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regular-article-logo Friday, 14 June 2024

Pune court sets life terms for two in Narendra Dabholkar murder case, but acquits 'key conspirator'

Sexagenarian Dabholkar, an anti-superstition crusader, was shot dead by two bike-borne men on Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune on August 20, 2013. The murder was initially probed by Pune city police and was taken over by the CBI in June 2014 following a Bombay High Court order

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui New Delhi Published 11.05.24, 06:50 AM
Narendra Dabholkar

Narendra Dabholkar Sourced by the Telegraph

A special UAPA court in Pune on Friday convicted two accused and acquitted three in the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar 11 years ago.

The court of additional sessions judge (special court) P.P. Jadhav convicted Dabholkar’s two assailants — Sachin Andure and Sharad Bhausahab Kalaskar — and sentenced them to life imprisonment besides imposing a penalty of Rs 5 lakh each.

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Three others — ENT surgeon and alleged key conspirator Virendrasinh Tawde, Mumbai-based lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave — were acquitted for want of evidence.

Sexagenarian Dabholkar, an anti-superstition crusader, was shot dead by two bike-borne men on Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune on August 20, 2013. The murder was initially probed by Pune city police and was taken over by the CBI in June 2014 following a Bombay High Court order.

During the trial, the prosecution had claimed that Tawde was one of the masterminds and all the accused were linked to the Hindu Right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha. The prosecution had said all of them were opposed to the work carried out by Dabholkar’s organisation, the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (committee for eradication of superstition, Maharashtra).

Reacting to the verdict, Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta said the masterminds were still at large and they would appeal against the order in the high court.

Dabholkar’s son Hamid said: “On one level we are satisfied that the two assailants have been convicted and sentenced to life. But the questions about the masterminds and overarching conspiracy behind the murder remain unanswered.”

He said if the masterminds were not brought to justice, such incidents would be repeated. It is evident from the chargesheet that Dabholkar was murdered for ideological reasons, he said.

The accused were booked under IPC Sections 120B (conspiracy), 302 (murder), relevant sections of the Arms Act and Section 16 (punishment for terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Dabholkar’s murder was followed by the killing of three rationalists/activists in the next four years — communist leader Govind Pansare, Kannada scholar and writer M.M. Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh. It was suspected that the culprits in all these cases were linked.

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