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Arrested Hindutva activists conspired to target Western music concert in Pune, says ATS

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ATS has found a list of persons that the accused planned to target. They were also allegedly involved in blasts outside movie theatres at Kalyan and Belgaum. 

Mumbai: The Hindutva activists arrested by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) earlier this month were conspiring to target a Western music concert in Pune as “it went against the Hindu culture”, the agency said Tuesday.

The accused — Sharad Kalaskar, Vaibhav Raut, Sudhanva Gondhalekar and Shrikant Pangarkar — were also allegedly involved in two incidents of blasts outside movie theatres at Kalyan and Belgaum during the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, ATS said.

A special court in Mumbai has sent them to ATS’ custody for seven more days. Kalaskar, Raut and Gondhalekar have already spent 18 days in ATS custody, while Pangarkar has spent eight days in the agency’s custody.

Also read: Radical Goa Hindu outfit denies link with arrested terror suspects, threatens legal action

“The accused number 1 (Kalaskar) has conspired with the others to target a Western music concert in Pune. It was shelved…a bomb was to be hurled because it was against Hindu culture,” said special public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves.

While Gonsalves did not name the music event, it is suspected to be the Sunburn Music Festival, which was scheduled to be held in Pune last year.

Several Right-wing groups, including Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha, the outfits with which the four accused have been known to sympathise, as well as Shiv Sena and BJP leaders had opposed the Sunburn festival in Pune, which was later shifted to a different location within the city.

CDs, pen drives seized from accused

Gonsalves said the ATS has found a list of persons that the accused planned to target. There are also some photographs found in the CDs and pen drives seized from them.

The accused are said to have received training from nine centres across India of which only two are in Maharashtra. The ATS said, so far the agency has been investigating within Maharashtra, but it now needs to take the accused to places outside the state such as in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka since the bombs and ammunition seized seemed to have been sourced from adjoining states.

Gonsalves told the court that used firearms were dismantled and discarded at different places.

“We need to find out who is the mastermind who taught them how to dismantle and destroy them,” Gonsalves said.

Also read: Maharashtra Hindu extremists ‘were highly trained, used code to communicate’

He said the besides Pangarkar, ATS needs to find out who the other financiers are. All the four accused had also allegedly conducted a recce of targets.

Along with a huge cache of weapons and Hero Honda motorcycle, the ATS has seized computers, CPUs, pen drives that altogether have 10 terabytes of data. The agency has also decoded some messages written on chits.

Defence lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar opposed the extension of custody saying the accused can be interrogated without being in custody.

Earlier this month, the ATS arrested Raut and Kalaskar from Nalasopara near Mumbai and Gondhalekar from Pune, and seized a huge cache of firearms and explosives. After further investigation, the agency arrested Shrikant Pangarkar, a former Shiv Sena councillor from Jalna and a staunch Hindutva activist, who the ATS said is the facilitator and financier.

Links to Dabholkar’s murder

During the course of investigation, Kalaskar is also said to have confessed to his direct participation in rationalist Narendra Dabholkar’s murder along with another person, Sachin Andure, who was later arrested by the CBI.

Last week, the ATS had arrested another person, Avinash Pawar, from Mumbai’s Ghatkopar. The court has granted the ATS Pawar’s custody until 31 August.

Raut, Gondhalekar and Pangarkar have attended programmes and events with members of the Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. Gondhalekar was also associated with the Right-wing Shivpratishthan Hindustan.

Both Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti have denied any links with the accused.

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