On Thursday, August 9, Maharashtra ATS officials arrested three persons, Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar. Raut is known as a Hindu activist and is associated with Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti.  At one point, he was an active member of Sanatan Sanstha.

The anti-terror squad officials claim they have recovered electronic detonators, gelatin sticks, and crude bombs along with instructions regarding making weapons from Raut’s Nalasopara residence. Accused persons have been booked under the IPC section 120 (B), as well as section(s) 16, 18, 20 of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). Provisions of the Explosives Act have also been added in the FIR.

The cops who interacted with journalists said as of now there is no evidence to link these three suspects with Dabholkar or Gauri Lankesh murder case.

Neighbors and family members believe Raut was arrested as a part of a conspiracy

One of Raut’s relatives has claimed that police did not show them the panchanama or any of the items that were allegedly seized from the house.

Neighbors who interacted with journalists said Vaibhav is a simple person who works selflessly and helps people. He has also rescued several cows and calves from being slaughtered illegally. He has registered more than 35 cases against beef mafias and was often on the radar of the Qureshi community. In fact, Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti’s spokesperson has made a statement that police made a conspiracy to trap Raut on the instructions of the beef mafia.

As pointed out by Advocate Dharam Raj, Raut followed all the legal procedures when it comes to Gau Raksha. Police often used to ask the animal rights activist to remain out of the Palghar district during few days before and after the Bakri Eid as the Muslim Community does not appreciate his actions against those who smuggle animals in the region illegally for slaughtering.

A video featuring Vaibhav’s debate with college students is going viral on social networking sites. His behavior and thoughts shared in the video do not reflect any aggression like that of a person with a criminal mindset.

“Evidence seems to be planted, just like in Malegaon 2006 & 2008” – Vaibhav’s counsel 

“Anti-terrorism squad men have nabbed Prasad Deshpande and Avdhoot Paithankar from Natepute village located near Pandharpur last week. Both of them are being tortured because cops want them to make a statement in the court against the three arrested persons and claim they were supplying explosives. Plus, the ATS has also illegally detained two employees of Sudhanwa Gondhalekar to get confessions about Sudhanwa’s involvement in criminal activities. It appears the evidence is planted by someone to prove the Hindu terror theory. This is Malegaon 2,” said senior advocate Sanjiv Punalekar while sharing his opinion about the arrests. He also pointed out the panchanama in that Vaibhav Raut’s case is incorrect and proper procedures were not followed during his arrest. Punalekar has written a letter to the state chief minister requesting a meeting and urgent intervention in the matter.

Even the Maharashtra minister of state for rural home affairs, Deepak Kesarkar who interacted with journalists appeared clueless as to the material seized from Raut’s house during the police raid and other details about the case.

Additional Public Prosecutor had to apologize to the court for unprofessional Maharashtra ATS officials

Mumbai crime reporters boycotted the anti-terror squad’s press briefing on Friday and staged a silent protest as well. The ATS presented dummy suspects before the media and displayed their unprofessional behavior for the first time. Then, they instructed all the journalists to keep their phones, cameras outside and carry only a notepad and pen inside the room.  The second instance happened on the next day, and right inside the court. This time, their victim was defense lawyer Dharam Raj.

“On August 10, while in the court, I approached the accused in the case to get Vakalatnama signed as per court’s order.  However, the ATS personal insisted they can only allow the accused persons to sign a single Vakalatnama. One of them even started holding the hand of the accused to stop him from signing. I approached the court again and briefed them about the undue objection raised by the police while getting signatures of the accused.  By the time, the public prosecutor submitted an objection suggesting I was asking the concerned persons to sign blank papers.  This was a factually wrong statement as I was only taking signatures on Vakalatnamas which already had my name and signature on the paper. The Additional Public Prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves had to apologize to the court due to the baseless objections raised by the ATS men who insisted on not allowing the accused to sign even in the courtroom. How can we expect such arrogant people to respect the law and follow the court procedures when they do not even show respect towards the court’s orders,” asked Advocate Dharam Raj who is representing the three accused in the case.

The advocate believes the ATS men did not allow journalists to carry their phones or cameras during the press conference so that they can retract from their statements later on. The whole case is full of loopholes?

Maharashtra Home Department’s reputation at stake as often

Maharashtra Home Department’s reputation is already maligned due to allegations of corruption against senior IAS and IPS officers made by some of its own men like Sunil Toke. Details from the cash for transfer scam involving IG, DIG level officials certified Toke’s allegations.  Further, the home department’s eagerness to give a clean chit to Zakir Naik landed it in the tight spot when Kerala ATS men entered the state and arrested two of Naik’s employees for their links with the Islamic State.  Another embarrassment came in the form of NIA’s decision to take over investigation against Zakir Naik. Besides several instances of minority appeasement, the department also made it in the headlines for asking police officers to force businessmen to purchase expensive tickets for the event featuring Amruta Fadnavis. With such notorious reputation and NIA’s observations about the possible involvement of Maharashtra ATS officials in planting fake evidence in the Malegaon blast case to prove Hindu Terror Theory, the framework that prepared by the Previous Govt and after NIA deployment, refutation came over ATS claims. Does Govt think in this same line that NIA or higher agency should be referred to investigate the Vaibhav Raut case, so far, there is the battery of questions that put an onus on the claims of Maharashtra ATS?

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Contributed by The Article staff