Crime: Trio planning 'terror attack' held from Nalasopara, Pune
ATS says the three arrested right-wing sympathisers were plotting terror attacks in state, but wife of Nalasopara man claims he has been framed
Between Thursday and Friday, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested three supposed members of the controversial Sanatan Sanstha for allegedly planning terror attacks in Mumbai, Pune, Nalasopara, Satara and Kolhapur. The police have recovered eight bombs from the home of one of the arrested accused, 12 from his shop and found a plan for making explosives from the residence of another.
Saulaxmi Raut, Vaibhav's wife
The arrested accused have been identified as Vaibhav Raut, 40, Sharad Kalaskar, 25 — both of whom were held from Nalasopara — and Sudhanva Gondhalkar, 39, who was held from Pune.
According to Atulchandra Kulkarni, ADG, Maharashtra ATS, they found eight bombs from Raut's house and 12 more from his shop. In addition to this, they found two gelatin sticks, four electronic detonators, 22 non-electronic detonators, safety fuse wires, 150 grams of a white powder wrapped in newspaper, two one-litre bottles labelled 'poison', 10 batteries, one six-volt battery, cutter, hacksaw, soldering equipment, three switches, two complete PCB circuits, one partially complete circuit, six battery connectors, two battery containers, four relay switches, eight resistors, six transistors, a wire, multimeter, hand gloves, sticking solutions, and hand-drawn circuit on a piece of paper. Cops also police found a complete bomb-making plan on paper from Kalaskar's residence.
Kulkarni said, "We have sent all the seized material to FSL and are waiting for their report. We're also checking all the solved and unsolved cases to if they [arrested accused] had any connection to those."
Accused allege police assault
All of the arrested accused were produced in court around 4 pm on Friday, where the ATS advocate said, "We received secret information on August 7 about some people planning a terror act in Mumbai, Pune, Nalasopara, Satara and Kolhapur. Later, we conducted certain raids. We want to know who is the mastermind behind this, how these accused were planning to execute the attack, how and where did they get these explosives and where were they trained."
The defence advocate alleged that the arrests took place in a very unusual manner — there was no search warrant and no women cops present, despite women being present in the families of the accused. After this, all three arrested accused claimed that they'd been assaulted by cops. Following this allegation, the court ordered a medical test for all three.
SIM leads to trio
ATS was led to the trio via the tip-off and a few SIM cards. ATS had received information about some 'anti-social elements' planning a blast in Maharashtra, but there was no disclosure of the targets. While they were probing this, they also got information about a few SIM cards being used by the alleged planners. When the ATS tracked one of the card owners, he told them he'd given his SIM to someone else. ATS then visited over 15 people, after which they finally reached Raut.
ATS raided Raut's home and shop and recovered a host of explosives, including around 20 bombs
Kalaskar and Raut knew each other. It remains unclear how the cops got to Gondhalkar. Meanwhile, sources claimed that Raut's name also cropped up in a list of 10-12 people associated with Hindu outfits, given by Amol Kale, a former member of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), who was arrested in the murder case of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. Sources also revealed that Raut is connected to several other Hindu groups and has been an active cow protector. Two rioting and body offence cases were registered against him in 2015, and police had also warned to extern Raut under section 144 of CrPC if any communal tension was generated in the area. However, people in his locality consider Raut to be a good man, while others said he would create communal tension in the area.
ATS found eight bombs from Raut's house and 12 from his shop. Pics/Hanif Patel
'Raut is a daring cow protector'
Meanwhile, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti released a statement regarding Raut's arrest through Sunil Ganvat, HJS's organiser for Maharashtra and Chattisgarh. He said, "The arrest of devout Hindu Vaibhav Raut is like 'Malegaon part 2'. Raut is daring cow protector and was active through Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, an organisation dedicated to the protection of cows. He used to participate in programmes and agitations arranged by uniting Hindu organisations under the aegis of HJS.
However, he had not participated in any of the programmes since the last few months. The incidents of needless harassment of activists of Hindu organisations, to implicate them in false cases, etc, are not new anymore. This has been amply proved through the Malegaon case and by the arrest of many innocent seekers of Sanatan Sanstha."
'Raut is innocent'
Vaibhav Raut's wife
'The ATS's approach was pretty strange. They came to our house at 4 am on August 9, when I was alone. They searched the house without a warrant. Vaibhav is innocent. Then, at 4.45 am, some officials took him away. Then, around 11 am, three officials came to our house and stayed till late in the night. We weren't aware of what was going on inside. On Friday evening, one of the ATS officials called and informed me rudely that they've arrested my husband. ATS's entire activity was suspicious'
Raut's friend and cow protector
'We strongly believe that this allegation on Raut is baseless; he is innocent. The Centre has plotted this because they want to get Muslim votes in the 2019 elections. Raut also feels that the police are a part of this conspiracy. The explosives doesn't belong to Raut'
Mohammad Abbas Fowzi,
Retired Air Force sergeant
'Lately, Raut had become an extremist. Various babas and sadhus associated with various extremist organisations were seen visiting him at his house. Raut also tried to communally pollute the environment of the area many times'
Captain Nilesh Ashok Pendhari,
'These Sanatan organisation people call themselves as bhakts and sons of India, but instead of protecting the country, they're causing great damage. This is not good for the country'
Pandit Vijay Joshi,
At whose house Kalaskar was staying
'Raut knows me and had asked me if he could rent my flat. I told him that I use this flat only between 6 to 9 pm, and his man can [Kalaskar] use it after that. On Aug 9, when I reached here I saw that another lock had been placed. The neighbours said cops have taken him away. I have done nothing and I only knew Raut. If they've done something wrong, they should be punished as per the law'
Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and also a complete guide on Mumbai from food to things to do and events across the city here. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates
Unknown facts about Pakistan's Independence Day