The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Friday told a special court that well known personalities like activists Shyam Manav and Mukta Dabholkar; NCP leader Jitendra Awhad and many others, “who spoke against the Hindu religion”, were on the target list of the five alleged Hindutva activists arrested on terror charges earlier this month. The court on Thursday was hearing a plea from the ATS seeking further custody of one of the accused — Avinash Pawar, who was arrested on August 25. A resident of Mumbai suburb Ghatkopar, the 30-year-old is alleged to be associated with Hindutva organisation Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan. The court granted Pawar’s further custody to the ATS till September 4.
Pawar was arrested after suspected Hindutva activists Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar were taken into custody by the ATS on August 10 for allegedly conspiring to carry out bomb blasts across Maharashtra. Shiv Sena former corporator Shrikant Pangarkar, suspected to have links with the Hindutva organisation Sanatan Sanstha, was also arrested on the suspicion that he provided funds to purchase arms and ammunition for the blasts.
On Thursday, Chief Public Prosecutor Jaisingh Desai, while seeking further custody of Pawar, a Ghatopkar resident who worked at Mazgaon dockyard, told the court that many other people were on the target list of the accused and they had conducted reconnaissance on their daily activities.
The court, meanwhile, castigated the ATS for the number of grounds it had cited while seeking Pawar’s custody.
While passing the order, the court said that it could be seen from the record that a conspiracy was hatched to commit unlawful activities against those who were against the Hindu religion. It added that one of the grounds cited by the ATS was that it has recovered 10 TB data, hard disk, pen drive, CDs and mobile data from Pawar and sent the same to the forensic laboratory at Kalina for examination.
As ATS sought Pawar’s custody on the ground that he needs to be confronted with these examination reports, the court said: “During the last six days, no inquiry was conducted by the ATS and therefore, this ground does not sustain.” Further, the ATS told the court that the accused had brought arms and explosives in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and it needs Pawar’s custody to identify the spots from where the purchases were made. The court, however, said this “ground does not sustain as the investigating agency in six days did not find the place from where the arms and explosives were brought”.
The ATS also told the court that Pawar and other accused were on leave during the Sunburn music concert in Pune and the release of the film Padmavat. The prosecution had earlier told the court that the accused had attacked two cinema halls screening Padmavat and planned to attack the Sunburn music festival as it went against “Hindu culture”. It told the court that it is scrutinizing the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the accused and some material has been recovered which points towards the involvement of Pawar and other accused in the case.
On the ATS’ statement that it has sent the arms and explosives to a ballistic expert for tests, the court said that till date, the report has not been received and it might take days and months for it to come. “…in that case, can police custody be granted for months?” it asked. The agency also said that it needed Pawar’s custody to decode the “coded content” found in a pocket diary at Pawar’s workplace.
The court said that it is granting Pawar’s further custody to the ATS only on that ground that it wants to investigate who financed the accused to buy the arms and explosives. With the investigation leading to the recovery of dismantled firearms, parts of which were thrown out by the accused, the court said Pawar’s custody is required to recover such parts and find out who taught them to dismantle firearms.
“It is also important to see that there is some part of negligence on part of investigating officer… that is to say not to collect SIM card ownership and documents from the company, considering the gravity of case,” said Judge V S Padalkar.