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.
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.
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.
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.
Issuing a statement earlier today, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) dubbed Raut as a “daring cow protector”.
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”.