An important witness in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case, who had approached the police naming Virendra Tawade of Sanatan Sanstha as the suspect, himself claims to be a staunch and aggressive “Hindutvawadi” believing in ideologies of V D Savarkar and Bal.
The CBI arrested Tawade on June 10 in connection with the 2013 murder of Dabholkar, an anti-superstition activist, and submitted the statement of the witness from Kolhapur to a Pune court.
The Sanatan Sanstha on Friday alleged the witness was “corrupt” and had given statement against Tawade out of “vengeance.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, the witness refuted the allegations, saying he had no personal grudge against Tawade or the Sanatan Sanstha.
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The 45-year-old witness, who has a shop in Kolhapur, has been into the business of metallurgy for last 20 years. “I am among those who started Shiv Sena in Kolhapur after being inspired by Balasaheb Thackeray. Later, as I was occupied with my own business, I stayed away from the Sena or any other political party. But in 2001, I thought of the need of a non-political group working for Hindutva. I organised about 300 persons. We named it as Hindutva group and started opposing conversions by Christians, anti-Hindu Islamic forces and acts promoting obscenity in society. We conducted regular meetings of Hindutva group. Many Hindu activists, including Tawade, attended our meetings in Kolhapur,” he said.
“Differences arose when Sanatan Sanstha members, including Tawade, came out in support of a controversial ‘Maharaj’ in Kolhapur who was accused of sexual harassment by a woman from Mumbai. Sanatan Sanstha preaches religious Hindutva. We follow Veer Savarakar’s Hindutva and believe in scientific approach. So, there have been differences with Sanatan Sanstha. But I neither opposed nor supported them. My relations with Sanatan members and Tawade were fine… There was no contact with Tawade after 2008. But in April 2013, he approached me and later held three more meetings. I was not active in Hindutva work after 2012 to focus on my business. But knowing my strong inclination towards Hindutva ideology, Tawade urged me to become active again,” he said.
“I was given revolvers and asked to make replicas of them using my metallurgy skills. Later, Tawade asked me to provide shelter to some men for a few days in Kolhapur, saying they wanted to conduct some search here. When I asked what kind of search they intended to conduct, I was told these men would be collecting information of some persons, like when these persons left home, the timings of their visit to markets and other places. Accordingly, two persons, including one Vinod Pawar (from Umbraj in Satara district), came to me. This was before the murder of Dabholkar in Pune. But after (Communist leader) Govind Pansare was killed in a similar manner in Kolhapur, I was stunned… I started suspecting Tawade’s role. I had approached the Kolhapur police and told the police to pick up Tawade for leads. Police noted down my inputs. But I do not know why Tawade was not arrested before,” he said.
During a press conference in Mumbai after Tawade’s arrest, the Sanatan Sanstha had named this witness and alleged he was a “corrupt man facing charges of swindling Mahalaxmi Temple monies by misappropriating silver ingots provided to him for the silver chariot for Goddess Mahalaxmi”.
Abhay Vartak, spokesperson of Sanatan Sanstha, said this witness was named by the district collector in the alleged scam exposed by the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad in 2012, but could escape the clutches of law for four years due to blessings of Congress and NCP politicians. Sanatan Sanstha lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar even blamed the BJP for not taking action against this man.
Responding to these allegations, the witness, however, told The Indian Express, “I have taken six press conferences in four years, saying I am not corrupt and I am ready to face any inquiries and give proof of my innocence. Tawade never made any allegations against me. I have good feeling for many Sanatan Sanstha seekers who are doing spiritual work for the cause of Hindutva. But I feel a small group of Sanatan members like Tawade got into wrong and misleading acts.”
Investigation teams are apparently also probing Tawade’s role in the murders of Pansare and M M Kalburgi in Karnataka. Along with this witness’s statement, CBI claims to have details of email exchange between Tawade and Sarang Akolkar, an absconding accused in the 2009 Goa blast case, in which they allegedly discussed Dabholkar twice and shared information on procurement of weapons in code languages.
CBI is also probing the role of a retired police sub-inspector who is suspected to have given revolvers and weapon training to Tawade. CBI suspects Tawade later gave these revolvers to the witness asking him to making replicas.