The arrest of Sameer Gaikwad, an “active member” of radical Hindu group Sanatan Sanstha, in connection with
the murder of veteran CPI leader and rationalist Govind Pansare has yet again brought the organisation under the spotlight.
The little-known organisation first hit the headlines in 2007 after three of its members were arrested by Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) for allegedly planting crude bombs at cultural venues in satellite cities of Mumbai. The bombs were reportedly planted to protest against screening of a play, “Amhi Pachpute”, in these areas.
The play allegedly portrayed Hindu gods and goddesses in poor light. The ATS had then claimed that the blasts were a handiwork of Sanatan Sanstha and another Hindutva organisation, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.
The Sanstha, which is active in Maharashtra and Goa, was founded by Dr Jayant Athavale, a clinical hypnotherapist who practised for two decades and also set up a society for research in clinical hypnosis.
Set up as a spiritual organisation, the organisation was earlier called the Sanatan Bharatiya Sanskruti Sansthawas.
In March 1999, it was named Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanstha is registered in Goa as a charitable organisation.
Publications by the Sanstha and discourses by its leaders revolve around Hinduism and, sometimes, “Ramrajya”.
Sanatan Prabhat, a publication by the Sanstha, has in the past written against what they call the previous Congress government’s poor track record against “Islamic terrorism”. Another theme that has appeared repeatedly is a call to Hindus and Hindu organisations to unite.
In October 2009, two members of the outfit – Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik – died while allegedly ferrying explosives to a crowded spot in Margao in Goa. The crude bomb exploded before they could be planted at the “targets” .
The investigation was initially conducted by Goa Police and later handed over to the National Investigation Agency. Subsequently, six members of the outfit were arrested, but a Goa court acquitted them for lack of evidence.
Mutliple calls, but no ban
Despite calls for banning the Sanatan Sanstha being made in Maharashtra, Goa and even at the Centre — the group was never formally banned. In January 2013, the Union government had told the Bombay High Court — which was hearing a petition seeking a ban on the organisation — that it would decide within 45 days whether to declare the Sanatan Sanstha a terror outfit under the UAPA Act. While the role of radical Hindu organisations was being probed in the 2008 Malegaon blast by the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare, a clamour grew again to place a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha. Later, the Maharashtra ATS under Rakesh Maria also asked for a ban. ENS