The arrest of Sameer Gaikwad from Sangli, in connection with the murder of veteran communist leader Govind Pansare (84) in Kolhapur, has brought the Sanatan Sanstha into the limelight. Gaikwad is a full-time member of the outfit. Pune city remains a major centre for its operation and the Sanstha, unfazed by the arrest, is getting ready for activities for the Ganesh festival.
The Sanstha had been embroiled in controversies earlier. A member, Sarang Dilip Akolkar alias Kulkarni (33), is wanted in connection with a bomb blast in Madgaon in Goa in October 2009. He was among the 12 charged by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Madgaon blast case.
An electronics engineering graduate from a private college in Pune, Akolkar has been missing since the blast. An interpol notice had been issued against Akolkar.
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Akolkar was residing at Chintamani heights in Shaniwar Peth. He is also known to have stayed in Wadgaon Dhayari on Sinhagad Road. He worked full time for Sanatan Sanstha and was appointed the Pune district convener of its sister concern Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS).
He had coordinated several HJS campaigns in Pune, including one in June 2009 against Oscar-winning movie The Slumdog Millionaire, claiming that the film showed Hindus in bad light. Now, his house remains locked. His parents have left Pune and are residing in a Sanatan Sanstha ashram.
As per police records, to oppose a Narkasur effigy competition in Madgaon, Goa, on the eve of Diwali, two Sanatan members Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, then residing in Goa, allegedly carried a bomb in a scooter to plant it near the competition venue. The bomb went off prematurely, killing the duo. The police later arrested six Sanatan Sanstha members.
Akolkar, Rudra Patil of Sangli and Jay Prakash alias Anna of Mangalore are absconding. According to the police, Akolkar was among those who “prepared IEDs” and conducted “test blasts” on the hill behind the house of one Laxmikant Naik in Talaulim village of Goa between “August 26 and 28, 2009.”
A special court at Mapusa, Goa, had acquitted all the six accused Sanatan members in December 2013.
Sanstha members in Pune believe that Gaikwad, arrested in the Pansare murder case, will be freed by the court.
“Our activists were falsely arrested even earlier. Six Sanatan sadhaks were acquitted by the court in the Goa blast case. We are against terrorism. We work for spreading rich values of Hinduism and spirituality. Falsely implicating our members in criminal cases will not stop our work…,” said Shambhu Gavare, a mechanical engineer who coordinates activities of the Sanstha in Pune.
The Sanstha has its office in Swastishree building in Anand Nagar area on Sinhagad Road. It is mainly used for work related to its mouthpiece Sanatan Prabhat.
The outfit is now preparing for activities for the Ganesh festival. While civic bodies and environmentalists encourage people to immerse idols in water tanks and not the river, the Sanstha has a different stand. It appealed to citizens to immerse idols in flowing water, like the river.
A member said, “There are ‘spiritual reasons’ behind immersion of Ganesh idols in flowing water. We should not immerse idols in a water tank. We agree that water pollution should be avoided. For that, we appeal people to install Ganesh idols made of pollution-free material.”
Police sources said they keep a watch on Sanstha activities. Vikram Bhave, a Sanatan member convicted in the Thane auditorium blast and currently out on bail, has conducted a few programmes in the city.
Vikram Bhave had penned a book on the Malegaon blast probe that was released in Pune by Dhananjay Desai, chief of radical Hindu Rashtra Sena, who is in jail for alleged involvement in the murder of Muslim techie Mohsin Shaikh in Hadapsar.