Should Sanatan Sanstha Be Banned?

The Logical Indian Crew India

August 29th, 2018 / 6:10 PM

Sanatan Sanstha

Image Credits: The Indian Express, The Hindustan Times

The radical right-wing organisation, Sanathan Sanstha, is an organisation that is known to propagate right-wing ideology and for demanding the formation of “Hindu Rashtra”. It was in 2008 when Sanatan Sanstha’s name first got entangled in a wave of controversy after it was linked with the Thane blast. Sanatan Sanstha time and again has managed to surround itself with controversy. There are fresh allegations on the organisation of having links to the killings of journalist Gauri Lankesh, rationalist Narendra Dabolkar, communist leader Govind Pansare and writer and activist M.M Kalburgi. The Maharashtra government along with other activists are demanding to ban the organisation.


The rise and spread of the organisation

The controversial organisation came into existence 19 years ago in 1991 with the headquarters of the organisation based in Ponda, Goa. The Sanstha is headed by Jayant Athavale, a “spiritual guru”, who promotes Hinduism. The Sanstha claims as many as 320 Hindu outfits are connected with it, which have all been collectively working for the “Hindu cause”, reports The Wire.

The Sanstha along with its off-shoot, Hindu Janjagaruti Samiti (HJS), which was established in 2011, was first named for their role in the Thane blast case of 2008. Later it was alleged that the Sanstha played a direct role in Malegaon blast. And recently Santha’s “sadhak’s” (followers) name has emerged as the key suspect in the killing of Dabholkar, Lankesh, and CPI leader Govind Pansare and scholar, teacher and rationalist M.M. Kalburgi by the investigation agency. These investigations have been carried out by Maharashtra and Karnataka governments, and central agencies (CBI).


Santha’s connections to its fringe groups outfits

According to Scroll, writer of Shadow Armies: Fringe Organizations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva, Dhirendra Jha says that the organisation founded by Athavale was a hydra-like structure, but it has seen steady growth over the years. Another critical information revealed points out that Athawale’s enterprise gave birth to several other outfits in the past many years. But surprisingly, all of them are registered as different entities instead of calling them affiliates of Sanatha Santha.

So for instance, HJS, Sanatha Prabhat newspaper, Dharma Shakti Sena and its other branches are all registered as separate trusts.


The alleged attacks by Sanathan Followers

On Tuesday, the Maharashtra ATS said in a special court that five recently arrested sympathisers of the Hindu right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha planned to plant explosives at last year’s edition of Sunburn, an annual electronic dance music festival in Pune, reports Hindustan Times.

Another report prepared by the former IPS officer Rakesh Maria, who was heading the state ATS then had detailed the three cases registered against the Sanatan Sanstha in 2008- an IED attack on February 20, 2008, at Cineraj Cinema in Panvel during the screening of the movie Jodha Akbar. In another instance, hurling of a bomb at Vishnudas Bhave Auditorium on May 31, 2008, while the play Aamhi Pachpute was on and a bomb blast on June 4, 2008, in the parking lot of Ram Ganesh Gadkari Auditorium during a performance of the same play, reports The Indian Express.


The subsequent arrest and their link to the Sanstha

According to the ATS officials, the five people were arrested for allegedly planning to carry out attacks in different parts of Maharashtra like in Mumbai, Pune, Satara, Solapur and Sangli. As per them, all the five accused have links to the “extremist” organisation Sanathan Santha.

To substantiate ATS’ claim of attacks being carried out by the Sangathan’s followers, the officials said “While there are no open links between the five and the Goa-based outfit, their social media profiles, emails, Call Data Records, bank accounts and other related documents could establish the links. Even if they are covert in nature, it makes our case stronger that the outfit is involved in terror activities and therefore needs to be banned under the UAPA.”


Sanstha’s refusal to accept its link  

Meanwhile, Sanatan Sanstha has washed its hand from the people arrested in connection with the murders of Dabholkar and Lankesh and for Pune Sunburn festival blast.

The national spokesperson of the organisation, Chetan Rajhans, while addressing a press meeting said, “None of them has ever been a part of our organisation. They must have attended our meetings and must have been staunch supporters of Hindutva, but that does not mean they have been a part of Sanathan Sanstha.”


Calling for the ban since long

The uproar to ban the Santha was long coming. The Maharashtra government had sent two proposals earlier, in 2011 and 2015, to ban the Sanstha under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The Maharashtra government now plans to reiterate its recommendations to the Union Home Ministry. The state government reccomdations are pending before the Union Home Ministry since 2011.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has already sent a status report of the five arrested people having links with the Santha, and they were involved in terror activities. “The fresh dossier will be a detailed one to fast-track the pending proposal of the state government to ban the outfit,” said ATS officials while speaking to The Wire.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in a fresh plea has sought a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha over its alleged links with a “bomb plot”. The NCP has also demanded their ban for the Sanstha’s demand for dropping the word “secular” from the Constitution and the killing of rationalists and opposed the right-wing group’s demand to drop the word “secular” from the Constitution.

According to the Wire, the well known Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo, is the next target of the right-wing group. Recently, the police disclosed that Mauzo is on the list of those marked for elimination by the group has hit a raw nerve.


‘Sanstha’ on the ban

The Sanstha has called the ban unfair and has claimed it is “politically motivated”. Rajhans of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), blamed the “Left-leaning intellectuals and the Congress for instigating the police establishment” against the organisation. “Left intellectuals have been furthering their political dreams by pushing for banning of Hindu outfits in the State. We are being targeted,” he added.


Their other objectives

While the chorus to ban the Sanatan Sanstha is growing, the organisation has come up with their new demands for a “Hindu Rashtra”. The right-wing Hindutva organisation now demanded to remove the word “Secular” from the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. “Our demand to remove the word ‘secular’ is entirely constitutional as it was inserted in the Preamble later through an amendment,” said Ghanwat. The organisation blamed the Emergency and Indira Gandhi for the inclusion of the term ‘secular in 1976.

“So what can be added through amendment can also be removed through a constitutional amendment,” Ghanwat added.


Also Read: “I Was Told I Had To Kill Someone To Save My Religion.” Gauri Lankesh Killer Confesses To Crime


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Written by : Ridhima Gupta

Edited by : Abhinav Joshi

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