FOUR years after the anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead when he was on a morning walk on August 20, 2013, prime accused Sarang Akolkar (35) and Vinay Baburao Pawar (37), members of Sanatan Sanstha, continue to remain at large, away from the clutches of the CBI and the SIT who continue to beat a bare path in the case.
The duo had shot dead Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, around 7.25 am on the V R Shinde bridge in the city. For three years, there was no clue about the murder. On June 10, 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Sanatan Sanstha seeker Virendra Tawde.
Along with Tawde, CBI named Vinay Pawar, who has been missing since 2009, and Sarang Akolkar, who is absconding in the October 2009 Goa blast case, as prime suspects. CBI claimed that Akolkar and Pawar are the two persons who opened fire on Dabholkar, causing his death.
In March this year, the CBI’s special crime branch announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for the person giving information about Akolkar and Pawar. In the chargesheet filed against Tawde on September 8, 2016, the CBI mentioned the motive behind the murder as “long-standing enmity/hatred” between Dabholkar and his organisation, Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), with Sanatan Sanstha.
In the chargesheet, the CBI gave the details of the alleged email conversation between Tawde and Akolkar, against whom a red corner notice was issued by Interpol in July 2012. “One email, dated April 20, 2009, from Akolkar to Tawde mentions about the availability of country-made arms (deshi banavatiche sahitya) in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It also mentioned about foreign made arms (pardeshi sahitya) availability in Assam. Here coded language has been used. It is also mentioned in email about the raising of the army of 15,000 persons for financial procurement of firearms (sahitya), even theft could be committed, in case of need,” the chargesheet stated.
A statement by a Hindutva activist, Sanjay Sadvilkar from Kolhapur, helped the CBI in the investigation. CBI claims that even after Akolkar went absconding, Tawde’s association with him continued. The CBI mentions that Tawde and Akolkar had a meeting with Sadvilkar in 2013. Tawde wanted to manufacture weapons with Sadvilkar’s help. “Akolkar had for this purpose brought samples of one country-made pistol and one country-made revolver of high quality,” it is stated. Sanatan Sanstha calls Sadvilkar a “bogus” witness.
Meanwhile, in August 2016, the special investigation team (SIT) of Kolhapur police took Tawde’s custody to probe his involvement in the murder of Communist leader Govind Pansare. Two persons had opened fire at Pansare and his wife, Uma, while they were returning home from morning walk on February 16, 2015. Pansare had died while undergoing treatment at the hospital on February 20. Uma received bullet injury, but survived. SIT filed a supplementary chargesheet against Tawde on November 29, 2016, naming him as the prime conspirator and Akolkar, Vinay Pawar and Rudra Patil as wanted accused in the case. Earlier this month, the state government too announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for the information about Akolkar and Pawar.
The ballistic reports
The Pune City police had arrested illegal firearms dealer Manish Nagori (24) and Vilas Khandelwal (22), on June 20, 2014, in Dabholkar murder case. This arrest was on the basis of a ballistic report of firearms seized from the duo when they were arrested by Mumbra police in an extortion case on August 20, 2013, the day when Dabholkar was murdered in Pune. The report suggested that one of the firearms (seized from Khandelwal) matched with the “markings” on a cartridge seized from crime scene.
CBI sent the samples of bullets and cartridges found at the crime scenes — Pune (Dabholkar murder), Kolhapur (Pansare murder) and Dharwad in Karnataka where Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi was shot dead on August 30, 2015 — to the New Scotland Yard police.
Earlier, the CBI got conflicting reports by the Mumbai Forensic Science Laboratory and the Bengaluru Forensic Science Lab (FSL) regarding the seized bullets and cartridges due to which the agency wanted an opinion from the foreign agency. But, in January this year, the CBI told the High Court that the Scotland Yard police could not give its opinion as there was no written agreement between India and the UK about sharing such information. The CBI then sought a forensic report from the Department of Forensic Sciences in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and submitted it to the High Court, where it is under investigation.