Journalists under police scanner in Goa blast case


Panaji : At least three journalists are under the spotlight for their alleged role in the Diwali eve blast in Margao, say police officials investigating the case.

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Two members of the rightwing group Sanatan Sanstha (SS) were killed when they were ferrying the improvised explosive device (IED) in Margao, 35 km from here, on Oct 16.

Malgonda Patil, one of the SS activists who died in the explosion, was a freelance journalist, who used to contribute articles regularly to the Sanatan Prabhat, a multilingual newspaper published by the SS for over a decade.

Under the police scanner is the editor of Sanatan Prabhat, Prithviraj Hazare, who has been summoned several times to the Margao police station and the office of the special investigation team (SIT) and questioned on the role of the newspaper and the ashram and its possible links to the blast.

With him is Virendra Marathe, a former reporter with the same newspaper, and now a managing trustee at the SS ashram at Ramnathi, Ponda, about 30 km from here. Marathe, who is being regularly questioned by the police over the goings on at the ashram, was formally booked last week after half a dozen foreigners were found staying illegally at the ashram.

A third journalist who works for a leading local vernacular newspaper is also being probed as part of the investigations, said police officials.

“Investigations after the blast showed that a Marathi journalist from Margao, also a member of the SS, had escorted Malgonda Patil around town, showing him the places where crowds were likely to assemble for Diwali festivities a couple of days before the blast,” a senior police official told IANS.

Patil and his SS colleague Yogesh Naik were killed when they were ferrying the IED to one such site, where several thousand people had assembled to watch the ritual burning of narakasura by Lord Krishna, which is part of the traditional Diwali celebrations in Goa.

The IED accidentally exploded before they could reach the site. Police also found and defused three other IEDs on the same night within a span of one hour.

“We are only in the process of collecting information now. Concrete action will follow only when we fit in the gaps in the investigations. Until then we have mounted surveillance on several suspects we are tracking,” a police official said.

Superintendent of Police (CID) Atmaram Deshpande said when asked about the number of suspects under the police scanner: “There are suspects, but I am not at liberty to share anything about the investigations in the blast case as of now.”

SS has said that the constant summoning of Hazare and Marathe to the police station for questioning was only aimed at harassing and demoralizing the senior members of the group.

“But we will cooperate in whatever way the police wants us to,” an SS official said.