THE Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a 34-page chargesheet in the murder of Pune-based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, naming as key conspirator ENT surgeon Dr Virendra Tawde, a member of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), which is an offshoot of radical Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha.
The chargesheet, filed late Tuesday, also names two other Sanstha supporters — Sarang Akolkar, a wanted accused in the Goa blast case of 2009, and Vinay Pawar — as those who carried out the attack on Dabholkar on August 20, 2013.
The conspiracy to murder Dabholkar was hatched because of ideological differences between the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), founded by Dabholkar, and HJS, says the chargesheet.
Dabholkar was murdered by two motorcycle-borne assailants while he was on a morning walk on Onkareshwar Bridge in Pune. The case was initially probed by Pune police’s crime branch before being transferred to the CBI in May 2014.
In the first week of June this year, CBI teams conducted searches at the houses of Tawde in Panvel and Akolkar in Pune — Tawde was arrested on June 10. CBI has said that some documents, cell numbers and email addresses were recovered during the searches.
CBI sources said the agency also scrutinised email exchanges between Tawde, Akolkar and some members of the Sanstha, in which the plan to murder Dabholkar was allegedly discussed.
Sources said that the CBI also analysed data from hard drives recovered from the searches in Panvel, which allegedly shows that the conspirators had a list of names whose work they considered “anti religion” and whom they planned to murder.
Another important aspect of the chargesheet is the statement of a witness from Kolhapur, an owner of a metal workshop, who has allegedly told the CBI that Tawde and Akolkar had met him a couple of months before the murder of Dabholkar and had asked for firearms.
“Initial investigation revealed that the said doctor had allegedly conspired the murder of Dr Dabholkar with two other accused persons including an absconder,” stated a CBI press release.
Dabholkar’s son, Dr Hameed, described the filing of the chargesheet as “a positive development”. “But it is important that the two wanted accused are arrested as soon as possible, as they still are a threat to society and to supporters of free thought, in particular. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the Goa blast case, should also work with the CBI,” he said.
Tawde’s lawyer, Sanjiv Punalekar, accused the CBI of having “framed Tawde”. “Also, there is no evidence regarding the involvement of Akolkar or Pawar in the case. The CBI’s investigation is based on the statement of a tainted person from Kolhapur,” he said.
Pawar is a native of Miraj in Sangli district, who completed his studies in Mumbai. A graduate, he became a full-time activist of the Sanstha, working for its ashram in Goa. He went missing in 2010 after being named by Prashant Juvekar, who was arrested in the Goa bomb blast case of 2009.
Akolkar is among the 12 persons charged by NIA for the Goa blast. A graduate of electronics engineering from a private college in Pune, Akolkar has gone missing since the blast, with a Red Corner Notice (RCN) being issued against him and other suspects by Interpol.
According to the chargesheet, the CBI probe revealed that Tawde communicated in “code” language through emails with other suspects, in which they also discussed Dabholkar. CBI allegedly found code words like “chocolate” for “bullets” and “books” for “guns” in Tawde’s communication.
For instance, an email allegedly sent by Durgesh Samant, the former national spokesperson of the Sanstha, to Tawde in July 2007 has been cited by the CBI as the “beginning” of the conspiracy. The email, which is part of the chargesheet, states that “the chorus on the anti-superstition bill in increasing… there is now a need to concentrate of Dabholkar”.
The agency has claimed that it was after this email, that Tawde started monitoring Dabholkar’s movements and later included Akolkar and Pawar in the plan.
Among the other emails cited by the agency to chargesheet Tawde is one sent by Akolkar in April 2009. In this email, Akolkar allegedly used coded language to discuss locations from where weapons could be procured. “Videshi sahitya Assam main milega (Foreign literature can be procured in Assam) . Desi aur videshi sahitya ke liye karkhana banana padega (We will have to make factories for domestic and foreign literature),” the chargesheet reads.
During interrogation, Tawde revealed that “desi sahitya” stood for country-made pistols and “videshi sahitya” for foreign-made weapons, the CBI said.
The agency has also cited caricatures and articles carried against the slain rationalist in publications linked to the Sanstha. These include a picture of Dabholkar with the sign of a cross over his mouth that was published weeks before the murder by Sanatan Prabhat.
In the week following Dabholkar’s murder, Sanatan Prabhat published another article “hailing” the killing, the CBI said. The Sanstha supporter who wrote the article told the CBI that he did not regret writing the piece and that the murder of Dabholkar was “good riddance”, the chargesheet states.
Claiming that Dabholkar’s murder was pre-meditated, the CBI has cited three to four instances where Tawde and Dabholkar had showdowns. “In 2002, at a event… Tawde carried out a demonstration against Dabholkar and the two had a showdown. Similar incidents had happened in 2007 and 2009,” the chargesheet states.