While the 2015 request of the Maharashtra government to ban Sanathan Sanstha is still pending with the Union home ministry, the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has informed both the central and state governments that the right wing outfit is not registered as a single entity but as separate units in every district and city, sources told The Indian Express.
A senior official from the state home department told The Indian Express, “They have around 20 registered organisations. The units at various districts or cities are registered independently. In one of the communique, the Maharashtra ATS had said that while in 1990, Jayant Athawale founded the Sanatan Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha, the organisation changed its name and claims to be floated in 1999. Also, its various ashrams in Goa are registered in different names.”
In the 2011 report, which was prepared when former IPS officer Rakesh Maria was heading the state ATS, the report had detailed out the three cases registered against Sanatan Sanstha in 2008.
They were an IED attack on February 20, 2008 at Cineraj Cinema at Panvel during the screening of the movie Jodha Akbar; a live bomb being hurled at Vishnudas Bhave Auditorium on May 31, 2008 while the play Aamhi Pachpute was underway and a bomb blast on June 4, 2008 in the parking lot of Ram Ganesh Gadkari Auditorium during the staging of the play Aamhi Pachpute.
Six accused were arrested during the course of the investigation.
“Of the six arrested, five were seekers (sadhaks) of Sanatan Sanstha and one was their servant,” the report, accessed by The Indian Express, stated.
It report added: “Sanatan Prabhat is a mouthpiece of Sanatan Sanstha. Articles regarding Jodha Akbar and Aamhi Pachpute were published in the said newspaper… it contents said that cinema and Marathi play are desecration of Hindu God, Hindu religion and Hindu epic, which is against the Hindu religion… with the intention to stop the play and cinema the articles were published… It evidently appears that the accused have committed the terrorist act to fulfill the aims of Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliated trust.”
“From the incidents in Vashi, Panvel, Thane and Goa, it is evident that the arrested and wanted accused formed an unlawful association to encourage and aid the other members to carry out subversive activities of sabotage (terror act) for promoting enmity between different groups of religion with the intent to disrupt maintenance of communal harmony, to threaten the sovereignty of the state or to strike terror in the minds of people by indulging in terrorist acts using IEDs, which were made in violation of the provisions governing the purchased and possession of explosive materials and firearms and ammunition and thereby, attempted to wage war against GOI,” the report concluded. A senior official said that after a lukewarm response from the Centre to the 2011 request, a fresh attempt was made in 2015 when late IPS officer Himanshu Roy was heading the state ATS.
“The Centre was not convinced with the 2011 request that the organisation was a terrorist outfit and could be banned. However, in 2015, when both the CBI and the SIT probing the murders of two Maharashtra-based rationalists, Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, named Sanatan Sanstha members as the accused, the ATS wrote back detailing these cases and seeking a ban. That request is still pending.”
“Following this, there have been many queries raised by the Centre. During one such queries, the state ATS had expressed reservation that banning one outfit won’t serve the purpose as its registered in different names,” the official added.