Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and now Gauri Lankesh.
The first three cases remain unsolved and a Special Investigation Team will now be probing the fourth case.
Sanatan Sanstha (SS) is a name we’ve heard repeatedly in relation to the investigation conducted by various agencies in these cases.
The SIT constituted to probe Pansare’s killing charged SS members with the murder. A CBI team investigating Dabholkar’s assassination also charged two members of SS with murder.
In the chargesheet it filed in the Dabholkar murder case, CBI mentioned that the book written by the outfit's founder, Jayant Athavale, shared violent ideas, like, 'only 5% of the crusade against evil will be of a physical nature...5% of seekers will need to undergo training with weapon. The Lord will provide weapons at the opportune moment through some medium'.
News18's Suhas Munshi reached out to SS to seek its response on the allegations against them in Gauri Lankesh murder case as well. We spoke to the official spokesperson of SS, Chetan Rajhans.
Rajhans minced no words in calling Lankesh an “extortionist” who “clearly had links with Naxals” and complained that when people with “communist” ideology are killed there is outrage but a similar effect is not seen when someone with Hindutva ideology is murdered.
How do you react to the murder of Gauri Lankesh?
Basically, we condemn the killing of Gauri Lankesh. These sort of killings are wrong, from the point of view of our legal system and our democratic setup.
But there is an irony in how we’re looking at her murder. When some people with Communist ideology are killed, and I'm talking about Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, and now Gauri Lankesh here, the Chief Minister of Tripura and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury issue statements.
But in the years gone by, four people who espoused pro-Hindutva ideology were killed in Karnataka and nobody's talking about them. They were also killed for their political ideology.
Some people have begun accusing your outfit of being responsible for her murder. How do you respond?
The conversation around Gauri Lankesh's murder is happening in a targeted and prejudiced manner. There are five points around her life that nobody's discussing.
First, that (BJP) MP Prahlad Joshi had filed a defamation case against Lankesh, in which she was convicted and sentenced to jail for six months. There should be some discussion on this.
Second, people should talk about her extortions also. Extortionist thi woh (She was an extortionist). Why don't we talk to all those who were victims of her extortion.
Third, she clearly had Naxalite links. Some channels have been showing this.
Fourth, she commented against the Lingayat community.
And fifth, there was some property dispute between her brother and her. It should be found out whether she was killed in a property dispute or not.
So not discussing these obvious points and only targeting Hindu outfits is quite unfair.
Did you, or did any member of your outfit, ever speak to her or approach her through someone?
No. I heard her name for the first time in the news about her murder yesterday.
Very serious allegations have been levelled at your outfit in the past...
What is important is that ours is a law abiding, humble outfit. A small outfit. We have been searched by CBI, NIA, and police. Our premises have been raided twice. Were we found to be guilty, would action not have been taken against us? Would we not have been banned?
We were targeted for eight years but did they find anything against us? These investigating agencies also found that a small outfit like us cannot do anything illegal.
Members of your outfit have been convicted in 2008 Thane and Vashi bomb blasts. The CBI has charged two of your senior members with the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, one of who is absconding. Police also recovered drugs from a raid carried out on your outfit’s premises last year.
It's all a conspiracy... Hindu samaaj ko target kiya jaa raha hai... (The Hindu community is being targeted). I'll tell you about all these cases against us. There was this case of 2008 blasts in Thane, in which lower court released four of our six arrested members and convicted just two. Those two also were able to secure bail from High Court. In Mudgaon case, all six were released.
In Dabholkar and Pansare cases also they didn't find anything. They arrested our member (Samir) Gaikwad but he also was able to secure bail. (Another CR member Virendra) Tawde was also arrested by CBI (in Dabholkar murder case) but they haven't even begun trial in the case.
Could you tell a bit about your outfit?
It was started in 1990 by our founder Dr Jayant Athawale as an organisation to promote spirituality and probe the reasons behind the religious customs we follow to understand our religion better.
In how many states does your outfit have branches?
In about 10-12.
Is Karnataka one of them?
Has your outfit been founded by, aided by, or helped by the RSS in any manner? (Rajhans describes himself as a proud swayamsevak on Twitter).