Dabholkar’s shooters convicted, one is also an accused in Gauri Lankesh murder

Dabholkar’s murder in 2013 had set off a chain of targetted killings of rationalists such as Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh.
Dabholkar’s shooters convicted, one is also an accused in Gauri Lankesh murder
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More than 10 years after rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in August 2013, a special court in Pune on Friday, May 10, convicted two accused and acquitted the masterminds in the case. The convicted men, namely Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, are the two who shot Dabholkar. Sharad Kalaskar is also accused number ten in the assassination of Gauri Lankesh. However, the special UAPA court in Pune acquitted Virendrasinh Tawde, an ENT surgeon, who was named as the “main conspirator” in the murder. Tawde was the then “deputy chief organiser” of Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti, an offshoot of Sanatan Sanstha, a hardline Hindutva extremist group. These groups targeted Dabholkar because of his anti-superstition movements. 

 In February 2022, the CBI team investigating the case told the Bombay High Court that Tawde’s intention was to eliminate ‘anti-Hindus’ and people opposed to the customs and beliefs of the Sanatan Sanstha. The CBI said that it was Tawde who conspired and hired sharpshooters to murder Dabholkar because of ideological differences. The CBI also submitted that Tawde and his group followed the teachings of Sanathan Sanstha’s holy book called ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, which taught them how to tackle “anti-Hindu’s”. 

The CBI’s affidavit read, “The crime gave a feeling that those who do any act which the accused persons and the Sanatan Sanstha / Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti doesn't like or tolerate, would be dealt with in a brutal manner. Such a feeling is more than sufficient to threaten the security of the people and the Nation. It had a terrorizing effect on society”.

Along with Tawde, Vikram Bhave and Sanjeev Punalekar were also acquitted, for “lack of evidence”. 

Dabholkar’s murder had set off a chain of targeted killings of several other rationalists as well, such as Leftist leader Govind Pansare in February 2015, MM Kalburgi in August 2015, and journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh in September 2017. 

Connection with Gauri Lankesh case

Five of those accused in Dabholkar 's murder, are mentioned in the Gauri Lankesh chargesheet. This includes Tawde, Amol Kale, Amith Degwekar, Rajesh D Bangera, and Sharad Kalaskar. 

In September 2022, TNM had done a story on the key accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case – Amol Kale. The Special Investigation Team found that Amol, who was a mechanical engineer working for a company in Pune. Amol Kale’s statement says he did speak to Virendra Tawde or 'Bade Bhaisaab' when he was recruiting men to fight for the Hindu religion and establish a ‘Hindu rashtra’. But after Tawde was arrested and jailed in the Dabholkar case, Amol Kale had to do the recruitment for the assassination of Gauri Lankesh by himself. 

Sharad Kalaskar, the shooter who has been convicted in the Dabholkar case is accused number 10 in the Gauri Lankesh case. As per the chargesheet in Gauri’s case, the first meeting, which was held in 2016 to plan and execute her murder, took place in a room in Belagavi where Sharad Kalaskar stayed. 

Sharad Kalaskar was also said to have been involved in the planning of the murder and in giving shooting practice to one of the accused in the Gauri Lankesh case in the Kinaye forest near Belagavi.

Many have pointed out that the Pune court has only convicted the shooters and has acquitted the conspirators. Moreover, Tawde was the person with direct links to Sanathan Sanstha. 

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