Supporters of the Sanatan Sanstha and several gau-rakshaks held a rally in support of Vaibhav Raut, who runs a cow-protection outfit Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti and has been accused by the Maharashtra ATS of allegedly planning terror attacks, in Nallasopara on the outskirts of Mumbai on Sunday.
According to the Mah ATS, while several members of the local Bhandari community from which Raut hails from, did participate in the rally, most of the members were outsiders who were members of the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti or HJS.
The main organisers of the rally were gau rakshaks who worked with Raut in extorting money from meat transporters in the interiors of Maharashtra, they were prodded and supported by the Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS. The local gau rakshaks went door-to-door to muster up the support of the local Bhandari community by spreading false propaganda against the police and the ATS.
Investigators revealed that the right-wing extremist group had planned to blow up or create blasts at 6-7 theaters and at least 4-5 Ganapati mandaps in different parts of Maharashtra including Mumbai, Pune, Sangli and Solapur during the upcoming Eid and Ganapati festivals in Maharashtra and pin the blame on Muslim anti-social elements, police sources have claimed.
The blasts were planned over a period of 30 days and the bombs to be used in the explosions were being assembled in the office of gau rakshak Vaibhav Raut at Nala Sopara.
The ATS seized over 22 assembled bombs and explosives, timers, detonators and relay switches enough to manufacture another 30 to 40 low-intensity improvised explosive devices or IEDs. In a second raid, about 11 country-made pistols, several boxes of ammunition and other partially finished pistols were seized.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) released a statement objecting to the rally. The AAP called the rally the Sanatan Sanstha’s “standard tactic” to apply pressure on the state administration and security apparatus. “This is a standard tactic to apply pressure on the administration and the security apparatus … is the standard operating procedure for the Sanatan Sanstha when anyone related to them is caught red-handed,” said Mukund Kirdat of AAP in the press release.
“The Maharashtra ATS is a professional and elite arm of the state police. In this case, it is not merely an accusation, but self-incrimination, as crude bombs were recovered, which could have wreaked havoc in the financial capital of the country,” said Kirdat.
AAP asked how the police allowed the rally to take place. “According to reports, participants expressed solidarity with the accused, Vaibhav Raut, through slogans and placards stating ‘I am Vaibhav Raut’,” AAP stated, alleging, “This undermines the state’s anti-terror operations. By permitting hoodlums and lumpen elements to hold a public protest against an elite arm of Maharashtra’s police force, the government has severely undermined the stature of our brave and committed police officers who risk their lives to protect our sovereignty and lives and this is highly questionable.”
AAP has sought an immediate ban on Sanatan Sanstha. “Is the Maharashtra government waiting for a disaster before it takes action? We, as AAP, expect the govt to be proactive in this regard,” Kirdat said.
“Terrorism of all hues is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. AAP demands that the antecedents of all those who took part in the protest be investigated and stringent action be taken under the UAPA and relevant sections of the IPC,” AAP stated.