Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said yesterday the "real masterminds" behind the killings of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and three other prominent persons were being protected and some people were being made scapegoats and named as conspirators by probe agencies.
The former Maharashtra chief minister questioned the timing of arrests made recently in connection with the killing of Narendra Dabholkar.
Mr Chavan said in 2011, when he was chief minister and Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre, he had sought a ban on right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha as it was a "divisive and violent" outfit.
Mr Chavan said he is still in favour of banning the Goa-headquartered outfit, which has been linked to the killings of rationalists and scholars, including Narendra Dabholkar, since 2013.
Sanatan Sanstha has denied any link with these killings.
On Saturday, the CBI said it has arrested the main shooter in the Narendra Dabholkar case.
The anti-superstition activist was shot dead on August 20, 2013 in Pune. After Narendra Dabholkar, another rationalist Govind Pansare was shot dead in Kolhapur in February 2015.
In a similar attack, rationalist and scholar M M Kalburgi was killed in broad daylight at his residence in Dharwad district of Karnataka on August 30, 2015.
Journalist Gauri Lankesh, known for her Left leaning and strong anti-Hindutva views, was shot dead in front of her home in Bengaluru on September 5 last year.
Mr Chavan said a few days before the fifth death anniversary of Narendra Dabholkar, investigation agencies suddenly conducted raids and arrested people who, they claimed, were "masterminds".
"Then what about the people arrested earlier, like Manish Nagori and Vilas Khandelwal (alleged arms dealers), who are still in custody," he said, speaking to a regional channel.
"The timing of arrests made by security agencies is a bit doubtful because these developments have taken place just before August 20 (Dabholkar's fifth death anniversary). And agencies have immediately claimed these fresh arrests include the mastermind. I hope their claims are true," Mr Chavan said.
He said the raid on the home of right-wing activist, Vaibhav Raut, arrested from Nallasopara in adjoining Palghar district in an arms seizure case, has again changed the entire narrative because of the police's claims.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad last week said it would probe if Raut and two others arrested along with him had any connection with the killings of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Gauri Lankesh.
"Now, what happened to the ongoing investigation in the last four years (in the Dabholkar case)?" Mr Chavan asked.
"I still feel the real masterminds behind these fatal attacks are being protected and some scapegoats are being presented as conspirators," Mr Chavan said.
The CBI had said it had sent bullets and empty shells found in Pansare's body and at the site of the killing to the Scotland Yard police in the UK to ascertain if there was any link between the killings of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
"This later turned out to be a false information. Even Karnataka has made it very clear (that no sample was sent)," he said.
"I sent a proposal to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, demanding a ban on Sanatan Sanstha in April 2011. But because of tedious process and (being) cautious of not violating any fundamental right, this (ban) could not happen," he said.
"The organisation has a presence in other states as well and hence opinion of those states also matters in this case (of banning Sanatan Sanstha)," Mr Chavan said.
The government had proposed to ban the organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, he noted.
"I had again sent a dossier of some 1,000 pages to the Centre in 2013 pertaining to this Sanstha," Mr Chavan said.
The delay in action against the outfit also raises doubt if it enjoys political support, he said.
"We were of the opinion that it (the Sanstha) should be banned," he said, adding it is "not a normal organisation".
In June 2016, Virendra Tawde, a Hindu Janajagruti Samiti member, was arrested in connection with Dabholkar's killing, said Mr Chavan, a former Union minister.
"What happened after his arrest? Hardly any information is out in the Dabholkar killing case. So many new names are coming up in these four assassinations. I just hope no more new names (of accused) come up and give another direction to investigations," Mr Chavan said.