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CBI: Virendra Tawde was the mastermind behind Narendra Dabholkar's assassination

Says Mumbai man trained him and Akolkar in handling weapons; Satara sadhak gave logistics support, shelter to Goa blast case accused

Pune: Dr Virendra Tawde was the “architect” of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar's assassination, the CBI told the court of the judicial magistrate (first class) yesterday during a hearing seeking the extension of his custody.

Virendra Tawde
The CBI told the court yesterday that Virendra Tawde was the architect of the Dabholkar killing. File pic

It also revealed that a Mumbai-based Sangatan Sanstha sadhak (follower), Vinay Panwalkar, trained Tawde and Sarang Akolkar, another accused in the case who is also wanted in the 2009 Magaon blast case, in handling weapons.

Another sadhak, Vinay Pawar from Umbraj village in Karad taluka of Satara district, allegedly provided logistics support to the Madgaon blast conspiracy and shelter to those absconding in the case — Akolkar, Rudragouda Patil, Pravin Limkar and Jaiprakash Hegade. The CBI suspect that he had played a key role in the Dabholkar killing, too.

mid-day had yesterday reported on Tawde and Akolkar having allegedly undergone arms and ammunition training together in Jat village in Sangli, Ponda in Goa and Sinhagad fort in Pune from 2010-12.

CBI official said a clearer picture on Panwalkar's role will emerge after the agency questions him. “The name of another man, Agarwal, has also cropped up during our investigation.”

Bullets from Belgaum
He said Tawde and Akolkar had discussed procuring weapons from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam. “They also visited arms dealers in Manchar in Ambegaon taluka of Pune, Mumbai, Sangli and Kolhapur to procure guns. They got a huge cache of bullets from Belgaum.”

Tawde allegedly managed to procure a gun in April 2013, four months prior to the rationalist's killing.

2 more witnesses
Two more witnesses, including an arms dealer, have come forward, identifying Akolkar as one of the assailants in the Dabholkar killing. The CBI official said, “Despite declaring a reward for any clue on the killers, we didn't get a response. But after Tawde's arrest, two witnesses approached us. One of them suspects that Akolkar is a close match to the assailant, wearing spectacles, he was seen fleeing the Omkareshwar bridge in Pune (where Dabholkar was gunned down on August 20, 2013). The gun dealer claims that Sarang and Tawde had approached him for the purchase of 'chocolates' (a code name for guns and bullets).”

Sainiks' training
The CBI team trawling through Tawde's emails have come across a series of crucial exchanges with a particular email ID — prajusar@gmail.com — in which the names of some six persons, including Vinay Pawar, cropped up and initiated discussions on raising a force of 15,000 sainiks to build an Akhand Hindu Rashtra.

According to the e-mail exchanges, some volunteers of this Hindu Rashtra mission were The names of Jaiprakash Hegade and Rudragouda Patil were mentioned in the e-mails, besides one Prashant alias Anna Juvekar from Mangalore.

When presented with the mounting evidence against him, Tawde has steadfastly claimed innocence and has refused to cooperate with the investigation citing depression, headaches, bouts of vomiting, and even selective amnesia.

The Kolhapur link
The official said Tawde, after he had set up his practice in Kolhapur, got himself a Hero Honda Splendor motorcycle, which the probe team suspects was used by the assailants who killed Dabholkar.

Besides, the Kolhapur CID team, which is probing the killing of CPI leader Govind Pansare, is said to have found some CCTV footages from December 13, 2014, and January last year, putting Tawde in the vicinity of Pansare's assassination spot prior to the killing on February 16, 2015.

Meanwhile, the court extended Tawde's CBI custody till June 20. Tawde was taken to the CBI's office in Belapur.

Voices

BP Raju,
CBI counsel in court
Dr Tawde is the architect of Dr Dabholkar’s murder. He was directed in emails to target Dr Dabholkar. He was brainwashed by the Sanatan Sanstha into joining it. The CBI is looking into how the killing was funded.

Sanjeev Punawale and Sushilkumar Pise,
Tawde’s defence lawyers
Just because Dr Tawde devoted his time to the Sanatan, it does not mean that he was involved in the Dabholkar killing. He has been made a scapegoat. The CBI is under pressure from the High Court and the Dabholkar family to find the killers. One e-mail in which Dr Tawde abused Dr Dabholkar is no proof of mens rea (criminal liability). Dr Tawde could have easily deleted the e-mail, but he kept it, which means he meant no harm.

Cops from combat units on the radar

The CBI has learnt that two policemen had trained the assailants who shot Dabholkar dead in Pune in August 2013. Sources said they are not from local police stations, but are instead, suspected to be from any of the combat units of the force, which handle firearms and practise firing regularly.  The CBI has also found several phone calls exchanges between these policemen, and Tawde and other suspects. There are eight to 10 suspects, including the two policemen, on the CBI’s radar. Four of these are wanted for the Goa blast of 2009. Most are linked with Sanatan Sanstha and were involved in different roles like training, providing aid and conspiring. Another source said after the Goa blast, in which two Sanstha members were killed when the bomb they were carrying prematurely went off, Tawde and his team switched the guns.    
— Vijay Kumar Yadav

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