In a major breakthrough, the CBI Friday arrested Dr Virendra Tawade, a member of the Sanatan Sanstha offshoot, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), for his alleged role in the murder of noted Pune-based rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in 2013.
CBI sources confirmed that the agency arrested Tawade from Panvel around 8.30 pm, and that he would be produced before the sessions court in Pune on Saturday.
Tawade’s arrest was the first by the central agency since it took over the probe in May 2014 on the directions of the Bombay High Court based on a PIL alleging that pro-Hindutva activists were involved in the killing.
The arrest comes nine days after the CBI conducted searches at the residence of Tawade, who works as a medical officer for the Sanstha, and questioned him at the outfit’s ashram in Panvel. Sources said that Tawade was an ENT specialist who has been working with the organisation for the last 15-20 years.
CBI sources said they had been questioning Tawade over the last few days to probe his role in the murder.
CBI sources said that a few cellphone numbers were reportedly recovered from various emails recovered from Tawde’s laptop. “Documents, mobile numbers and emails recovered during the searches are being scrutinised,” the probe agency had earlier stated in a press release.
Sources said Tawade was also in contact through emails with Sarang Akolkar, another activist of the Sanstha, who is an absconding with a Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued by the Interpol against him in the Goa blast case of 2009. The agency had conducted searches at the Pune residence of Akolkar on June 1.
Dabholkar was shot dead by two unidentified men while he was on a morning walk on the bridge near Omkareshwar temple in Pune on August 20, 2013.
Akolkar’s name had first cropped up in the case when sketches were prepared in the aftermath of the murder. However, last October, the CBI counsel told the court that Akolkar’s photographs were shown to the three witnesses who failed to identify him.
CBI sources said the agency has also approached Scotland Yard to get a third opinion on the weapon used in the killings of Dr Dabholkar, M M Kalburgi and Govind Pansare.
“Two weapons were used in Pansare’s murder. According to the Bengaluru forensic lab report, while one matched with that used in the killing of Dabholkar, the other matched with the one used in the murder of Kalburgi. However, a Mumbai forensic lab report opined that same weapon was used in all the killings. A third opinion has now been sought from London,” a senior official said.