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Dabholkar case: Not happy with verdict, says Chavan; dubs Sanatan Sanstha 'terrorist' outfit

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Mumbai, May 11 (PTI) Former Maharashtra chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan has said he was not happy with the court verdict in the Dr Narendra Dabholkar murder case and asserted that right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha was a "terrorist organisation" whose role in the killing of the renowned rationalist has not been made clear.

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A special court for UAPA cases in Pune on Friday convicted and sentenced two men to life imprisonment and acquitted three in the case. Dr Dabholkar (67), an anti-superstition crusader, was shot dead while on a morning walk on a bridge near the Omkareshwar temple here on August 20, 2013.

The special court convicted Dabholkar's two assailants - Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar - and sentenced them to life imprisonment, but acquitted three others - ENT surgeon Dr Virendrasinh Tawde, Sanjeev Punalekar and Vikram Bhave - for want of evidence.

"I am not happy with the judgment. What is the role of the Sanatan Sanstha and who is the mastermind of the murder has not been made clear. Similarly, (it has not been made clear) if there is a link between Dabholkar's killing and the murders of Govind Pansare and Gauri Lankesh," Chavan said on Friday.

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Chavan said when he was chief minister (between November 2010 and September 2014) the then ACS (Home) Umesh Sarangi had, based on an Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) report, recommended a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

"There is a process for that where all states are asked about activities of the (concerned) organisation in their respective areas. Nothing happened for two years after which Dabholkar was killed. In 2014, we sent a 1000-page dossier to the Union home ministry (recommending a ban on the outfit)," he said.

"The demand for a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha is still pending with the Centre. The Sanatan Sanstha is a terrorist organisation," Chavan pointed out.

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Incidentally, addressing a press conference in Pune after the court verdict in the Dabholkar case, the Sanatan Sanstha's spokesperson Abhay Vartak had slammed Chavan.

Dr Dabholkar was murdered on August 20, 2013 at 7.20 am and within one-and-a-half hours, then Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, while speaking to media persons, said the killing might have been carried out by pro-Hindutva people, and thereby misled the investigation, Vartak alleged.

Dabholkar's murder was followed by the murders of three other rationalists/activists in the next four years: communist leader Govind Pansare (Kolhapur, February 2015), Kannada scholar and writer M M Kalburgi (Dharwad, August 2015) and journalist Gauri Lankesh (Bengaluru, September 2017), and it was suspected that the culprits in these four cases were linked. PTI MR BNM NP

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