A local court in the city of Kolhapur in Maharashtra on Tuesday extended till June 24 the police custody of right-wing activist Sharad Kalaskar in connection with the murder of rationalist and Communist Party of India leader Govind Pansare in 2015, The Hindu reported. His seven-day police custody ended on Tuesday. Kalaskar is also suspected of being involved in the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabhholkar and journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Public prosecutor Shivajirao Rane and Additional Superintendent of Police Tirupati Kakade, who is investigating the case, urged the court to extend Kalaskar’s custody, saying the Maharashtra Police’s Special Investigation Team has found important information regarding his role in the crime.
“The SIT has obtained crucial information on Kalaskar’s role in the crime,” Rane said. “ He has confessed that there was another accomplice with him in Kolhapur as part of the conspiracy to murder Communist leader Pansare [on February 16, 2015]. While the accused has described that person to us, he has not revealed his name as yet. Furthermore, we believe that he [Kalaskar] was tasked with destroying the murder weapon.”
The prosecutor claimed that Kalaskar, along with other suspects, had got instructions in firearms in Karnataka’s Belagavi district, and had brought the weapon that was eventually used for the murder to Maharashtra.
Rane said investigators need more time to take the accused to a city outside Maharashtra to determine his precise role in the meetings where the murder plot was hatched. “His mobile records and diaries also need to be examined in greater detail,” he said.
Kalaskar was arrested by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on August 10 for allegedly planning to carry out disruptive activities in several parts of Maharashtra. His name also figures in a series of other high-profile crimes. Last year, his statement as a witness in the Pansare case was recorded by the Special Investigation Team.
Govind Pansare was attacked by two unidentified gunmen on his way home from a morning walk in Kolhapur. He died of bullet wounds on February 20. His wife Uma, who was shot at, survived the attack but is now paralysed. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Kalaskar stayed in Kolhapur for more than a week before Pansare’s murder.
Nine people have been named so far in the case, including Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, two activists with links to Hindutva organisation Sanatan Sanstha. They are absconding at present.