Mumbai: In a major embarrassment to Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is investigating an alleged involvement of its party member Shrikant Pangarkar in ‘harbouring and funding’ men accused of conspiring terror attacks in Maharashtra.
A press release issued by ATS confirmed terror charges being pressed against Pangarkar under Sections 16, 18, 20 of Unlawful Activities Prevention (UAPA) Act. “During further investigation of ATS police station C.R. No. 11/2018 u/s 4,5 Explosive Substances Act r/w 9-B Explosives Act r/w 120 (B) IPC r/w 16,18,20 Unlawful Activities (Prevention ) Act, etc- a male accused person aged about 40 yrs r/o Jalna is arrested today evening,” a release from ATS DCP said.
Besides, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may also seek 40-year-old Pangarkar’s custody to investigate his alleged role in the murder of Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in August 2013.
Pangarkar is an ex-corporator from Jalna district of Maharashtra. He was arrested by Maharashtra ATS on Sunday after interrogation of three persons — Sharad Kalaskar, Vaibhav Raut and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar — revealed his alleged involvement. Pangarkar was produced in court on Monday and has been sent to police custody till August 28.
According to ATS, the questioning of Kalaskar, Raut and Gondhalekar revealed a larger conspiracy and it was found that they, along with Pangarkar, were planning terror activities in Mumbai, Nala Sopara, Thane, Pune , Satara and Solapur districts of Maharashtra. Sources said detailed maps of these areas, communication devices, explosives and weapons such as two gelatine sticks, 22 crude bombs, 15 country made pistols and some partially assembled pistols were recovered from Kalaskar, Raut and Gondhalekar. These three persons were arrested on August 10.
In addition, the CBI during the interrogation of one Sachin Andure, arrested in the Dabholkar murder case, got hints of Pangarkar’s alleged role in the killing of the rationalist. CBI sources have confirmed that Pangarkar’s role in Dabholkar murder case is being investigated and if needed, CBI would seek his custody in connection with the case.
Pangarkar has been active in programmes of right wing organisations like the Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti and others. The Sanatan Sanstha in a statement has denied any kind of association with all the five accused persons – Pangarkar, Kalaskar, Raut, Gondhalekar and Andure.
While top leaders of the Shiv Sena are keeping silent on the arrest of its former corporator Pangarkar, one of its local leader from Jalna, Bhaskar Ambikakar, told ANI, “Shrikant Pangarkar was working with me in the organisation for past 25-30 years. He was a good organisational convenor and communicator. I don’t think he can be involved in any act of violence. But this is all matter of investigation by the police.”
ANI tried to contact party spokespersons but they were reluctant to speak on the issue. Party’s Minister of State for Home in Maharashtra, Deepak Kesarkar, could not be reached for comments. The Home Department looks after ATS operations.
Opposition parties like Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) have been critical of the Shiv Sena’s silence on the arrest of their ex-corporator.
Reacting to the arrest of Pangarkar and others in the terror conspiracy case, Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said, “These people were getting support from the ruling parties since long. We are not astonished with the findings of ATS…and all this could have been avoided had they accepted our demand to ban these people.”
“Now after arrest of Shrikant Pangarkar, ATS must investigate the larger conspiracy behind it. It should be investigated whether Pangarkar was doing it individually or his party was also supporting him in the crime,” AIMIM MLA from Aurangabad, Imtiyaz Jalil, told ANI.