In the wake of the recent arrests made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in connection with the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, the demand to ban the radical Hindu organisation Sanatan Sanstha has grown. In fact, there are reports which have called it a "mid-sized outfit" which poses an "outsized threat".
Last September, a senior police official said that the modus operandi in the Gauri Lankesh murder seems very similar to what had been witnessed earlier. "Bullets were fired on the chest and head, and the three assailants came on a bike. It's very similar to what was witnessed in the murder of Pansare, Dabholkar, and (MM) Kalburgi," the police official said.
The official also added that like Pansare, Dabholkar, and Kalburgi, Gauri was also not very influential. "She was not someone who could bring down a government. So, why such killings continue to take place also warrants investigation," he added.
While the clamour to ban the outfit, which is allegedly at the heart of these brazen crimes, grows, one may wonder why we allow the Sanatan Sanstha to be a sanstha at all. If they authorities say they did not have a reason to ban it, it's not entirely true, because there were several instances through which the outfit begged to be banned.
'Kill them like dogs'
Calling for action against "anti-national elements", the September 2015 edition of the Sanatan Sanstha’s newsletter Sanatan Prabhat — which doubles as the mouthpiece for the Sanstha’s sister concern, the Hindu Jagruti Samiti (HJS), said, '(as) per Samarth Ramdas Swami’s teaching, anti-nationals are like dogs, they must be killed'. The implications of this statement are worrying for a few reasons.
First, the release equates those 'who criticised the judiciary (for recommending Yakub Memon's hanging) and those who worked hard to get his capital punishment revoked' as 'anti-nationals'. Second, considering slain scholar MM Kalburgi was also branded ‘anti-national’ during agitations — by BJP protestors — in Bengaluru in June 2014, the label is one that is thrown around quite liberally. The fact that Kalburgi was later murdered isn't exactly comforting.
The release goes on to lament that "Bharat is the only country in the world where traitors get so much social, political, constitutional and religious support" and proposes that "if terrorism is to be eliminated from our soil, the supporters of terrorists should also feel very afraid".
Don't like killing? The Sanstha has a solution for that too
A piece, in the same September issue, titled 'Only devout Hindus will protect the interests of Hindus and therefore, support them only!' (the article has been taken down) starts out by criticising the BJP for a ‘breach of trust’ in Goa and across the country. It goes on to exhort its readers to instead stand by the HJS and Sanstha that 'are serving the cause of Dharma sincerely and selflessly', before inviting them to create 'an ‘iron-fist’ of Hindu unity, and deliver such a punch to those who oppose the interests of Hindus'. Don't like killing? Sanstha advises you to simply punch them.
It wants to reinstate 'divine kingdom' (whatever that means)
In 2016, CBI arrested HSG member Virendrasing Tawde in connection with the murder of Dabholkar. In September 2015, senior journalist Nikhil Wagle had allegedly received a death threat from the Sanatan Sanstha. He had told PTI that he had received threats of this sort from the organisation in the past. “Four years ago, Abhay Vartak of Sanatan (Sanstha) walked out of a programme I hosted. Even as recently as last week, Sanatan Prabhat (a publication of the outfit) carried an article warning me,” he had added.
In September 2015, the SIT probing the murder of Pansare made its first arrest in the case: Sangli-resident Samir Gaikwad. According to Inspector-General of Police Sanjay Kumar, who told The Hindu, “Gaikwad and his family are associated with the Sanatan Sanstha”.
The Sanatan Sanstha is a registered non-government charitable trust that, as per its website, seeks to ‘impart spiritual knowledge to the curious in the society, inculcate religious behaviour in the masses and providing personal guidance to seekers for their spiritual uplift(ment)’.
Established in 1990 by ‘internationally renowned hypnotherapist’ Dr Jayant Balaji Athavale, the raison d'être of the organisation is ultimately, the ‘reinstatement of the divine kingdom’. It endeavours to achieve this goal through activities which include free-of-charge lectures and weekly satsangs, moral science classes for children (not clear if these are also free of charge), and through VCDs, DVDs and printed literature.
The Indian Express quoted the organisation's managing trustee Veerendra Marate as saying, “Our ultimate aim is to build one nation with one identity… We are confident that under Dr Athavale’s guidance, we are ready to be a ‘Hindu nation’.” In addition, the report noted that in its monthly publication Sanatan Prabhat, the organisation also expounded on the strife of Nepalis trying to have their country declared a Hindu nation.
Don't like something? Bomb it
In 2008, Ramesh Hanumant Gadkari and Vikram Vinay Bhave, both of whom were allegedly associated with the Sanstha, carried out a blast at a Panvel cinema screening Jodhaa Akbar and another at a Thane auditorium staging the Marathi play Aamhi Pachpute. Low-intensity explosives were recovered from a Vashi auditorium that was also staging the same play. The duo was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in 2011, but was released on bail two years later.
More recently, the Maharashtra ATS recovered a large quantity of explosives that were to be used for triggering blasts in various parts of the state. The authority also arrested three people in this connection. One of them, Vaibhav Raut, allegedly ran the 'Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti' in Nallasopara near Mumbai. While his purported social media account mentioned that he was associated with the Sanatan Sanstha, the outfit denied that Raut was its member.
The Sanstha continues to maintain that it is a ‘spiritual organisation’ that doesn’t kill.
Live life Sanstha-style
Long hair symbolises fickleness — Did you know? In an average man, as the Sanstha preaches, long hair can eventually lead to ‘reduction in the sperm count’, while ‘at greater spiritual levels, the length of hair doesn’t matter’? Or that an ‘individual that wears clothes with variegated, predominantly black and bright colours… eventually turns into a ruffian’? These tricks of the trade are shared on their official website, which is totally full of handy-dandy tips for a healthier life.
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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 17:16:55 IST