Pansare murder: SIT finds invoices for mental illness drugs at Sanatan Sanstha

Most of the invoices found were of drugs from a stock dated April 2016 and August 2016 and include that of over 14,000 tablets.

Written by Smita Nair | Mumbai | Updated: September 15, 2016 9:39 am
govind pansare, murder, pansare murder case, pansare case, sit, special investigation team, sanatan sanstha ashram, sanatan sanstha, drugs, vinay pawar, suspect, india news, indian express Govind Pansare, a rationalist, and his wife were shot while on morning walk in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015. (Source: File)

PROBING the role of Sanatan Sanstha in the February 2015 murder of Communist Party of India leader Govind Pansare, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Maharashtra Police last week seized, from the organisation’s premises in Panvel, Navi Mumbai, invoices of transactions of a stockpile of drugs meant for the treatment of a range of mental ailments including schizophrenia, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety.

Sources say this could become the first crucial evidence against the group, which has its headquarters in Goa, of its alleged involvement in “mass hypnosis”. A PIL in 2011 filed in Bombay High Court by some former members alleged that Sanatan Sanstha has been indulging in hypnosis to forcefully influence members.

Most of the invoices found were of drugs from a stock dated April 2016 and August 2016 and include that of over 14,000 tablets.

Samples of drugs seized include Amisulpride for schizophrenia; Clonazepa, commonly red-flagged as an addiction if taken without prescription; and several dosages of a variety of anxiolytics or anxiety reducers. The inventory also includes performance enhancers; drugs to alter sleep patterns, alleviate heavy depression and Bipolar Disorder.

Sanatan Sanstha, headed by hypnotherapist Jayant Balaji Athavale, is now under scrutiny in connection with the Pansare murder and the 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar as well.

On February 16 last year, Pansare and his wife Uma were returning from there morning walk in Kolhapur when two men on a motorcycle shot five times at them at close range outside their house. Pansare succumbed to his injuries five days later, his wife had head injuries. The attack was similar to the one in which activist and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was killed in Pune 18 months earlier.

Last week, the CBI, in its chargesheet in the Dabholkar case, named surgeon Virendra Tawde, a member of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), which is an offshoot of Sanatan Sanstha, as a key conspirator. Tawde, arrested in the Dabholkar case by CBI, is currently in the custody of SIT probing the Pansare murder.

Earlier this year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said he would would not hesitate to act against the Sanstha if any evidence was found against the organisation.

The demand to ban the Sanstha had gained momentum since one of its activists, Sameer Gaikwad, was arrested in connection with Pansare’s murder.

On September 8, the SIT first told the Mumbai High Court about the drug invoice seizure and cited a book, “Clinical Hypnosis,” written by Athavale and his wife Dr K J Athavale. The book lists tips on hypnosis: “If any spy is told of a certain information in a hypnotic trance and instructed that he will not remember the information until a specific code word is said to him, he cannot remember the information as suggested.” Or, “if the enemy gets hold of the spy, the message is not disclosed because the spy is unable to give any information even if he is tortured to death because the conscious mind is not aware of it.”

When contacted, Abhay Vartak, spokesman for the Sanstha, said: “This is pure defamation. We have a medical room which we give out to doctors to treat patients in our premises…We have proper records. We personally feel this is targeted and if this is how Hindu outfits are treated even with a Hindu majority government, then it’s sad.”

The SIT has questioned a Goa-based psychiatrist and a Mumbai-based distributor and has been able to piece together transactions of the last five years.

Bulk orders for these drugs were placed every month by the Goa-based psychiatrist who is a member of Sanathan Sanstha. The address was always signed as “Sanatan Ashram, Ramnathi, Bandivade, Goa 403401.”

The orders — all received via emails — were packed off to two destinations, Goa and Mumbai, after three representatives from Sanathan Ashram would personally pick it up from the distributor’s warehouse. Officials say the Goa psychiatrist who called for the drugs never visited the Panvel Ashram even as stocks reached every month.

According to experts, rules for these drugs clearly mention that the prescription has to be after a diagnosis where the doctor should have access to the patient. The probe has called for invoices from the distributor, who has been supplying the drugs to the address for over a decade.

ENS adds from Pune: The SIT today questioned two women members of Sanatan Sanstha in connection with the seizure of drugs, confirmed Pradeep Deshpande, Superintendent of Police of Kolhapur. Police also questioned the wife of another Sanatan member Vinay Pawar, a suspect who has been missing since the 2009 Goa blast. The SIT has told the court that an eyewitness identified Pawar as loitering around the crime scene before Pansare and his wife were shot at.