Mumbai: The CBI is hoping to crack the cases of killings of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kulbargi and Gauri Lankesh, which all have a common thread running through them. Recruits of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), two right-wing outfits, are alleged to have carried out these shootings.
Virendra Tawade, who hatched the entire conspiracy behind these killings, is said to have done a recce of six more persons — who were also on their hit list. The CBI has found photographs, newspaper clippings and writings pertaining to two prominent people who were on the radar. These include Shrimant Kokate — a leader of Sambhaji Brigade and of Maratha Sewa Sangh — and one police officer. The identity of the other four has yet not been confirmed. The photographs found were those of Kokate and Gauriprasad Hiremath, a police inspector of Shil-Daighar at that point of time.Tawde had created a computer folder containing these photographs under the tag ‘anti-religious’ (‘dharma drohi’).
The CBI officials confirmed this, saying, “These were Tawade’s next targets.” These sources confirmed that Kokate had spoken against some right-wing terror groups and people with similar leanings, due to which he was targeted. Kokate was threatened by right-wing leaders in 2016 and given police protection. He, however, did not know that he was being targeted.
Speaking to Free Press Journal, Kokate confirmed the police protection and said he was ‘cautioned’ by Pansare’s lawyer to be careful. “I did not know until now that I was being targeted. One and a half years ago, I was asked by Pansare’s advocate to be careful as I was on the radar of the HJS and the Sanatan Sanstha. I have police protection but that does not mean these radicals cannot attack,” explained Kokate.
He added, “There seems to be no difference between ISIS, Taliban and these Sanatan people. Anybody who opposes their ideology, they seem to be killing them.” In fact, the lawyer representing Tawade confirmed that his client had an article on Kokate. “The CBI recovered the cut-out of a news article from Tawade. It has a photo and a news article with comment of Shrimant Kokate,” advocate Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, representing Tawade, said.Hiremath, who was then posted at Shil-Daighar, was on night patrol duty in April 2014 when ‘godman’ Bhagwan Kokare Maharaj, belonging to the Hari Bhakta Parayan, a right-wing sect, was seen standing in the middle of a road and preventing cars from passing by. On being questioned, the ‘godman’ had a verbal duel with Hiremath, so the latter is said to have raided the godman’s premises. Many of the ‘godman’s’ devout followers had surrounded the police station and complained against Hiremath. Meanwhile, Kokate has sworn that he cannot be silenced. “I’ve been creating awareness and fighting against distortion of history, especially about Shivaji Maharaj. And I am a rationalist who demands equal rights for women. And what kind of ideology is this that kills anybody who opposes their views? They went and killed Gauri Lankesh,” said Kokate.