune University campus on May 3, 2012. The two cases are totally unconnected.
Nagori and Khandelwal were then arrested in yet another case by Pune police on December 13, 2013, this time for the murder of a 30-year-old person in Hinjewadi. On January 20, 2014, Pune City Police finally arrested Nagori and Khandelwal for the murder of Dabholkar. When they were produced in court the next day, the two of them alleged that the then ATS chief, Rakesh Maria, had offered them Rs 25 lakh for confessing to having murdered Dabholkar.
They also claimed that narco and lie-detector tests were conducted on them when they were held in police custody earlier. Nagori and Khandelwal did a turnaround some time later, claiming that their allegations against Maria were emotional outbursts. The two of them were released on bail by the court a few months later. The two of them do not figure in CBI’s current theory of Dabholkar murder.
The Bombay High Court, while hearing a public interest litigation filed by former journalist Ketan Tirodkar, ordered the transfer of the Dabholkar murder investigation to CBI in May 2014. The CBI registered its first FIR in the case on June 2, 2014.
There was not much progress in the case till next year. Meanwhile, in an incident similar to the Dabholkar murder, unidentified persons opened fire on Communist leader Govind Pansare and his wife in Kolhapur when the couple was returning from a morning walk on February 16, 2015. Pansare died in hospital a few days later, on February 20. His wife, Uma, survived. A few days after Pansare’s murder, a Hindutva activist, identified as Sanjay Sadwilkar, a resident of Kolhapur, is said to have approached the Kolhapur Police and shared inputs about suspicious activities of one Virendra Tawde, a Sanatan Sanstha activist. Kolhapur Police did not proceed against Tawde.
However, a year later, following a statement given by the same witness Sadwilkar, CBI arrested Tawde in the Dabholkar murder case on June 10, 2016. Two months later, in August, Tawde was arrested in the Pansare murder case as well, by the special investigation team (SIT) which had been handed over the probe by then.
Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar
In the chargesheet in the Pansare case, filed in November 2016, the SIT named Tawde as the prime conspirator and three activists of Sanatan Sanstha — Sarang Akolkar, Vinay Pawar and Rudra Patil — as accused. Pawar, who is from Satara, is missing since 2009. Akolkar, an engineer from Pune who is an accused in a October 2009 bomb blast case in Goa as well, is absconding and even has a Red Corner notice issued against him. The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the Dabholkar case two months earlier, in September. This chargesheet, accessed by The Indian Express, named Tawde as the prime conspirator in the Dabholkar case.
“…the investigation has established through oral and documentary evidences that Dr Virendrasinh Tawde, who harboured enmity/hatred with Dr Narendra Dabholkar owing to the ideological differences between Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha, criminally conspired with Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar and others to murder Dr Dabholkar, and in pursuance of the said criminal conspiracy, Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar shot dead Dr Dabholkar on August 20, 2013 at about 7.25 am at Pune,” says the chargesheet.
The CBI had even issued sketches of the two suspects who shot dead Dabholkar. Also, CBI had announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh to any person giving information about suspects Akolkar and Pawar. A CBI pamphlet in this regard, bearing the name of the investigation officer, Additional Superintendent of Police S R Singh, carried photographs of Akolkar and Pawar and stated that the two suspects had shot dead Dabholkar in Pune.
Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, the latest suspects
A resident of Aurangabad, Andure’s name had cropped up during the interrogation of Hindutva activists — Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar — who were picked up by the Maharashtra ATS following clues passed on to them by the Karnataka Police from their investigation into the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh last year. ATS has maintained that during his interrogation, Kalaskar allegedly revealed his own and Andure’s involvement in Dabholkar’s murder.
While seeking Andure’s custody on August 19, the CBI told a court that Andure was one of the two shooters who gunned down Dabholkar. On Sunday, the CBI has told the court it will be taking Kalaskar’s custody on Tuesday, August 28.
“The accused, Sachin Prakashrao Andure is one of the two shooters who shot at Dr Narendra Dabholkar at Omkareshwar Bridge on August 20, 2013. The entire conspiracy hatched by Dr Virendra Tawde along with this accused and others has to be unearthed, for which the custodial interrogation in police custody is required,” CBI had told the court on August 19. On Sunday, the agency said in the court, “The CBI is trying to trace the motorcycle used in the offence by Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, another shooter in the case. Kalaskar is presently in custody of Maharashtra ATS, and CBI is going to take his custody from August 28. Andure and Kalaskar both have to be investigated and confronted during CBI custody.
Public Prosecutor for the CBI, Vijaykumar Dhakne, said, “Andure has received weapons training at various places in Maharashtra and Karnataka before executing the killing of Dr Dabholkar. The CBI needs to investigate who provided infrastructure to the assailants. The weapon and vehicle used in the crime is yet to be recovered.”
The CBI is also expected to seek custody of former Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) activist Amol Arvind Kale alias Bhaisab (37) of Chinchwad. Kale was arrested by Karnataka Police in May this year in connection with the Gauri Lankesh murder case.
However, till now, the CBI has not linked the alleged illegal firearms dealers, Nagori and Khandelwal, to their investigation in Dabholkar murder. It has, so far, also not offered any explanation to reconcile its earlier claims with the current arrest of Andure.