As per a report in the Indian Express, the documents submitted by the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case have for the first time brought out links between the Sanatan Sanstha, involved in the killings of activists and rationalists, and Abhinav Bharat, another extremist outfit involved in four terror bomb blasts, including the 2006 Malegaon bombings. In the Malegaon blast, Pragya Thakur, who is contesting from the Bhopal constituency on a BJP ticket is the number one accused as per the Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) Maharashtra charge sheet. However, the SIT conducting inquiries in the Gauri Lankesh murder case has denied that either Abhinav Bharat or Thakur had links to Lankesh’s murder.
The newspaper reported that the members of Abhinav Bharat organised 19 camps across India to provide training in firearms, explosives and subterfuge tactics. The camps provided training to dozens of people, who were recruited by a covert unit of the Sanatan Sanstha, the organisation accused of the murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh.
The accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, along with the four witnesses who attended these camps, provided details of the training they received in making bombs by the members of Abhinav Bharat at several secret camps held across the country from 2011 to 2016. According to the SIT investigation, as many as five “training camps” – Jalna in 2011, Jalna in January 2015, Mangalore in August 2015, Ahmedabad in November 2015 and Nasik in January 2016 – were held by suspects from Abhinav Bharat. The witnesses also spoke of five bomb experts, which included a “Babaji” and four “Gurujis” at the camps. The “Babaji” has been identified as Suresh Nair, an accused in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blasts.
According to the Indian Express, the Karnataka SIT identified the three other bomb experts as Sandeep Dange, Ramji Kalsangara – whom Pragya Thakur had supplied with her motorbike for the Malegaon blast as per the investigation by the ATS, Maharashtra – and Ashwini Chauhan, all “proclaimed offenders” in the Samjhauta Express case. Their names are in the Most Wanted Lists uploaded on the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) website. The fifth bomb expert is Prathap Hazra, who is linked to another Hindutva outfit, Bhavani Sena, in West Bengal.
Suresh Nair, who was on the run for 11 years, was arrested by the Gujarat ATS in November 2018. A reward of Rs 2 lakh was announced for information leading to his arrest. The remaining four accused, who are allegedly members of Abhinav Bharat, and who trained these men, are still absconding.
In March 2017, a special NIA court in Jaipur awarded life imprisonment to Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel for their role in the Ajmer blast. These men were arrested on the basis of the confessions made by Aseemanand, the then accused in the Ajmer blast case.
Though Aseemanad was later acquitted by the NIA, his confession had helped the NIA with crucial leads to Devendra Gupta and Bhavesh Patel, along with Sandeep Dange, Mehul, Suresh Bhai, Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sunil Joshi and Bharat Bhai, who have been accused in Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid blast and Malegaon 2006 blast cases.
The Jaipur court had identified Suresh Nair as a key suspect and kept him for further interrogation about Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra, the absconding who are accused in four terror cases, including the Samjhauta blast.
Both Dange and Kalsangara carry a Rs 10 lakh reward on their heads.
According to the initial charge sheet uploaded on the NIA, Sandeep Dange, along with Swami Aseemanand, Sunil Joshi (deceased), Ramchandra Kalsangra, Vishnu Patel (absconding) and others had propounded a theory of “Bomb Ka badla bomb”. The charge sheet also outlines in detail their training that spanned from Indore to New Delhi. After the training, “the participants decided to attack Muslim dominated places and religious sites in order to retaliate attacks on Hindu temples.”
In February 2019, the Supreme Court had noted links between the murders of MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare and directed that the Kalburgi murder case be transferred to the same SIT probing the Lankesh murder. The probe will be monitored by the Karnataka High Court, Dharwad Bench.
The three men arrested in the Lankesh murder case, Shrikant Pangarkar, 40, a former Shiv Sena councilor from Maharashtra, Sharad Kalaskar, 26, who is also the alleged shooter in the 2013 Narendra Dabholkar murder case, and Vasudev Suryavanshi, 29, a mechanic who allegedly stole motorcycles for a series of Sanatan Sanstha linked murders of rationalists and free thinkers between 2015 and 2017, had provided details which led to the identification of Suresh Nair aka “Guruji”.