Nashik/Bhopal, Oct 26 (IANS) The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra police picked up two more people including a woman from Madhya Pradesh late Sunday evening in connection with last month's Malegaon blasts, sources said.
The two are Shashikala Shastri, former president of Durga Vahini, the women's wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Sameer Kulkarni, a prominent activist of Abhinav Bharat, an organisation originally founded by late freedom fighter V.D. Savarkar but recently resurrected by an ex-serviceman.
While Shastri was arrested at Indore, Kulkarni was picked up from Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal.
The operation was conducted by an ATS team under the leadership of a senior officer Ranjan Ghule, the sources added.
ATS interrogations have revealed that both Shastri and Kulkarni have close links with Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, who is already in the ATS police custody for her suspected involvement in the Malegaon blast of Sep 29 and Maj. (retired) Prabhakar Kulkarni under interrogation for providing training to the Sadhvi and her associates.
The sleuths have also arrested Ramnarayan Singh alias Ramji, presumed to be the mastermind of the Malegaon blasts. Ramji is the brother of Shivnarayan Singh, who is already in ATS custody.
In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh Director General of Police S.K. Raut told IANS: 'The Maharashtra ATS has arrested one person from Bhopal and two from Indore in connection with the Malegaon blasts. However, there is no information linking the RSS (Rashtriya Swamaysewak Sangh) or the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) or similar organisations with the blasts.'
He denied that the ATS had questioned some political leaders but confirmed that a house in Jabalpur town was searched.
Sadhvi Pragya Chandrapalsingh Thakur alias Purna Chetanandagiri, 38, Shivnarayan Gopal Singh Kalsangra, 36, and Shyam Bhanwarlal Sahu, 42, of the Madhya Pradesh-based Hindu Janjagriti Samiti (HJS) have been remanded to police custody till Nov 3 by a Maharashtra court.
They are accused of planning and executing the Sep 29 blast in the Muslim-dominated town of Malegaon that left five dead, followed by a blast in Modasa town of Gujarat the same day, in which one person was killed.
The explosions took place during the late evening period of the holy month of Ramadan when thousands of Muslims were breaking fast after evening prayers.