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Sanatan Sanstha: The Charitable Organisation Whose Members Were Arrested For Dabholkar's Murder

In 2013, the Sanstha came into the limelight in the worst way, when they were linked to the assassination of rationalist and author Dr Narendra Dhabolkar


Updated:August 21, 2018, 4:18 PM IST

New Delhi: In the wake of recent arrests made by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection to rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar’s murder, the demand for the banning of Sanatan Sanstha is growing large.

Earlier, two of the organisation’s workers were arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of Dr Dabholkar.

With every passing day, Sanathan Sanstha's connection with violence, bomb blasts and murders has slowly started to come out in the public. Yet, very little is known about this outfit.

What is Sanatan Sanstha?

Sanatan Sanstha is a non-profit trust founded by H.H. Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavale, in 1990. The Sanatan Sanstha is registered in Goa as a 'charitable organization' and publishes a Hindi daily known as Sanatan Prabhat. Another big centre of the outfit is at Panvel in Maharashtra. It has offices in Pune, Mumbai, Miraj (Sangli) and other parts of the state.

The Sanstha, which claims to have millions of followers in Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country, presents itself as a spiritual organisation that works for social uplift and national security, and to rekindle dharma, protect “seekers” (of the path of righteousness) and destroy “evildoers”. It espouses the cause of Hindu Rashtra, and frequently organises Dharma Jagruti Sabhas to “awaken” people.

History of violence

In 2008, the name of the group surfaced when two of its members reportedly carried out a blast at a Panvel cinema screening Jodhaa Akbar. Later on, two Sanatan Sanstha workers were convicted and awarded 10 years life imprisonment for planting a bomb in the parking area of Gadkari Rangaytan auditorium in Thane on June 4, 2008, to protest against a play Amhi Satpute, which they claimed showed Hindu Gods in poor light. The duo is currently out on bail.

Sanatan activists were also found to be involved in a bomb blast in Madgaon, Goa, in October 2009 when Sanatan members were allegedly carrying a bomb in their scooter on October 16. The duo died as the bomb went off prematurely. Police later arrested six Sanatan Sanstha members in this case.

Sanatan’s Links With Killings

In 2013, the Sanstha came into the limelight in the worst way, when they were linked to the assassination of rationalist and author Dr Narendra Dhabolkar.

Days after the murder of author Dr Narendra Dabholkar in 2013, the Sanatan Prabhat published, "Everybody gets the fruit of his karma. Instead of dying of illness in a bedridden state or dying a painful death after an operation, the death Dabholkar met with was a grace of God."

According to Dabholkar’s Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, the slain rationalist had been getting threats through Sanatan Prabhat articles for at least seven years before he was murdered on August 20, 2013.

A picture of Dabholkar’s, marked with a red cross, was pulled out of the Sanstha web site immediately after the killing.

Two years later, two more murders took place: one of communist leader Govind Pansare and the other of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi. Indian authorities in June 2016 arrested Sameer Gaikwad, a Sanatan member since 1998, in connection with the 2013 assassination of activist Narendra Dabholkar based on CCTV footage. In September, another Sanatan member was arrested for the 2015 killing of Pansare.

In June this year, investigations into the shooting of the journalist Gauri Lankesh, 55, outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017, revealed indications of links to Sanatan Sanstha.

Government's Non-seriousness

Even though the outfit's name has figured in incidents of violence and murder, the central government hasn't shown much seriousness in scrutinising the outfit's activities.

In 2011, not only Maharashtra government but Goa and Karnataka had sent reports to declare the Sanstha a terrorist organisation. The then Home Minister P Chidambaram, however, turned down the suggestions by the state governments and termed the request as ‘cryptic.’

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