A special court on Saturday has given time to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) till June 16 to quiz Dr. Virendra Tawde, a fringe rightwing Hindutva activist arrested by the agency in connection with the 2013 murder of firebrand rationalist-thinker Dr. Narendra Dabholkar.
Dr.Tawde, a member of Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) – a splinter of the Sanatan Sanstha – was picked up by the CBI from Panvel near Mumbai late Friday night and was produced at before a special court at 5 p.m. in Shivajinagar today evening under robust security.
This is the first arrest in Dr. Dabholkar’s murder nearly 34 months since his death. The CBI had taken over the probe in May 2014 following the directions of the Bombay High Court.
Dr. Tawde, a qualified ENT surgeon, alleged before the court that he was “assaulted by CBI interrogators”. His case is being represented by advocate Sanjiv Punalekar, a Sanatan lawyer who is also representing Sanatan activist Sameer Gaikwad, prime accused in the murder of Communist leader and rationalist Govind Pansare.
The CBI pressed for a week-long remand, which the court quashed and instead permitted five days to grill him. According to the agency’s remand report, Dr. Tawde had spoken against Dr. Dabholkar in a public function in Kolhapur in 2004 and had been vocal against him later as well. Further, authorities allege that Dr. Tawde owns a black colour Honda Splendour motorcycle, similar to the one used by assailants in the actual murder.
CBI authorities said that Dr. Tawde owned three sets of mobile phones which he used for allegedly “secret communication.” Dr. Tawde came under suspicion after his name was linked with Sanatan activist Sarang Akolkar, one of the prime accused in the 2009 Madgaon blast case in Goa who is presently on the lam. A Red Corner Notice was issued by the Interpol against Akolkar in July 2012.
Last week, the CBI had raided the residences of Tawde in Panvel and Akolkar in Pune and retrieved several SIM cards, cell phones and data from computer, linked to the murder. CBI authorities have further claimed several e-mail exchanges between the two, which irrefutably established their close association.
Hailing from Devgad in the Konkan region, Dr. Tawde lived in Satara for the past eight years and is alleged to be a Sanatan activist for the last 15 years. His home in Panvel is sited close to the Sanatan Ashram there.
“This [Tawde’s arrest] is certainly indicative that the wheels of justice have finally started to spin, even if a tad too late. It is the first big step in the right direction by the CBI. Moreover, different probe agencies from different regions, be it the Centre’s CBI or the SIT under the BJP-ruled Maharashtra investigating the Pansare murder, point the needle of suspicion on the Sanatan Sanstha,” said noted activist Dr. Hamid Dabholkar, son of the late Dr. Dabholkar, adding that had the CBI action been taken immediately after the murder, the subsequent deaths of Mr. Pansare and Kannada scholar M. M. Kalburgi could have been avoided.
He said that Dr. Dabholkar’s murder might have been averted too had the National Investigation Agency (NIA) thoroughly followed up the 2009 Madgaon blast and made arrests at the time.
Following the Gaikwad’s arrest last year, the Sanstha has come under intense scrutiny from agencies probing the killings of Dr. Dabholkar, Mr. Pansare and Dr. Kalburgi (who was shot dead outside his home in Dharwad, Karnataka) .
The suspicion has been strengthened owing to Gaikwad’s connection with absconding Sanatan member Rudra Patil, another accused in 2009 Goa blast.
“Since the role of extremist outfits has been exposed in Pansare’s murder and now in Dr. Dabholkar’s case, we demand that the State government take stern action against such outfits and that the CBI team, investigating Dr. Dabholkar’s murder co-ordinate with the SIT, probing Mr. Pansare’s murder,” said Medha Pansare, Mr. Pasare’s daughter-in-law.
Motorcycle-borne assailants had killed Dr. Dabholkar on August 20, 2013 with a 7.65-mm country-made pistol when he was taking his morning stroll on the Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune. Mr. Pansare, and his wife Uma, were similarly shot at close range from two 7.65-mm country-made weapons. The same modus operandi was used in the murder of scholar-rationalist M.M. Kalburgi, who was chillingly murdered by two unidentified assailants outside his home in Dharwad in Kanataka.
The State government has sought a forensic opinion from Scotland Yard in this regard. In the wake of this development, the Bombay High Court has deferred the framing of charges against Gaikwad.