MUMBAI: The opposition Congress and NCP today claimed that Vaibhav Raut, who was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) from neighbouring Palghar district, was a member of right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha and demanded that the government ban the organisation.
Raut, a member of a "cow protection" outfit called the "Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti", was apprehended by the ATS from Bhandar Aali in Nallasopara West late last night and large quantities of explosives were seized from his house and shop.
Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan today alleged that the recovery of explosives from Raut's house and shop showed that the Sanatan Sanstha was planning to create a major disturbance in the society.
He claimed that Raut was a member of the Sanatan Sanstha through his outfit and that he was seen at various meetings and press conferences of the right-wing group.
Early morning visuals from Vaibhav Raut's residence in Mumbai's Nala Sopara area from where Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) recovered some suspicious material yesterday. Vaibhav Raut detained. More details awaited. #Maharashtra pic.twitter.com/fVeZVQRuAc— ANI (@ANI) August 10, 2018
Demanding that the Sanatan Sanstha be declared a "terrorist outfit", Chavan claimed that the alleged killers of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh had links to the right-wing group.
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, claimed that the explosives were meant to be set off at religious places with a design to trigger communal riots.
Pointing out that August 20 would mark the fifth anniversary of Dabholkar's killing, he said banning outfits like the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti would be a "fitting tribute" to the slain rationalist.
Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil said the need of the hour was to have a detailed probe into what the Sanatan Sanstha was planning (with the explosives).
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters that the seizure of explosives from Raut's residence was "proof" that the Sanatan Sanstha was involved in "terror activities".
"The previous Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra had repeatedly demanded that the Sanatan Sanstha be banned but our demand was ignored (by the Centre)," he said.
Malik alleged that the current governments in the state and Goa, where the Sanatan Sanstha had its headquarters, were sheltering the outfit.
He urged the Maharashtra government to take the matter seriously and find out who the outfit "intended to kill".
"The state government should recommend to the Centre to ban the Sanatan Sanstha," Malik said.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant claimed that outfits like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti were affiliated to the Sanatan Sanstha.
Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson Chetan Rajhans, however, refuted the claims that Raut was a "seeker" (member) of his outfit but added that "any Hindu working for the cause of Hindutva and dharma is Sanatan's own".
He said attempts were made to drag the name of the outfit in Dabholkar's killing as well but nothing had come out of it.
"Raut is not a seeker of Sanatan. However, he has been actively involved in numerous rallies and processions organised by devout Hindu organisations," Rajhans said.
"Although Raut is not a seeker of Sanatan, we believe that any Hindu working for the cause of Hindutva and dharma is Sanatan's own," he added.
Issuing a statement earlier today, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) dubbed Raut as a "daring cow protector".
"Vaibhav Raut is a daring cow protector. He was active through an organisation, the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, dedicated to the protection of cows," HJS state organiser Sunil Ghanvat said.
He claimed that Raut used to participate in the programmes and agitations organised under the aegis of the HJS, but had not done so for the "last few months".