Three members of a right-wing group have been arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) after a huge quantity of explosives was seized from one of their homes in Nallasopara in Maharashtra. Vaibhav Raut, who was arrested on Thursday night, was conspiring to carry out bomb blasts, the ATS said.
He was stopped before he could carry out terror activities. According to the ATS, a terror attack has been foiled with Raut’s arrest. The ongoing investigation could lead to more arrests.
The other accused Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, 39, and Sharad Kasalkar, 25, are from Nallasopara. Gondhalekar is suspected to be a member of the Shri Shivapratishthan Hindustan, which is headed by Sambhaji Bhide. Bhide has been charged in two criminal cases in connection with violence near Bhima Koregaon on January 1 by the Pune Police. Kasalkar is believed to be a close aide of Raut and was arrested from Raut’s Nallasopara home.
The ATS is also investigating if these three men have links to other crimes in which members of extreme right-wing groups were arrested and accused of carrying out the crimes. These cases include the murders of three rationalists and journalist Gauri Lankesh, but denied having found any evidence to link them to these murders yet.
The ATS have questioned 16 people for links with the three arrested. Inquiries are also happening in places like Pune, Satara, Nallasopara, Solapur, ATS sources said.
Vaibhav Raut, a member of ‘Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti’, was arrested after raids at his home and shop.
Sources say the raid team found explosives and “material to make bombs”. Gunpowder and detonators have also been seized, they say.
Vaibhav Raut had been under surveillance for some days, according to sources in the anti-terror squad.
“Some literature was also seized from his home,” said an official.
After arresting Raut, the ATS team returned to Mumbai, where he is being interrogated.
In a statement, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti termed Raut’s arrest as “Malegaon part II”.
The group was referring to the arrest of several leading Hindu functionaries, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, during the investigations into the Malegaon blasts in a Muslim locality killing seven and injuring over 80.
“Vaibhav Raut is a daring cow protector. He was active through an organisation- Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti – dedicated to the protection of cows,” said a Hindu Janajagruti Samiti statement leader, Sunil Ghanvat.
He said Raut participated in the Samiti’s events, but had not done so in the last few months.
“Incidents of needless harassment of activists of Hindu organisations to implicate them in false cases are not new anymore. This has been amply proved through the Malegaon case,” Ghanvat said.
“Considering the news being disseminated today, it has created doubt whether the arrest of Vaibhav Raut is an instance of Malegaon part II,” he remarked.