Sanatan Sanstha (SS), a Goa based Hindu-terror organisation, and its founder remain untouched by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), police, the state governments of Maharashtra and Goa, and the Central government. The SS has been named by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is investigating the assassination of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, to be the brain behind the assassinations of not only Ms. Lankesh but also of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi. The SIT has also brought to light a larger conspiracy of the SS and its affiliates.
Vaibhav Raut, an SS sympathiser and a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti was arrested by the ATS on August 10, 2018. The ATS, which raided his house, recovered at least eight country-made bombs, along with other explosives and literature of the SS. Following Raut, the ATS tracked down Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, who were stacking explosives and various weapons and had planned to plant these explosives in various parts of Maharashtra. The ATS has established that all three were members of the SS.
Also read: Explosives Recovered From a Hindutva Proponent and a Gau Rakshak
Following the arrests by the ATS and the SIT revelations, civil societies across Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa are demanding the ban of this terror organisation. Two important questions that are in front of us are: first, is banning the SS the solution? If the answer is yes, then, what purpose would the ban serve? And if the answer is no, then, with the strongly emerging evidence establishing the organisation as a terror outfit, what should be done with it? And secondly, would the current government with its allegiance to the ideology of a Hindu Rashtra, take a stand on the SS, an organisation from which both the ruling party BJP and its originator RSS have been distancing themselves? A look into the structure, ideology and functioning of the SS would provide us with answers for both of these questions.
The organisation believes and advocates violence as a tool for the “protection of religion” and establishing a Hindu Rashtra. The activists of the organisation have been arrested in several bomb blast cases in the past. The SS had also been 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 a 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 the investigation of the case. Investigators alleged that an 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 even as some of the SS members are still absconding.
The first demand to ban the organisation was made in 2011 by the ATS, and once again in 2015. The 2011 ATS reports requesting for the ban had said,
“from the incidents in Vashi, Panvel, Thane and Goa, it is evident that the arrested and wanted (and) accused formed an unlawful association to encourage and aid the other members to carry out subversive activities of sabotage (terror act) for promoting enmity between different groups of religion with the intent to disrupt maintenance of communal harmony, to threaten the sovereignty of the state, or to strike terror in the minds of people by indulging in terror acts using IEDs, which were made in violation of the provisions governing the purchase and possession of explosive materials and firearms and ammunition and thereby, attempted to wage war against the government of India.”
The central government was not convinced that the SS was a terrorist organisation. In 2015, in the light of the investigations into the cases of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, the ATS once again submitted a report demanding for the ban. However, now the ATS seems to have changed their position adopting the view that banning the organisation does not serve any purpose, as the SS is not a ‘single entity’ .
Sanatan Sanstha and its avatars
The SS was founded and registered by a hypnotherapist, Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavale. According to the Maharashtra state home department, the SS has twenty-odd registered organisations and all of these organisations have different units, and these units are independently registered. This organisation which is not registered as a single entity but as separate units in every district and city, also has various ashrams in Goa alone with different names. This simply implies, the SS is widespread. Like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti or Hindu Yuva Sena, the SS operates through various organisations. These numerous affiliates of the SS- which as an organisation pledges to propagate Hinduism and fight for ‘Hindu Rashtra’, organise various events either commemorating a Hindu Festival, or workshops on Hindu Rashtra across its districts and towns.
For example, the SS organised an event recently in Jalkot in Nanded district. The website noted, “Mrs. Anita Bunge of Sanatan Sanstha was invited to the Bhagwat Saptah organised by the well-wishers of Sanatan Sanstha and its advertisement donors, and the construction chairman of Jalkot Panchayat Samiti Mr. Ramakant Raivar, to give guidance. 500 devotees benefitted from the guidance on ‘Hindu Dharma, Hindu nation, Dharma Shikshan’ given by Mrs. Bunge.” The website also noted that RSS volunteers were part of the event.
In Kolhapur, where comrade Govind Pansare was assassinated, the Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliates (unnamed) organised a procession celebrating it’s founder Athavale’s birthday.
Another note said, they organised a one-day workshop in Alibag for “devout Hindus” involved in the organisation of the “Hindu Dharmajagruti Sabha”.
If the SS is banned, it hardly makes any difference and also won’t put an end to its terror activities, as its affiliates would still continue propagating its extremist ideology and carry on with violent acts. The assassination of the rationalists and journalists in the country are not just murders. They are political murders, and an attack on ideology. The core of SS ideology is Hindu Rashtra and the organisation is determined to kill all those who oppose it. Even though it has been established now that the SS was behind all the four political murders and is also involved in a larger conspiracy in the country, neither Athavale, nor the office bearers of the organisation have been interrogated. When the ATS has already said that banning the SS is not going to serve any purpose, why are they reluctant to interrogate the organisation? The ATS, the state governments of Maharashtra an Goa, the police and the Central Government have to answer this question.
Assassin’s Creed: Hindutva-supporters’ Network Planned Several More Killings
Hindutva Terror: Story of the Common Link Between the Four Murders