Maharashtra arms haul case: Accused from right-wing outfits wanted to target Sunburn festival in Pune, ATS tells court

Mumbai: Suspected right-wing activists, arrested in an arms haul case in Maharashtra, had planned to target a western music concert in Pune in 2017 and were involved in hurling a petrol bomb outside a movie theatre near Mumbai, police told a court on Tuesday.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the police arrested five people in connection with the seizure of arms and ammunition earlier in August. Four of them were produced before Sessions Judge Sameer Adkar after their police remand ended. The fifth accused is in police custody till 31 August.

Giving an account of their probe into the case, the ATS told the court that two of the accused were part of a conspiracy to "target the western musical concert" held in Pune in 2017 as they believed it "was against Hindu culture".

The anti-terror agency identified the accused as Vaibhav Raut and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The arrested right-wing activists were also involved in setting off a bomb outside a theatre at Kalyan, in adjoining Thane district, where controversial Hindi movie "Padmaavat" was being screened in January, it said.

The agency said they had identified the people the accused were planning to target. The accused had conducted reconnaissance of their targets, it added.

The ATS, pleading for the extension of the remand, said a huge amount of electronic data had been recovered from the accused and they needed to confront them about the same.

Some photographs have also been found in the CDs recovered from the accused and they need to be questioned about them as well, the ATS said.

The seized arms and ammunition were brought from states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, besides from various parts of Maharashtra, and the police needed to find their actual source, it told the court.

The probe has revealed that nine centres were set up to provide training in making bombs. Two of them were detected in Maharashtra, while the rest are yet to be located, the ATS told the court.

The investigating agency said it needed to find the people who were providing training in handling of arms and ammunition and also those funding the operation.

Later, the court extended the police custody of the four accused by seven more days.

Responding to a defence argument against invoking an anti-terror law in the case, the judge said the court could not consider, at this stage, whether the accused attracted the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as the matter was under investigation.

The fifth accused, Avinash Pawar (30), was arrested on 24 August and is currently in police custody till 31 August.

The ATS had on August 10 arrested Raut (40), who ran the "Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti", a lesser-known cow protection outfit, at Nallasopara in adjoining Palghar district.

After Raut's arrest, the ATS had nabbed three more activists — Sharad Kalaskar (25), Gondhalekar (39) and Shrikant Pangarkar — following raids in Palghar, Pune and Jalna districts.

Raut is a sympathiser of the Sanatan Sanstha, a Goa-based right-wing organisation, while Gondhlekar has links with the Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan, it said.

Pangarkar is a former Shiv Sena corporator from Jalna.

The ATS seized a cache of arms and ammunition from different parts of the state between 9 and 11 August. It claimed to have recovered 20 crude bombs, two gelatin sticks, four electronic and 22 non-electronic detonators, 150 gm of explosive powder and some other materials.

According to police, the seized arms and ammunition were to be used to trigger blasts at various places in the state.

The accused have been booked under relevant provisions of the Explosives Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the UAPA.

Meanwhile, the CBI on Tuesday sought permission from the court to produce Raut in a Pune court in connection with the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.

The ATS had earlier said it would probe if the accused had any connection with the killings of Dabholkar, rationalist Govind Pansare and journalist Gauri Lankesh.

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Updated Date: Aug 29, 2018 08:19:29 IST

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