Maharashtra ATS nabs three, seizes crude bombs to foil terror plot

IANS
Friday, 10 August 2018

The development comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Mumbai on Saturday, Independence Day celebrations on August 15 and Bakri Eid next week

Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Friday claimed to have foiled a terrorist attempt to strike in different parts of the state following the arrest of three persons and seizure of at least 20 crude bombs and expolsives and material used in bomb-making.

The development comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Mumbai on Saturday, Independence Day celebrations on August 15 and Bakri Eid next week.

"We have arrested three persons and are investigating," Additional Director General of Police (ATS) Atulchandra Kulkarni informed the media here.

Official sources said the first to be arrested early Friday was Hindu Janjagran Samiti (HJS) activist Vaibhav Raut from his home in Nala Sopara, Palghar district.

Later, his accomplice Sharad Kalaskar was arrested from there by the ATS teams, which were accompanied by a dog squad and forensics experts.

A third right-wing activist Sudhnava Gondhalekar -- allegedly linked to Shri Shiv Pratisthan -- was arrested from Pune.

The sources said that the accused planned to carry out terror hits in Mumbai, Pune, Solapur and Satara districts in the coming few days.

Mumbai Additional Sessions Judge Sameer Adkar remanded the three accused in police custody till August 18.

During the raids in Palghar, the ATS seized bombs and material that could be used to make at least two dozen more bombs like detonators, explosive powder, wire bundles, resistors, transistors, batteries, multimeters, switches and circuits, connectors, gelatin sticks, diagrams and literature, which have been sent for forensic analysis.

Terming the whole plot as a "conspiracy to spark communal disturbances ahead of Bakri Eid," Maharashtra's opposition leaders attacked the state government and demanded an immediate ban on organisations like HJS, Sanatan Sanstha and related outfits.

"The seizure of huge cache of explosives is a clear indicator that they were preparing for a major (terror) strike. Under the Bharatiya Janata Party rule at the Centre and in the state, such communal and extremist organisations are having a free run," Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan alleged.

Leader of Oppostion in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, said that the seizure of explosives made it evident that the accused were planning to create communal disturbance on a large scale.

"Will the state government now demand from the Centre to outlaw these organisations?" Vikhe-Patil asked.

Nationalist Congress Party state Spokesperson Nawab Malik said it is high time to "declare these organisations as terror groups and ban them" immediately.

"We have been repeatedly raising with the Centre and the state the issue of activities of Sanatan Sanstha and HJS, which are active in Maharashtra and Goa, but nothing has been done so far," Malik claimed.

However, Sanatan Sanstha lawyer Sanjeev Punhalekar said that contrary to speculations, Raut was not its member and that his name was being deliberately linked to defame the organisation.

Decrying the arrest of a "devout Hindu" as "Malegaon 2", the HJS described Raut as an active 'gau rakshak' (cow protector) of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti.

"He used to participate in agitations and programmes for uniting Hindu organisations under the aegis of the HJS," said Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh HJS Organiser Sunil Ghanvat, adding that he was not active in the organisation for a few months.

"The incidents of needless harassment of Hindu organisations' activists and to implicate them in false cases are not new. It was amply proved through the Malegaon (2008 blasts) case and arrests of many innocent Sanatan Sanstha activists," Ghanvat said.

He was referring to the arrest of several leading Hindu functionaries, including Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others, in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blasts in a Muslim locality that killed seven and injured over 80 others.

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