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3 Right-Wing Outfit Members Arrested by Maharashtra ATS, Bombs Seized; Group Says 'Cow Protectors'

Representative image/Reuters

Representative image/Reuters

In a statement, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) termed the arrest of Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti member Vaibhav Raut as "Malegaon Part II".

Mumbai: Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested 3 members associated with right-wing Hindu outfits and seized huge quantity of explosives from their possession.

Vaibhav Raut, a member of the 'Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti', was apprehended from Bhandar Aali in Nallasopara West late on Thursday along with Shard Kalaskar, an official said. The third suspect, Sudhanva Gondhlekar, was arrested from Pune.

ATS officials said they had received information that certain people were planning terror activities in Pune, Satara, Mumbai and Nallasopara. They tracked the phone numbers of the accused and found that they had stored weapons, arms and ammunition in Nallasopara.

Based on the information, the ATS searched the premises at Nallasopara and recovered 22 articles from the house and shop of Vaibhav Raut. The articles included 20 country-made bombs, two gelatin sticks and a six-volt battery. ATS also found a chit with information of making bombs from Sharad Kalaskar. Based on their call records, ATS also arrested Gondhlekar.

The three men were produced before a magistrate on Friday and the ATS demanded maximum custody on the grounds that they wanted to investigate the source of the weapons, where the weapons were to be used and weather the accused were trained to use the weapons.

ATS also stated that they needed to investigate if the accused are associated with any terror groups. All three have been remanded to police custody till August 18.

Defense lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar argued that the arrest and search was done illegally as the house of Vaibhav was raided without a warrant and he was detained for more than 36 hours before being produced in the court.

All three accused also told the court that they were assaulted by ATS officials in custody after which court directed ATS to conduct medical examination of the accused. ATS has also been directed to submit the medical report of the accused by August 13.

Punalekar, who is a member of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad, said Vaibhav Raut was being harassed because he is an “active cow protector”. “Vaibhav Raut was served several notices by agencies just before Bakri-eid. The agencies are taking bribe from beef mafia to target cow protectors," he told the court.

Punalekar also alleged that ATS was falsely implicating members of Hindu organisations, terming the arrests “Malegaon Part 2”.

The Malegaon case centres around the September 29, 2008 bomb explosion near Bhiku Chowk in the Muslim-dominated Malegaon town of Nashik district, which killed six people and injured 101 others.

Vaibhav had participated in several events organised by Hindu organisations, including the Sanatan Sanstha. Soon after the arrest, Sanatan Sanstha issued a statement stating that Vaibhav was not its member, but they stand by him.

“Vaibhav Raut is not a member. However, he has been actively involved in several Hindutva events organised by various organisations. We can understand what he is going through. Many of our members have been falsely implicated in serious cases like bomb blasts and murders,” he said.

first published:August 10, 2018, 13:19 IST