MUMBAI: In what could be the first breakthrough in the murder case of Communist Party of India (CPI) veteran Govind Pansare, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Maharashtra Police on Wednesday arrested Sameer Gaikwad, a member of the right-wing organisation, Sanatan Sanstha (SS), at his hometown Sangli. In a late night development, the SIT also detained a woman named Jyoti in Mumbai for questioning.
SIT chief Sanjay Kumar said Gaikwad (30), a mobile phone repair worker, had been active in the SS since 1998. Gaikwad was arrested on the basis of his ‘suspicious telephonic conversations’. Kumar said his team had tracked almost two crore telephonic conversations — all from Gaikwad’s mobile phone — since February 16, the day Pansare shot at. The SIT produced Gaikwad in a court in Kolhapur, where the crime had taken place. The court remanded him in police custody for a week. Kumar refused to clarify if the SIT had cracked the sensational murder case.
“We have arrested him on the basis of technical surveillance. While we are trying to ascertain certain evidence, we don’t want to claim that with his arrest, we have cracked the murder case. We never said that Gaikwad is the one who shot Pansare. He is a suspect who is likely to be involved, directly or indirectly,” Kumar explained. The police detained Gaikwad on Tuesday night and formally arrested him after interrogation. Kumar said Gaikwad was an accused in several cases in Sangli. He ran a mobile repairs shop in Sangli for a few years. The police have also raided his houses in Sangli and Mumbai.
The arrest came almost a week after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had publicly lambasted the police for their shoddy investigation. “They (police) should take similar interest in other cases too,” Fadnavis had said, referring to the top priority given to the Sheena Bora murder case and the police failure in cracking the murders of Pansare and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Pansare’s daughter-in-law Medha was cautious in reacting to Gaikwad’s arrest. “We are waiting for more details. At the moment, I can say it’s unfortunate that someone from the region, which is known for its progressive views, is involved in the murder case,” she said.
SS managing trustee Virendra Marathe, however, asserted that Gaikwad was innocent and falsely implicated in the case. “The police have purposefully arrested him under pressure from anti-Sanatan elements. Earlier, they had enquired about many members of Sanatan in the case of the killing of Dr Dabholkar. Sanatan Sanstha also faced similar criticism on earlier occasions. However, nothing concrete came out of these inquiries. Samir Gaikwad is arrested on the basis of suspicion. Even the police are stating that he is a suspect. The truth behind this will come out soon,” he told reporters.