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Activist Narendra Dabholkar Murder Case: Two Gets Life Imprisonment After 11 Years

The court's verdict came on Friday (May 10) after 11 years in the murder case of   Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti chief Narendra Dabholkar. 

The CBI special court in Pune convicted the accused Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar. The court has sentenced both of them to life imprisonment.

Apart from Dr Virendra Singh Tawde, who is considered the mastermind of the murder, the court has acquitted Bikram Bhave and Sanjeev Punalekar. There were a total of 5 accused in the murder case. 

Among them, Tawde, Andure and Kalaskar are in jail, while Punalekar and Bhave are out on bail.

Virendra Tawde was accused of conspiring to murder Dabholkar. However, the government side could not present sufficient evidence against him. 

Apart from Tawde, the charges against the other two accused also could not be proved.

After the murder of Dabholkar, three other activists were murdered in the next four years. In February 2015, communist leader Govind Pansare and in August the same year, Kannada scholar and writer MM Kalburgi were shot dead in Kolhapur.

After this, in September 2017, journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru. The CBI suspected that Dabholkar and the criminals involved in the other three murders were linked to each other.

Pune Police had conducted the initial investigation in the Dabholkar murder case. In 2014, the Bombay High Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate. 

CBI had arrested ENT surgeon Dr Virendra Singh Tawde in June 2016.

Virendra Tawde and other accused were associated with Hindu right-wing organization Sanatan Sanstha. It was claimed that this organization was opposing the work of Dabholkar's organization Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti.

Questions were raised on CBI's investigation regarding the identity of the shooters. CBI in its charge sheet had first named Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar as the shooters. 

However, the agency later arrested Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar. The charge sheet claimed that Andure and Kalaskar had shot Dabholkar.

The investigating agency then arrested lawyers Sanjeev Punalekar and Vikram Bhave for supporting the conspirators. The accused were booked under IPC sections 120B (conspiracy), 302 (murder), relevant sections of the Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or section 16 of the UAPA (punishment for terrorist activities).

During the investigation, lawyer Virendra Ichalkaranjikar, one of the lawyers for the accused, had questioned the CBI's negligence in identifying the shooters.