A key accused in the 2017 murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was recently arrested by the Karnataka SIT from Jharkhand, has been taken into custody by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad for investigations in the Nalasopara arms case — a terrorism case filed in 2019.
In the Nalasopara case, 18 country-made guns and dozens of crude bombs were found in the possession of persons affiliated to radical Hindutva groups.
Rushikesh Deodikar (44), a former co-ordinator of the Sanatan Sanstha-affiliated Hindu Janajagruti Samiti for the Aurangabad region, was taken into custody on the basis of a body warrant issued by a Mumbai sessions court, police sources said.
The former HJS activist is likely to be added to the list of 12 persons already named in the Maharashtra ATS case. The list includes nine of 18 accused in the Lankesh murder case.
Deodikar was arrested from Dhanbad where he was working at a petrol pump after going underground in the wake of arrests of several persons linked to a Hindutva group involved in the murders of Lankesh and 3 others.
According to SIT sources, Deodikar was a key figure in the Maharashtra operations of an extremist group — with strong connections to the Sanatan Sanstha – accused of carrying out four murders between 2013 and 2017 in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The probe into the Lankesh case has revealed that Deodikar was instrumental in the recruitment of radically inclined youths in Maharashtra such as Sharad Kalaskar (26) of Aurangabad, who is accused of shooting down rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 20, 2013.
The probe into the Lankesh murder has revealed that Deodikar, who was also known as Shiva and Murali, was allegedly part of a conspiracy meeting involving several right wing activists which was held in December 2017 in Pune to target the Sunburn Music Festival.
A group of over 20 persons were allegedly brought together, including Deodikar, to target the Sunburn Festival and were divided into teams by Amol Kale, a key leader of the group, according to statements given to the police by several persons arrested in the Lankesh case.
A team headed by bomb expert Prathap Hazra, a leader of the Bhavani Sena, a radical outfit from West Bengal, who was arrested last month by the Maharashtra ATS from Kolkata in connection with the Nalasopara case, was allegedly tasked with making bombs to target the Sunburn Festival, according to a statement given by the accused Kalaskar.
The team allegedly prepared around 30 country bombs but the attack was called off by Kale after realising that two members of the group were captured on CCTV cameras near the venue of the event while carrying out a recce.
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