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Posted at: Aug 11, 2018, 2:32 AM; last updated: Aug 11, 2018, 10:29 AM (IST)

Maharashtra ATS arrests 3 Hindutva activists after huge haul of explosives

Maharashtra ATS arrests 3 Hindutva activists after huge haul of explosives
Photo for representational purpose only.

Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service
Mumbai, August 10

At least three people belonging to the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested from different parts of Maharashtra after a huge quantity of explosives, gun powder, sulphur and detonators were seized from a shop owned by one of them, police said here on Friday.

According to police, the explosives were seized by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra Police, which raided the home and shop of Vaibhav Raut, 40, at Nalasopara in Palghar district outside Mumbai early on Friday. ATS officials said they had been keeping an eye on Raut for a while after receiving information that he was assembling bombs in his shop, which was ostensibly used as a real estate agency. 

"There was enough explosives to manufacture at least 18-20 bombs or IEDs," a police official said.

The ATS team which included a dog squad raided Raut’s flat and shop at Bandar Ali village in Sopara neighbourhood of Nalasopara (west) on Thursday night. Search operations continued till early this morning and the explosives were found in his shop, police said.

In addition to the explosives, the ATS also seized several notebooks and diaries from Raut's office and shops. Data from his mobile phone indicated that he was in regular contact with two people in Pune and Aurangabad and they were also picked up, police said this afternoon.

Raut's associates who admitted that he belonged to the HJS, the Sanatan Sanstha and other Hindu right-wing organisations claimed that he was being framed by the ATS. "The explosives may have been planted in Vaibhav Raut's house by the ATS. He is being targeted for opposing cow slaughter and Love Jihad," Raut's lawyer and fellow activist Sanjiv Punalekar told reporters here later on Friday.

In a statement here, the HJS said Raut was active in many of its programmes in the past though he was not part of its recent events.

The HJS accused the ATS of planting explosives at Raut's premises to entrap him. 

"The incidents of harassment of activists of Hindu organisations, and implicating them in false cases, etc. is not new anymore. This has been proved through the Malegaon case, and arrest of innocent seekers of Sanatan Sanstha etc," Sunil Ghanvat, Maharashtra State Organiser of HJS, said.

Sanatan Santhan, headquartered in Goa's Ponda, was founded in 1999 by Jayant Balaji Athavale. Its members have in the past been arrested for the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi. Some of its members have been under the scanner for setting off blasts in Maharashtra and Goa in the last decade.

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