The investigations into the assassination of rationalist and anti-Hindutva voices— Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh— has produced clear evidence in the form of diaries, documents, gun forensics, and statements of participants, that a five state network of like-minded hardcore Hindutva supporters exists and has been actively planning the physical elimination of these and many other opponents of their regressive, medieval ideology. The shadowy leaders of at least two known Hindu extremist groups, the Sanatan Sanstha (SS) and its splinter Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) were the fulcrum of this terror group.
The conspiracy and its wide scale began to unravel last year when a Forensic Science Lab report stunningly revealed that the same gun was used to kill Kalburgi, Pansare and Lankesh. The three murders occured at different places and were months apart. It cannot be a coincidence that the same murder weapon was used everywhere.
While the investigations in the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi have not yet nailed the culprits, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the murder of Gauri Lankesh, has been successful in tracking down her assassin and his confessions have confirmed what the gun indicated.
Parashuram Waghmare, one of the many arrested by the SIT, has confessed to have assassinated Gauri Lankesh to “save Hinduism”. He reportedly told the SIT that there is amachinery functioning behind these planned killings of the anti-Hindutva voices. The recent statement of an unnamed official belonging to the SIT brings to light the existence of a gang of hardline Hindutva recruits functioning in five states: Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. The same official is reported to have said that this “unnamed organisation/gang” comprises at least 60 people and has “recruited people from hardline Hindutva organisations like Maharashtra-based Sanatan Sanstha and HJS.”
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Even though the same SIT officer is of the opinion that Sanatan Sanstha and HJS might not be directly involved; first, the fact that all the four murdered received threats from them or the organisations affiliated to them; and second, statements published by these organisations following the murders, leaves no room for doubt in their involvements. Then evidently, there is the murder weapon, the gun.
During the course of its investigation, the SIT has recovered two lists containing names of 34 targeted individuals who had publicly condemned Hindutva politics. The list recovered from Amol Kale had eight names. Girish Karnad, a well-known playwright and activist from Karnataka was the first name, followed by Gauri Lankesh. The second list had 26 other names. KS Bhagwan, BT Lalita Naik, Veerabhadra Channa Mallikarjuna Swamy of Nidumamidi Mutt, C S Dwarakanath,Yogesh Master, Chandrashekhar Patil, Banjagere Jayaprakash, Patil Puttappa, Nataraj Huliyar, Baraguru Ramachandrappa, Chennaveera Kanavi, Narendra Nayak, and S M Jamadar, are some of the literary figures and activists whose names are in these two lists. Recently, the SIT alerted the Goa state govt. about the threat to life of Goa based Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo. The SIT has noted that these lists were put together in July 2016 and was being updated ever since.
All those who have been arrested by the SIT till now, are linked to SS and HJS; and as mentioned earlier, the lists include names of all individuals who withhold anti-Hindutva views. SS, which proudly says that they provide the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with its missing spiritual outlook,also trains its seekers to use air rifles and is also known for its extremist ideology of violence.
A day after Dabholkar’s death, SS published a statement by its founder, Jayant Athavale, on its website. It read, “Births and deaths are predestined and everybody gets the fruit of their karma. Instead of dying bedridden through illness, or after some surgery, such a death for Dabholkar is a blessing of the Almighty.” Athavale added that though “Dabholkar was an atheist and did not believe in god, the same god would give solace to the departed soul.”
The Goa based SS has the vision of establishing a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu Nation) and propagating extremist Hindutva ideology. The organisation gives a call to, in its founders’ words, “Destroy evildoers if you have been advised by saints or Gurus to do so. Then these acts are not registered in your name.” Those who oppose the idea of the Hindu Rashtra are the evildoers for the SS. Hence the organisation spreads terror by wiping out its enemies to realise its dream of establishing a Hindu Rashtra, as it didin the case of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. The investigations have shown that the Sanstha and its volunteers are not stopping at this and have a full-fledged plan to kill all who do not propagate a Hindu Rashtra.
The investigation of Amol Kale, a former convener of HJS, has established the fact that all the four murders were ideologically motivated murders; and has brought to light the larger conspiracy to silencing the voices against Hindutva politics.
How does the Sanatan Sanstha function? No one knows. Entry is restricted to its headquarters in Goa. It functions in seclusion and there is hardly any information about their meetings, which are all private. Sneha Vakharia, a journalist who was at the sixth All India Hindu Conference from 14-17 June, 2018, in its headquarters in Goa, has narrated her futile efforts in piercing the SS iron curtain. Even though it was invited to this conference, Vakharia says that media was allowed to cover only certain sessions while the rest of the proceedings took place behind closed doors. In the press conference, Vakharia and other media persons were informed that, in one of the meetings, the “resolution to establishing a Hindu Rashtra” was passed. However, no questions pertaining to what was discussed or who all participated in this particular meeting were answered. Even their website and social media pages publish only excerpted and edited information.
Involved in Bomb Blast Cases
The activists of the organisation which believes and advocates violence as the tool for “protection of the religion” and establishing Hindu Rashtra, have been arrested in several bomb blast cases in the past. SS was also accused and two of its supporters were given 10 years imprisonment for bomb blasts in the Gadkari Rangayatan auditorium in Thane on June 4, 2008. This was done as protest against a play, Amhi Pachpute, which they claimed, showed Hindu Gods in a poor light. Those arrested are currently out on bail.
The Goa police arrested six SS members involved in a bomb blast in Madgaon, Goa, in October 2009. According to the police, two SS supporters, Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, were allegedly carrying a bomb in their scooter, to plant near the Narkasur effigy competition in Madgaon. The duo died as the bomb went off prematurely.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over investigation of the case. Investigators alleged that a SS member, who was an engineering student, played a key role in preparing the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and carrying detonators and timer devices for the blast. However, all six were acquitted and some of the SS members are still absconding.
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Abhay Vartak, a Dharma Pracharak of SS, was speaking on ‘Terrorism of Secularists’ at the Dharmajagruti Sabha organised by HJS on February 4, 2018. He said, “Considering themselves to be thinkers, Prof. Kalburgi, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare and Gauri Lankesh were spilling venom against the Hindu Dharma but their true nature was exposed by the Sanatan Sanstha in a peaceful manner.”
Despite all this mounting evidence of involvement in terror activities, the organisation continues to function openly. It has not been placed under any kind of legal restriction, as was done with other organisations which were allegedly involved in murders or bomb blasts. Many feel that it is because of the political patronage that these organisations get. This has fostered a sense of impunity among such criminals across the country. This effect can be seen in the laxity displayed towards lynchings in the name of cow protection and towards those inciting communal violence against minorities.
The SS has had a fraught relationship with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The organisation accuses the latter for being lost in electoral politics and forgetting the Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra agenda. On the face of it, BJP, RSS and VHP, maintain a distance from SS, or so we are told.
The above mentioned All India Hindu Conference had in its attendance, Anil Dhir, a BJP member from Odisha and also a close aide to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Responding to a journalist’s question of whether or not RSS is participating in the conference, Dhir had remarked, “What does that mean? Even I am a member of the RSS. But I am here representing Bharat Raksha Manch.”
Faced with growing notoriety of SS following the exposure of all its activities, the BJP tried to distance itself from SS, but was found tying itself up in ludicrous knots. Madhav Bhandari, the BJP spokesperson said, “We have no connection with the Sanatan Sanstha or the HJS as we differ from them in the very philosophy of Hinduism. For us, religion cannot be the basis for any nation or state. We treat Hindutva as a way of life.” One wonders what the difference is. The Hindu right wing organisations in the country have been using this discourse of their version of Hindutva is “just a way of life.” If one has to believe that these organisations do not work hand in hand, one has to be blind to the functioning of the Sanatan Sanstha.
There was evidence to prove that the Sanatan Sanstha was a Hindu terrorist outfit in the country. The investigation in the Gauri Lankesh case has provided ample evidence which needs to be probed further. What would the current “Desh Bhakt” sarkar do about an organisation that is determined to destroy the democratic and secular fabric of the desh? Even before that, does this government even look at these murders as an act of Hindu terror?