Sanatan Sanstha

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Sanatan Sanstha
Santan logo.jpg
Understand the science of Spirituality, do spiritual practice and attain Bliss
Formation24 March 1999
PurposeSpirituality, Educational, Religious Studies
Region served
Worldwide
AffiliationsHindu Janajagruti Samiti
WebsiteSanatan Sanstha

The Sanatan Sanstha is an extremist Hindu group in India.[1][2][3] It was founded in 1999 by 'hypnotherapist'[4]oc Jayant Balaji Athavale. The group states its main aim as presenting spirituality in a scientific language for the curious (Jigyasu) and guiding seekers.[3] The organization has a chain of centres in different parts of India as well as abroad.[5]

Athavale purports to work in the field of spirituality with a goal of gaining understanding of the spiritual dimension using a "scientific approach." To this end, he has published more than 6.5 million copies of spiritual books in Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati, English and ten other languages. Sanstan Sanstha also publish four editions of Daily, weekly & fortnightly in two languages and a Monthly.[6][7] News Today columnist V. Sundaram described Athavale as a "rare spirit who brings to ordinary men a realization of their own divinity and makes spiritual life seem adventurous and attractive, so that they may go forth into the world with a new interest and a new joy at heart."[5] He claims that Athavale's work has been recognized by Hindu saints and sages belonging to all denominations.[8]

Persons owing allegiance to Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested in four bombings in Vashi, Thane, Panvel (all in 2007) and Goa (in 2009) and in the murders of Narendra Dabholkar (in 2013), Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi (both in 2015).[9][10] This has led to calls for Sanatan Sanstha to be banned.[11] However, Such claims are ruled out by Maharashtra Minister of State for Home,[12] Karnataka CID,[13] Goa chief minister[14] and Central Home Ministry.[15] In 2015, Minister of state for home for Government of India informed in Rajya Sabha that, no links could be found among the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi and there was no proposal to ban Sanatan Sanstha.[16] Dabholkar's family is claiming the link between the three murders and requesting court to club the cases.[17][18] However, Central Bureau of Investigation have informed High Court that it is waiting for the ballistic report from Scotland Yard to link all three cases.[19] In 2018, explosives and firearms were seized from a Sanatan Sanstha worker's house in Maharashtra and 4 persons were arrested on charges of terrorism.[20]

Founder[edit]

Blessings[edit]

Jayendra Saraswathi (speaking in saffron cloths) guiding masses in Hindu Dharmajagruthi Sabha organised by HJS in Chennai, 19 April 2009

Jayendra Saraswathi[edit]

"Dharma has no birth and death. Intermittently when it is ruined then it marks the beginning of development. Sanatan Sanstha too has been promoting dharma by imbibing its importance of dharmacharan (righteous conduct), on the society with great efforts." According to the website of Sanatan Sanstha's Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) branch, Jayendra Saraswathi, the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, made the above statement during his visit to the Panvel ashram of Sanatan Sanstha on 10 June 2009, and blessed the society saying that its mission would spread throughout the entire country.[21][self-published source?][22] Saraswathi attended the 117th Hindu Dharmajagruthi Sabha organised by HJS in Chennai on 19 April 2009 and guided the masses.[23][24][self-published source?]

Taponidhi Nandgiri Maharaj[edit]

On 24 May 2009 Taponidhi Nandgiri from the Shanaishwar temple in Solashi blessed Sanatan Sanstha, saying that Athavale's "mission of the establishment of righteousness is being undertaken throughout the entire Universe!"[25]

Creating awareness[edit]

"Hindu Awakening" conferences (Dharma Jagruti Sabha)[edit]

According to promoters, the main objective of these conferences is to create a feeling of unity and fraternal solidarity amongst all Hindus, cutting across different sects and sub-sects and to create a new sense of awareness of the relevance, greatness and significance of Sanatan Dharma. In order to achieve this objective, the focus will be on specially designed programmes to raise the levels of public enlightenment relating to the Vedas, Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, Bhagawad Gita and other Hindu scriptures. As of April 2009, 117 such conferences had been conducted by HJS in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Thousands of Hindus were said to have participated in these "Hindu Awakening" conferences with commitment, conviction, gusto and enthusiasm.[23][dead link]

Spiritual television channel (Sree Sankara)[edit]

From 15 December 2008, the Dharmasatsang and Dharmashikshanvarga (educating people in society regarding Dharma) presented by the Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS started being telecast 5 days a week on the spiritual television channel Sree Sankara. This channel was inaugurated by Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham on 21 December 2008. The Governor of Karnataka, Rameshwar Thakur was the chief guest at the function. During this function Saraswati blessed the mission of Sanatan and felicitated Pruthviraj Hazare, the group editor of Sanatan Prabhat periodicals.[26]

Spiritualty for Youth[edit]

Sanatan Sanstha is making use of spirituality and religiosity teachings in eradicating the negative influences, in the mind of Hindu youth.[4][27][failed verification]

Court cases against denigration of Hindu sentiments[edit]

Sanatan Sanstha is fighting the court cases against denigration of Hindu sentiments. Court Cases against M. F. Husain for hurting Hindu sentiments was one of the classic example of fighting denigration in Constitutional and peaceful way.[27][failed verification]

Awards[edit]

Shanaishwar Devasthan, Solashi, Satara District, Maharashtra has honored Athavale with a Shanaishwar Krutadnyata Dharma Award on 24 May 2009. It was presented by Taponidhi Nandgiri Maharaj. As stated by Maharaj the award was presented to Athavale for giving people a treasure-trove of spiritual knowledge presenting a scientific viewpoint on various religious acts performed by Hindus and has taken thousands of seekers to the pinnacle of spiritual progress.[25][dubious ]

Violent criminal activities[edit]

Panvel, Thane and Vashi bomb blast[edit]

Allegations[edit]

In 2008, six persons owing allegiance to Sanatan Sanstha were arrested for planting bombs in auditoriums at Thane and Vashi and in a movie theater at Panvel.[28][29] In 2011, two of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to ten years incarceration.[30] Ramesh Gadkari and Vikram Bhave were acquitted of the terror charges under the stringent UAPA,[31][32] however, the state government's appeal against the removal of UAPA is still pending in the High Court.[33] The Maharashtra government has sought to ban the organization,[34] and has pressed the case for a ban to the central government as well.[35] A central government investigation of the group was ongoing. On 2 December 2015, the Minister of Home Affairs stated in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) that there was no proposal to ban Sanatan Sanstha.[16]

The organization's public image was sullied by allegations of involvement in unlawful activities. Hence it started a series of public meetings in different cities in Maharashtra to dispel what it called "misunderstandings".[36]

Convictions[edit]

On 30 August 2011, Ramesh Gadkari and Vikram Bhave were convicted in sessions court of the Thane blasts and sentenced to ten years rigorous imprisonment.[37][38][39] Judgment of trail court was further challenged in the Bombay (Mumbai) High Court and on 2 May 2013 that court ordered the release of the accused on bail while awaiting hearing.[40][41]

Goa blast[edit]

Six members of the Sanstha arrested in the Goa blast case under UAPA were acquitted by the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court for want of evidence, while UAPA remains in force against three Sanstha members who are absconding.[33][42][43] Rudra Patil and Sandeep Arolkar or Sarang Akolkar alias Kulkarni were declared absconders by the NIA, with a red corner notice issued against Patil.[44]

Govind Pansare murder[edit]

A member of the Sanatan Sanstha was arrested for the murder of Govind Pansare.[33] The Special Investigation Team investigating the murder, arrested Sanstha member Sameer Gaikwad and was on the lookout for another member Rudra Patil, who is absconding since the 2009 Goa blast.[45] The prosecution stated in court that Sameer Gaikwad was in different city (Thane) around the time of the murder of Govind Pansare.[46] Minister of Home Affairs Ranjit Patil claimed that the arrest of Sameer Gaikwad was based only on suspicion, and that the only proof is a cellphone conversation about killing Pansare.[12] Eventually, it was revealed that the evidence against Gaikwad is strong, as he was present at the scene of the crime, and he had discussed the murder with other Sanatan Sanstha members.[47] Sanatan Sanstha was also planning to create a 15,000-strong armed force.[48]

Narendra Dabholkar murder[edit]

Indian investigative agencies believe that the Sanatan Sanstha is implicated in the murder of Narendra Dabholkar.[10]

In June 2016, Virendrasinh Tawade, a member of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), an offshoot of Sanatan Sanstha, was arrested in connection with the murder.[49][50] An official of the CBI revealed that emails exchanged between Tawade and his underground colleague Sarang Akolkar, from 2008 to 2013, discuss procurement of weapons and establishment of a weapon-manufacturing unit.[51]

Kalburgi murder[edit]

MLA Vishnu Wagh has said that there is evidence of the Sanstha's involvement in the murder of Kannada scholar M. M. Kalburgi.[45] On 16 October 2015, the Karnataka CID team said that they didn't see involvement of Sanatan's activist Sameer Gaikwad in the murder of Kalburgi and so they were not going to seek his custody for any further investigation.[13]

Gauri Lankesh murder[edit]

Sanatan members were suspected of involvement in the murder of Gauri Lankesh in 2017.[52] They are being investigated and have been questioned by the Special Investigation Team probing the murder.[53] Forensic analysis has shown that the same pistol was used to kill Kalburgi,[54] and is also possibly the same gun that was used to kill Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.[55] Sanatan was implicated in all these murders. However, its representative denied having a hand in the murder of Gauri Lankesh.[56] An article in The Indian Express mentions that "at least three forensics laboratories — Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Gujarat — are equipped to study signatures through an integrated bullet identification system". The article also says that the Karnataka police are investigating if the Gauri Lankesh murder has any connection to three previous murders attributed to the Sanstha.[57]

Hypnosis[edit]

Public interest litigations were filed in the Bombay High Court seeking a ban on the organisation, stating that it uses Ericksonian hypnosis to lure people into joining it and to carry out acts of violence.[58][59] Such claims are rejected by Hamid Dabholkar, son of slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, saying that hypnotism could not provoke a person to cause violence and instead pointing at radicalization as the means of influence.[60]

Explosives haul[edit]

In August 2018, Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad (ATS) had recovered 20 crude bombs, two gelatin sticks, 4 electronic and 22 non-electronic detonators, 150 grams explosive powder, two bottles labelled 'poison', batteries, soldering equipment, and a bomb circuit drawing from the house of Sanathan Sanstha worker Vaibhav Raut in Nallasopara[20][61][62] Explosives and firearms were seized from Nallasopara, Pune and Solapur, and three other men, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar and Shrikant Pangarkar were also arrested.[63]

Radicalisation[edit]

An Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officer said after members of the right-wing outfit were arrested in connection Dabholkar’s murder "Members of Sanatan Sanstha are ‘hard nuts to crack’, who communicate in code languages and have networks in at least four prominent cities of Maharashtra. They also have an 84-page rule book that asks them to 'chant Lord's name' before shooting a target". "They don’t speak unless confronted with evidence. They are indoctrinated, tutored, and given elaborate directions. It is not easy to extract information from them," an officer involved in the probe told CNN-News18 on condition of anonymity.[64]

Drug haul[edit]

In September 2016, the Maharashtra police’s Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing the February 2015 murder of communist leader Govind Pansare, seized 20 boxes of restricted drugs — including sleeping pills and suppressants — from the premises Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram in Panvel. An SIT official stated that "It is suspected that the drugs were being used to control the mind of followers at the ashram".[65]

Ban for Murder and Terrorism[edit]

BJP[edit]

  • In September 2015, Goa BJP MLA, Vishnu Wagh demanded that Sanatan Sanstha be banned, stating that there was evidence of the involvement of Sanatan Sanstha in the Pansare and Karburgi murders, and comparing Sanatan Sanstha to SIMI.[45][66] However, next day Chief Minister of Goa, Laxmikant Parsekar ruled out banning Sanatan Sanstha.[14]
  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has stated that he would not hesitate to ban Sanatan Sanstha if any evidence found against the organisation.[67]

AAP[edit]

  • Aam Aadmi Party have demanded a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha for the alleged murders they have been involved in.[68]

NCP[edit]

  • In Maharashtra, NCP, together with the Congress demanded that Sanatan Sanstha be banned.[69][70] Nawab Malik of the NCP said that Sanatan Sanstha is a terrorist organisation.[71]

Congress[edit]

  • Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan termed Sanatan Sanstha a dangerous organisation, and demanded that it be banned, and it's kingpin booked and punished. He referred to Sanatan Sanstha as 'terrorist elements that pose a threat to the country'.[67][72]

CPI and CPI(M)[edit]

  • The CPI and the CPI(M) have called for the Sanatan Sanstha to be banned, pointing out that the murders of Pansare, Dabholkar, Kalburgi and Gowri Lankesh are interconnected and followed the same method.[73]

Government of Maharashtra[edit]

  • In April 2011, Prithviraj Chavan government send formal request to Central government for banning Sanatan Sanstha. However, due to lack of supporting evidences, Central government did not ban Sanatan Sanstha.[67]
  • The BJP-Shiv Sena government in 2017 said that a proposal had been sent to the central government seeking a ban on Sanatan Sanstha.[74][75][76]
  • In August 2018, the Government of Maharashtra said that it would send a fresh request to the Central Government to ban Sanatan Sanstha.[77]

Samajwadi Party[edit]

The Samajwadi Party demanded that Sanatan Sanstha be banned and asked the government to heighten security.[78]

Others[edit]

  • The Sambhaji Brigade has called for Sanatan Sanstha to be banned for conspiracy and murder.[79]
  • This demand of the people for a ban also reflected online and on social media, with a petition on Change.org and a page on Facebook.[80]
  • The daughter of Govind Pansare also called for the organisation to be banned.[81]
  • The government has been severely criticised for failing to ban Sanatan Sanstha; notably, the similarities with banned organisation Students Islamic Movement of India have been pointed out.[82][83][84]
  • Sanatan Sanstha was included in a list of terrorist organisations by the government of Maharashtra.[85]
  • Residents of Goa have been agitating for a ban on the organisation since 2009.[44][86]

Against a ban[edit]

BJP[edit]

  • On 2 December 2015, Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju informed that there is no current proposal for imposing a ban on Sanatan Sanstha.[16] Dabholkar's family is claiming the link between the three murders and requesting court to club the cases.[17][18] However, CBI have informed High Court that it is waiting for the ballistic report from Scotland Yard to link all three cases.[19]
  • On 22 September 2015, Former Home Secretary RK Singh told that Home Ministry under the previous UPA government concluded that there was no specific evidence against Sanatan Sanstha, so on that basis they couldn't ban the organization[15]

Congress[edit]

  • In 2011, P. Chidambaram, the Home minister then, had turned down the demand to ban Sanatan Sanstha under section 35(3)(c) of UAPA citing lack of supporting evidences.[4]

References[edit]

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