A designated NIA court in Goa last week said in its order, released to public Monday, that right from the stage of filing of the first information report (FIR), the investigation agency was trying to nail the Goa-headquartered “Sanatan Sanstha” whose cadre was also accused of carrying out improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in neighbouring Maharashtra.
NIA judge P.A. Savoikar made these observations while releasing six “Sanatan Sanstha” members – Vinayak Talekar, Vinayak Patil, Vinayak Ashtekar, Dilip Mangainkar, Dhananjay Ashtekar and Prashant Juvekar – who were accused of conspiring to carry out a blast on Diwali eve in Goa.
Two other accused in the case – Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik – died when the bomb they were carrying to a “Narakasur” (a mythical demon) slaying ceremony in Margao, 35 km south of the state capital, exploded accidentally.
“Facts stated in the FIR appear to be manipulated with intention to include ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ in the offence,” Savoikar said in his order, acquitting the six persons for lack of evidence.
Savoikar also said seven of the 12 arguments raised by the NIA in course of the trial failed to pass muster.
The case was first registered in 2009 by the Goa Police that claimed Patil and Naik were suspected of ferrying it to a “Narakasur” competition, a popular tradition in Goa, where Lord Krishna slays an effigy of the demon Narakasur on Diwali eve.
The “Sanatan Sanstha” has over the years, vehemently opposed the popular practice, which they say ends in glorifying the demon instead of his slayer.
The state police probed the sensational case for a few days before the NIA, formed in 2008 to probe terror cases, took over the investigation.
The six accused were charged under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 121 A (conspiracy or attempt or abetting to wage war against the government of India) of the Indian Penal Code, Section 16 (Terrorist Act), 18 (conspiracy to commit terror act), and 23 (enhanced penalties) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and Sections 3 (causing explosion likely to endanger life or property), 4 (attempt to cause explosion) and 5 (making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances) of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
Savoikar said barring Malgonda and Yogesh, who were active members of the “Sanatan Sanstha” and died, there was no evidence to suggest the rest “were actively involved in any of the activities of ‘Sanatan Sanstha’, headquartered in the temple town of Ponda, 30 km from here.
“None of the witnesses have stated that the accused participated in any protest held by ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ against the ‘Narakasur’ competitions or attended any meeting in which objections raised by the ‘Sanstha’ were discussed with the collector,” Savoikar’s order reads.
Incidentally, members of the Sanatan Sanstha have also been accused of carrying out low-intensity blasts in Maharashtra too.