Shrikant Pangarkar is a simple man who did a lot of social work, his cousin Ashok tells ThePrint, says the allegations are maligning the image of the family.
Mumbai: Shrikant Pangarkar, a former Shiv Sena councillor arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), is a simple man from a middle-class household with an interest in preserving Hindu culture, his brother, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) councillor, said.
The ATS on Sunday arrested Shrikant from Jalna in Maharashtra under the Explosives Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in connection with its probe into a conspiracy to organise attacks in five cities across the state.
Last week, the ATS made three arrests in this case — 40-year-old Vaibhav Raut and 25-year-old Sharad Kalaskar from Nalasopara, and 39-year-old Sudhanva Gondhalekar from Pune, and seized a huge cache of arms. Pangarkar is the first arrest with political links in the case.
Shrikant has also been detained by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the killing of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. CBI sources said Shrikant’s name had cropped up during the interrogation of Sachin Prakasrao Andure, the alleged main shooter in the Dabholkar murder case.
“Shrikant Pangarkar fully cooperated with the authorities in their search of his house. If he had indeed done something wrong, he would have fled,” Ashok Pangarkar, Shrikant’s cousin, told ThePrint Monday.
“My brother has always had a record of doing social work, helping anyone in need. He has no history of any trouble with the police. He did have an active interest in promoting the Hindutva cause and worked with organisations locally, but he never did it aggressively.”
Ashok is a sitting BJP councillor in the Jalna municipal council. Shrikant was a Shiv Sena councillor in the same local body from 2001 to 2011. Besides Ashok, Shrikant’s father Jagannath Pangarkar too was a BJP councillor for a long time.
“Ever since the arrests, I have been hearing all sorts of things from people and the media about how my cousin was helping fund a planned terror attack,” said Ashok. “He is a simple man from a middle-class family who just about manages to make ends meet for his family. He has a local kerosene agency. From where is he going to get the money to all these activities? All this is simply maligning the image of our family.”
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Links with radical Hindu outfits
Shrikant, who lives with his wife, mother and two children, used to regularly work as a Hindutva activist in association with members of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, which works with a stated aim of uniting Hindus and spreading education and awareness on dharma.
One article on the website of the Forum for Hindu Awakening — a charitable organisation whose objective is “being devoted to awaken the society to the unique spiritual science behind Hindu dharma concepts and practices” — mentions Shrikant’s presence at a Hindu convention in Pune in 2013.
The article quotes Shrikant — describing him as a devout Hindu — on the topic of ‘love jihad’ as saying, “Fanatic Muslims are deceiving Hindu girls systematically with proper preparations. They keep a watch on girls at schools, colleges, private tuitions etc right from the age of 14 years. Muslim youth get money beside vehicle, petrol, clothes spray etc for luring girls. They take photographs of girls, record their phone calls and draw them in net of ‘love jihad.’ If this problem is to be tackled, Hindus too will have to make proper planning.”
Raut, who the ATS arrested from Nalasopara last week, is also known to actively participate in events, protests and programmes of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti besides being a cow vigilante and a coordinator of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti. Gondhalekar, the other person arrested from Pune, used to work with the Sambhaji Bhide-led right-wing Shivpratishthan Hindustan.
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‘Not in touch with Sena’
Bhaskar Ambekar, Shiv Sena’s district chief for Jalna, said Shrikant has not been working for the party for almost a decade now.
“I have not met him for many years. In fact, he does not live in Jalna anymore. The entire family moved to Aurangabad and the party has had no connection with him recently,” Ambekar said.
The Pangarkar family, he said, is a modest but a very well-respected one in Jalna and it is difficult to believe that Shrikant has actually committed the crime that he is being accused of.
Shivaji Chothe, a former Shiv Sena legislator from Jalna, described Shrikant as a “good person who did a lot of social work”.
“He was always a Hindutvawadi, but did not seem like such a fanatic that he will go to this extent,” Chothe said, adding that he has not had close contact with Shrikant for some years now.
Ashok, however, said his cousin never left the party and continued to work for the Shiv Sena.
“The family sort of created a second base in Aurangabad because his daughter is a bright student and they wanted to send her to a better college there. But Shrikant used to spend a lot of time in Jalna too,” he said.
This group of terrorists should be jailed for a long time. If this is not Hindutva terror I do not know what is!
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