Sanatan Sanstha

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Santan logo.jpg
Santan logo
FormationMarch 24, 1999; 22 years ago (1999-03-24)
MethodsBomb blasts, Murders, Terrorism
AffiliationsHindu Janajagruti Samiti
Websitesanatan.org

The Sanatan Sanstha is a group seeking Hindu nationalism (rashtra) in India.[1][2][3][4] It was founded in 1999 by hypnotherapist Paratpar Guru (Dr) Jayant Balaji Athavale.[5]

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).[6][7] This has led to calls for Sanatan Sanstha to be banned.[8]

However, Such claims are ruled out by Maharashtra Minister of State for Home,[9] Karnataka CID,[10] Goa chief minister[11] and Central Home Ministry.[12] 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.[13]

Dabholkar's family claims the link between the three murders and requesting court to club the cases.[14][15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

Ideology[edit]

It is a right wing organisation.[18][19][20]

Activities[edit]

Spiritual Discourses[edit]

Sanatan Sanstha organises various online spiritual discourses aired via Facebook and Youtube live.[21][22][23] First launched during the initial phase of COVID-19 lockdown in India, these online discourses have received over 20 million views as of April 2021.[24][25][26] These discourses are broadcast in Hindi and four other Indian languages viz. Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.[23][27]

Alleged 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.[13]

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 trial 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] Two men were declared absconders by the NIA, with a red corner notice issued against one man.[44] Acquittal of six members of Sanatn Sanstha by NIA special court was also confirmed by Bombay High Court (HC) bench in Goa. While passing the order HC observed that, “Merely because the accused persons may have links with Sanatan Sanstha and Sanatan Sanstha was opposed to holding of Narkasur effigy competitions, is by no means sufficient to establish the accused persons had conspired to make explosion at such competition on the fateful night of 16th October, 2009.” [45][46][47]

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.[48] The prosecution stated in court that Sameer Gaikwad was in different city (Thane) around the time of the murder of Govind Pansare.[49] 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.[9] 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.[50] Sanatan Sanstha was also planning to create a 15,000-strong armed force.[51]

Narendra Dabholkar murder[edit]

Indian investigative agencies believe that the Sanatan Sanstha is implicated in the murder of Narendra Dabholkar.[7]

In June 2016, a member of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), an offshoot of Sanatan Sanstha, was arrested in connection with the murder.[52][53] An official of the CBI revealed that emails exchanged between him and his underground colleague, from 2008 to 2013, discuss procurement of weapons and establishment of a weapon-manufacturing unit.[54]

Gauri Lankesh murder[edit]

Sanatan Sanstha members were suspected of involvement in the murder of Gauri Lankesh in 2017.[55] Forensic analysis has shown that the same pistol was used to kill Kalburgi,[56] and is also possibly the same gun that was used to kill Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.[57] Sanstha was implicated in all these murders. However, a representative for Sanatan Sanstha denied involvement in the murder.[58][59] 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.[60]

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.[61][62] 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.[63]

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 of explosive powder, two bottles labelled 'poison', batteries, soldering equipment, and a bomb circuit drawing from the house of Sanathan Sanstha worker in Nallasopara[17][64][65] Explosives and firearms were seized from Nallasopara, Pune and Solapur, and three other men were also arrested.[66]

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.[67]

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".[68]

Social media presence[edit]

Sanatan Sanstha's activity on social media has come under scrutiny. Facebook's security team has tagged it along with right wing organisations Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sena, as a potentially dangerous organisation that supports violence against minorities across India.[18][19][20] Regardless the organisation has been allowed to spread on Facebook due to political and safety considerations. Facebook has avoided acting against these organisation as it has ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and because "cracking down on Bajrang Dal might endanger both the company's business prospects and its staff in India", The Wall Street Journal newspaper wrote, reaffirming its reportage earlier this year on the subject.[69][70]

Proposed 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.[48][71] However, next day Chief Minister of Goa, Laxmikant Parsekar ruled out banning Sanatan Sanstha.[11]
  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has stated that he would not hesitate to ban Sanatan Sanstha if any evidence found against the organisation.[72]

AAP[edit]

  • Aam Aadmi Party have demanded a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha for the alleged murders they have been involved in.[73]

NCP[edit]

  • In Maharashtra, NCP, together with the Congress demanded that Sanatan Sanstha be banned.[74][75] Nawab Malik of the NCP said that Sanatan Sanstha is a terrorist organisation.[76]

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'.[72][77]

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 Gauri Lankesh are interconnected and followed the same method.[78]

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.[72]
  • The BJP-Shiv Sena government in 2017 said that a proposal had been sent to the central government seeking a ban on Sanatan Sanstha.[79][80][81]
  • In August 2018, the Government of Maharashtra said that it would send a fresh request to the Central Government to ban Sanatan Sanstha.[82]

Samajwadi Party[edit]

The Samajwadi Party demanded that Sanatan Sanstha be banned and asked the government to heighten security.[83]

Others[edit]

  • The Sambhaji Brigade has called for Sanatan Sanstha to be banned for conspiracy and murder.[84]
  • 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.[85]
  • The daughter of Govind Pansare also called for the organisation to be banned.[86]
  • 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.[87][88][89]
  • Residents of Goa have been agitating for a ban on the organisation since 2009.[44][90]

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.[13] Dabholkar's family is claiming the link between the three murders and requesting court to club the cases.[14][15] However, CBI have informed High Court that it is waiting for the ballistic report from Scotland Yard to link all three cases.[16]
  • 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[12]

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.[5]

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