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ATS Foils Terror Attack, Arrests 3 Men Associated With Radical Hindu Organisations

ATS officer: Since the men were in possession of huge quantities of explosives, it was unlikely that they were mere 'foot soldiers.'

The Maharashtra Anti terrorist Squad (ATS), conducted raids and arrested three men from Nallaspora and Satara in Maharashtra.

A large quantity of explosives that were to be used for carrying out blasts at various places in the state, have been recovered by the police

Vaibhav Raut (40), Sharad Kalaskar (25) and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar (39) were arrested following raids that began last night in the Palghar district and spanned to Pune, the police said.

All three are allegedly affiliated to right -wing outfits, according to a report by the Indian Express. Vaibhav Raut is a allegedly a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, a cow protection outfit in Nallasopara. The second accused, Sharad Kalaskar was also arrested from Raut’s residence.

Raut is also allegedly linked to the Sanathan Santha. Previously, men ‘allegedly’ linked to the Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested in the murder of rationalists Narendra Dhabolkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi as well as the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh. While the Sanathan Santha has denied that Raut was a member, his social media presence says otherwise.

 The statement issued by Sanatan Santha says, “Raut is not a seeker of Sanatan; however, he had been actively involved in numerous rallies and processions organised by devout Hindu organisations. Although Raut is not a seeker of Sanatan, we believe that any Hindu working for the cause of Hindutva and for Dharma, is Sanatan’s own.” Sanjeev Punalekar, Sanatan Sanstha’s lawyer, has said that they would provide Raut with legal aid.

The third accused, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar is a member of Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan. The organisation is headed by Shambhaji Bhinde, who is an accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence that occurred in January this year.

According to an ATS officer, since the men were in possession of explosive materials, it seems that they were not mere “footsoliders” of the extremist “gang” they were members of.

The ATS has booked the three under IPC section 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), provisions of the Explosives Act as well as under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) sections 16 (punishment for terrorist act), 18 (conspiracy for terrorist act) and 20 (being a member of terrorist gang.)

A court in Mumbai remanded all three in ATS’ custody till August 18 this evening. 

ATS chief Atulchandra Kulkarni said the accused had stored a huge cache of explosive materials, and they would be questioned about all cases where involvement of right-wing extremists is suspected.

“We will question them regarding all detected and undetected cases, including Dabholkar, Pansare and Gauri Lankesh (murder) cases,” he said.

The ATS said it zeroed in on the accused after it received a tip off that some persons were planning to carry out “acts of conspiracy” at many places across the state. 

“We also received information that these persons had stored vast quantities of arms and ammunition in places such as Satara, Nallasopara and Pune. We were able to get their phone numbers and thus, ascertained their identities,” the Additional Public Prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves told the sessions court here while seeking the accused’s custody.

“The allegations made against the accused are of very serious nature. Several incriminating articles have been recovered from their possession and prima facie, the accused appear to be part of a conspiracy,” the court said.

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