Sanatan Sanstha, a hardline Hindutva organisation, now in the news with the arrest of its worker in connection with the murder of veteran communist leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, was founded on March 24, 1999 by a psychiatrist Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavle.
As mentioned on the organisation’s website “www.sanatan.org”, it mainly aims to spread “spirituality”, impart dharm shikhshan (religious education) and work for the establishment of “Dharmadhisthit Hindu Rasthra”.
Besides conducting meetings for Dharma Parchaar (spreading religion) and setting up stalls during religious events like Kumbh Mela in Nashik, the Sanatan Sanstha publishes a daily named Sanatan Prabhat, for propagating its thoughts.
The outfit is known for taking a “hardline” in the name religion. For instance, during the Ganesh festival it appeals to people to immerse their Ganesh idols in a river and not in water tanks — civic bodies and environmentalist appeal to citizens to immerse Ganesh idols in water tanks to avoid water pollution.
Sanatan Sanstha’s headquarters is at Ramnathi, Ponda in Goa. 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. It claims to have thousands of devotees.
The organisation has been hit by controversies ever since its activists were arrested in several bomb blast cases.
Santan Sanstha workers Vikram Bhave and Ramesh Gadkari 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 are currently out on bail.
Sanatan activists were also found to be involved in a bomb blast in Madgaon, Goa in October 2009. As per police records, Sanatan Sanstha had opposed a Narkasur effigy competition in Madgaon. Two Sanatan members Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, then residing in Goa, were allegedly carrying a bomb in their scooter for planting near the competition spot on the eve of Diwali on October 16. The duo died as the bomb went off prematurely. Police later arrested six Sanatan Sanstha members in this case.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over investigation of the case. Investigators alleged that a Sanatan worker, who was also an engineering student, played a key role in preparing the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), carrying detonators and timer devices, for the blast. However, all six were acquitted. Some Sanatan workers are still missing in this case.
Now, a full time Sanatan Santha worker Sameer Vishnu Gaikwad of Sangli has been arrested in Govind Pansare murder case.
Claiming to be a protector of “Hindu Dharma” the Sanatan Sansta has not only been doing propaganda work — writing articles, carrying cartoons in Sanatan Prabhat, releasing pamphlets, conducting agitations and filing court against rationalists like Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and Pansare — but it has also opposed the RSS and BJP and even PM Narendra Modi many times, claiming their policies are “anti Hindu”.