Goa court dismisses Sanatan Sanstha's Rs 10 crore defamation case against Juggernaut Books, author Dhirendra K Jha

Extremist group Sanatan Sanstha had sought Rs 10 crore in damages from author Dhirendra K Jha and publishers Juggernaut Books in a 2018 suit, claiming the book 'Shadow Armies' contained material that was defamatory to their organisation.

FP Staff March 03, 2020 13:40:39 IST
Goa court dismisses Sanatan Sanstha's Rs 10 crore defamation case against Juggernaut Books, author Dhirendra K Jha
  • Extremist group Sanatan Sanstha had sought Rs 10 crore in damages from author Dhirendra K Jha and publishers Juggernaut Books in a 2018 suit, claiming the book 'Shadow Armies' contained material that was defamatory to their organisation.

  • The court of Civil Judge, Senior Division and JMFC, Ponda, Goa dismissed the charges after a hearing on 15 February this year.

  • Jha was quoted as saying, "I feel a sense of relief and vindication. Persons who feel deeply uncomfortable by my research and my work attempted to silence me.'

A Goa court dismissed a civil defamation suit filed by the Sanatan Sanstha against Juggernaut Books and author Dhirendra K Jha, for the book Shadow Armies: Fringe Organisations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva (2017).

The Sanstha had sought Rs 10 crore in damages from Jha and publishers Juggernaut, in a 2018 suit, claiming Shadow Armies contained material that was defamatory to their organisation. The court of Civil Judge, Senior Division and JMFC, Ponda, Goa dismissed the charges after a hearing on 15 February this year.

In a statement released by Juggernaut, Jha was quoted as saying, "I feel a sense of relief and vindication. Persons who feel deeply uncomfortable by my research and my work attempted to silence me by alleging defamation and unleashing a punishing process on me and my publisher. But truth is a defence against defamation and, in this case, justice and the truth have thankfully prevailed."

Goa court dismisses Sanatan Sansthas Rs 10 crore defamation case against Juggernaut Books author Dhirendra K Jha

Cover of Shadow Armies; (R) the author

A veteran political journalist, Jha spent a substantial part of 2015 and 2016 studying eight Hindu right-wing organisations across India for their connections with the BJP, and wrote about his findings in Shadow Armies. In an excerpt from the book, republished by Firstpost, Jha noted of the commencement point of his project:

"The beginnings of this project lie in the Karnataka government’s announcement in July 2015 of the link that existed in the murders of the rationalists MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar. The country was in a ferment. Writers and artists were returning their state awards in droves, protesting the inaction of the government. Who had triggered this churning? Sanatan Sanstha, the organisation accused of having commissioned these killings, seemed the obvious first chapter in my journey."

The complete excerpt can be accessed here.

Juggernaut Books' publisher Chiki Sarkar, and CEO Simran Khara, also released a joint statement that read: "At our core we believe that books, authors and ideas must be defended against attempts to silence, censor, ban and injunct. It can be intimidating to face multi-million-dollar lawsuits but in this instance at least the courts have really come through for us and we are overjoyed by the judgment."

The Sanatan Sanstha was set up in 1999 by hypnotherapist Dr Jayant Balaji Athavale and his wife Dr Kunda Athavale, ostensibly to "propagate spirituality". In the two decades since its inception, it has been linked with a number of extremist Hindutva acts, including planting explosives, and the murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh and Govind Pansare.

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