Mumbai: The Maharashtra ATS has recovered a huge cache of arms, including 11 country-made pistols along with magazines and several other articles, a day after it arrested three people associated with right-wing Hindu outfits and seized explosives from their possession.
An ATS official said suspect Sudhanva Gondhalekar, who was arrested on August 10 along with Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar, confessed about the clandestine storage of illegal weapons during his custodial interrogation.
Based on this, the ATS carried out search operations in Pune and seized 11 country-made pistols with magazines, six pistol magazines, one airgun, 10 pistol barrels, six partially made pistol bodies, three partially made magazines, seven partially made pistol slides, 16 relay switches, one trigger mechanism, three nine-volt batteries, several springs, partially made parts of firearms, torches, battery, hand gloves, toolkit, six number plates and explosive-making handbook among others. The ATS suspects that the seized articles were to be used for making an IED.
With the recovery of weapons, the ATS added sections of the Arms Act to the FIR registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Explosives Act.
Gondhalekar is allegedly associated with 'Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan', an organisation headed by Sambhaji Bhide alias Bhide Guruji. He has shared the dais with several members of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha.
Gondhalekar was arrested from Pune on August 10 after it was revealed that he was constantly in touch with Raut, a right-wing activist from Nala Sopara. Twenty country bombs were seized from Raut’s residence and shop and his associate Kalaskar was also arrested. According to sources, several suspects are being questioned in different parts of Maharashtra and more arrests are expected.
Advocate Sanjeev Punalekar of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad alleged that the ATS was falsely implicating right-wing activists like it did in the Malegaon blast case. He added that several men had been illegally detained by the ATS and were being forced to record statements against the arrested accused.
Punalekar said, “The ATS has illegally detained two persons from a village called Natepute near Pandharpur. Their names are Prasad Deshpande and Avdhoot Paithankar. They are being tortured by the ATS to give a statement that Gondhalekar gave them explosives. The ATS has also threatened to make them accused if they don’t turn witness against Gondhalekar. Two of his employees have also been illegally detained and tortured.”
However, an ATS source said the four men were questioned as part of the probe as they had links with the accused. He added that they had been let off after questioning.
ATS is of the view that the three arrested suspects, along with several others, were planning terror activities in Mumbai, Nala Sopara, Pune, Solapur and Satara.