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COMMENTARY

in 2016 in connection with the Dabholkar


Sanatan Sanstha and and Govind Pansare murder cases, respec-
tively. Tawde, who is an ENT specialist, has
Its Hindutva Designs been charged with planning the murder
of Dabholkar, but Gaikwad was released
on bail later. If we could recall, a few
Sanghamitra Prabal more incidents of terror activities are
linked to the Hindutva organisations. A

T
The Sanatan Sanstha has always he Sanatan Sanstha must be the bomb explosion happened in Nanded in
been ignored for being a small only Hindu extremist organisation April 2006 at the house of a Rashtriya
that preaches spirituality along with Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist and
bunch of fanatics. However, the
the stated aim of waging war against the a similar explosion took place in February
threat that it poses is highlighted state. It aims at establishing a Hindu 2007 in the same city which killed two
once again after the arrests rashtra or God’s Kingdom by 2025 for which (India Today 2008). In 2008, the Malegaon
of a few of its followers and elimination of all durjans (evildoers) is a blast involving Sadhvi Pragya Singh and
precondition (Athavale and Athavale 2001: Shrikant Purohit took place. In the same
sympathisers in connection
25, 31). The Hindu rashtra will not have any year, theatres in Thane, Vashi and Panvel
with a terror plot and possible place for the Buddhist, Jain, Shaiva, Vaish- had low intensity blasts. Two of the per-
involvement in the killing of nava, Muslim and Christian communities. petrators, Ramesh Gadkari and Vikram
rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. The Sanatan Sanstha has its own constitu- Bhave, were convicted and given 10 years
tion ready with no provision for election, of imprisonment by the court (DNA 2011).
Even earlier, the members of
no democracy, no judiciary, and an educa- Recently Gadkari, who is out on bail,
Sanatan Sanstha were caught tion system promoting the Hindu religion was conferred with “sainthood” by the
making bombs, openly advocating (Athavale and Athavale 1999: 124, 145). Sanatan Sanstha (Sanatan Prabhat 2018).
arms training, and waging war The Sanatan Sanstha came in the news The Sanatan Sanstha was also linked to
again after arrests of few of its followers Margao blast in Goa that killed two of its
against the state. What more
and sympathisers in connection with a own members in 2009 (Hindu 2009).
evidence does the centre need terror plot and possible involvement in the These early incidents were the signs of
to ban the organisation? killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. the silent emergence of Hindutva terror
Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) across the country. It appears that organi-
has arrested seven people so far who are sations like the Sanatan Sanstha not
sympathisers of the Sanatan Sanstha. only supported the terror activities but
Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, and also participated in them and funded
Sudhanva Gondhalekar were arrested on them without any qualms. It is a sign of
10 August following the seizure of an arsenal prevalent Hindu majoritarian common
of arms and ammunition at Raut’s bunga- sense that the investigative agencies and
low in Nalasopara (NDTV 2018). The net- the centre were hesitant to accept that
work of Hindutva terrorists did not stop the Hindutva organisations were involved
with the Sanatan Sanstha alone. Shrikant in terror acts. This angle was largely ig-
Pangarkar, former Shiv Sena corporator nored then. The Goa and Maharashtra
from Jalna who has links with the Hindu governments had been making pleas to
Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) was arrested on ban the Sanatan Sanstha since 2008 but
19 August based on confessions by Raut, the centre did not find “sufficient” grounds
Kalaskar and Gondhalekar. Avinash Pawar, to do so (Hafeez 2016). It was a Congress-
another suspect who also has links with led union government that neither cracked
Hindutva groups, was arrested (Rajput down on such organisations nor in-
2018). Sachin Andure, who was arrested quired about their funding. The country
on 18 August on the charge of being the then, by and large, was convinced with
shooter in Dabholkar case, also has connec- the narrative of “Islamic terror,” a term
tions with Hindutva groups. These arrests that was coined in the 1990s. For the
were made after investigation into the killing large majority, the terror, bomb blasts
of journalist Gauri Lankesh started to un- and riots were only associated with Mus-
ravel the larger network of Hindutva groups lims. This singular obsession with “Islamic
Sanghamitra Prabal (sanghmitraprabal@ like the Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS. terror” has destroyed many lives of inno-
gmail.com) is a political commentator based Two Sanatan Sanstha Sadhaks, Virendra cent Muslim youths and their families af-
in Mumbai.
Tawde and Samir Gaikwad, were arrested ter being falsely implicated in terror acts.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW OCTOBER 13, 2018 vol lIiI no 41 17
COMMENTARY

On the other hand, invisible protection Dharmashakti Sena to teach self-defence willingly agreed to stay in its ashram
from the state was a booster for the San- to its followers. There are pictures availa- parting ways with families. They
atan Sanstha that aggressively started ble to prove how the followers, dressed snapped all ties with parents and disap-
preaching its ideology and openly parti- in military uniform, were learning “self- peared in the ashram never to return. A
cipating in debates on news channels. defence.’’ Its mouthpiece Sanatan Prab- few such parents have come together
But slain Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant hat on 16 August 2005 printed a photo and filed a public interest litigation in
Karkare exposed the operations of Hin- of Athavale in a military uniform appeal- the Bombay High Court demanding a
dutva terror for the very first time in the ing followers that ban on the Sanatan Sanstha.
investigation of the Malegaon blast the formation of a Hindu rashtra is inevita- However, the cult did not lose its focus
which changed the entire narrative ble to prevent India from getting divided from the original aim of the Hindu rashtra.
about terror activities in India. into pieces in the hands of secular forces A book titled Love Jihad was published
like Congress. (Sanatan Prabhat 2005)
by the HJS in 2011. Along with the conspir-
Sanatan Sanstha Cult On the other hand, the Sanatan San- acy theory of how Muslim youth lure
The Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS were stha kept its “righteous” face intact to Hindu girls into marriages, convert them
established in 1995 against the backdrop attract nondescript people from all to Islam forcefully and make them “baby
of the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayo- sections, especially women. Despite its producing machines,” the book has pro-
dhya by frenzied Hindutva mobs. A doc- belief in Brahminical values and the duced a “rate card,” claiming that Muslim
tor and hypnotherapist by profession, Jay- Chaturvarnya system, the Sanatan San- boys are getting paid to marry Hindu
ant Athavale, who established both the stha has managed a huge following from girls. The cash reward differs on the ba-
Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS, first start- intermediate castes and Other Back- sis of caste and region, for example, a
ed preaching a mix of pseudoscience, ward Classes. It has written a number of Muslim youth marrying a Sikh girl is
spirituality and religious mysticism. books on how men and women should paid the highest amount (`7 lakh), fol-
Athavale who is from Sion, Mumbai did wear clothes, how to wear ornaments, how lowed by Punjabi and Gujarati girls (`6
research in hypnotherapy between 1971 to celebrate Hindu festivals, how to wor- lakh), Brahmin girl (`5 lakh), Kshatriya
and 1978 in England along with his wife ship god, etc. The organisation has girl (`4.50 lakh), Gujarati Kachhi, Jain,
Kunda. He practised as a clinical hypno- defined its own gods, as they believe Marwadi girls (`3 lakh), backward and
therapist at Sion during 1978–1990 before that the present images and idols of Scheduled Castes girls (`2 lakh) and the
founding the Sanatan Sanstha. Ashutosh Hindu gods are not appropriately de- lowest rate (`1.50 lakh) for a Buddhist
Prabhudesai, a psychiatrist from Goa, signed. The images of gods created by girl (Shinde and Gauda 2011: 9).
was said to have helped the couple to de- the Sanatan Sanstha would fulfil the de- In Sanatan Prabhat, dated 9 June
sign and spread Sanstha’s spirituality sires. These images were seen by their 2013, one Charudatta Pingle of the HJS
theory. The organisation has its primary Sadhaks in dreams after achieving a par- has given a road map of the Hindu rash-
base in Goa, Maharashtra and Karnata- ticular spiritual level. The Sanstha has a tra. The report says,
ka. After gaining confidence that their solution for everything, from hairfall to Police are biased towards Hindus and
spiritual teachings have attracted enough sexual problems, which can be resolved forgive crimes of Muslims. Do not forget
followers, Athavale inculcated bellicose with hypnotism. In the book Laingik Sa- atrocities committed by the police against
Hinutvawadis. Prepare a list of those police-
ideas of the Hindu rashtra among the masyanvar Swasammohan Upchar (Solu- men from now. The first action would be
followers. Though in the infant stage, tion to Sexual Problems through Self- against them during the revolution. We will
the organisation started coaching self- hypnotism), Athavale has claimed to not be able to form the Hindu Rashtra with-
defence and training in arms in 1999. have “cured” one person from impotency out defeating the police and army.
The followers were told that the arms and another gay man was “converted” It has further said that the Sanatan San-
training was necessary to teach a lesson into a “straight” man (Athavale 2014: stha should create its own army of four
to evils in society. It is needless to say 17–41). The organisation entered into lakh Sadhaks trained in arms as well as
that this evil includes Muslims, Chris- the households of common people to sell sadhana or jaap. The organisation is con-
tians, and even the police and the army. camphor, incense sticks and harmless fident that it can fight 30 lakh soldiers,
“Only five per cent battle will be at the religious literature. They definitely gained police and paramilitary forces (Sanatan
physical level. Therefore it is necessary sympathy from the common people for Prabhat 2013: 3).
that five per cent Sadhaks should take being polite, humble and having no ap-
arms training. God will provide the arms parent nuisance value. In a country like Differences with the RSS
through somebody,” the Sanatan Sanstha India, any spiritual guru gets more num- Arguably the extremist organisations like
preached them. It further encouraged ber of followers, especially among wom- the Sanatan Sanstha have emerged after
them to use a gun. “It is okay to not have en, than any political leader. The sat- being disillusioned with the RSS. Like the
practised firing. The target will be cor- sangs are a way for ordinary women to RSS it too believes in militaristic training
rectly aimed if one fires bullet by chant- freely socialise with men in the society. and taking an extreme or sometimes
ing God’s name” (Athavale and Athavale The Sanatan Sanstha is no exception to ridiculous stand on the Hindu religion.
2001: 49). The organisation floated this. It got many women followers who But the Sanatan Sanstha is openly against
18 OCTOBER 13, 2018 vol lIiI no 41 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
COMMENTARY

elections, democracy and the Indian the Sanatan Sanstha has criticised the RSS Minister Narendra Modi (Firstpost 2018).
Constitution, and has no direct interest and BJP after the recent round of arrests Bhide has been accused of engineering
in electoral processes whereas the RSS is of its sympathisers (Haygunde 2015). the Sangli riots and also the recent Bhima
busy enjoying political control. At this But at the same time, the Sanatan Sanstha Koregaon violence that took place on
point, both the organisations differ with seems confident that the present BJP gov- 1 January 2018 (Gangan 2018). Another
each other. The Sanatan Sanstha has ernment will protect the organisation. leader of Samasta Hindu Aghadi, Milind
already declared that all the political par- Ekbote from Pune is also an accused
ties and its leaders are enemies of Hindu Hindutva Designs for of the Bhima Koregaon violence and
rashtra (Sanatan Prabhat 2013). It has Western Maharashtra 23 other criminal cases. Ekbote has
clearly differentiated itself from the RSS. It is instructive to see the activities of been radicalising youths in Pune and
In one of the news in Sanatan Prabhat, these hard line Hindutva groups in surrounding areas. Hindu Rashtra Sena
Jayant Athavale was quoted as saying western Maharashtra to see how they leader Dhananjay Desai is under arrest
complement the Sangh Parivar. The with charges of killing a Muslim engi-
the RSS has 40 lakh volunteers but because
they do not perform saadhana (spiritual western part of Maharashtra up to neer, Mohsin Shaikh, who was return-
exercise), over the last 68 years, they Belgaum in Karnataka has been system- ing from work in Pune in 2014. Desai
have taken the nation to a new low, step by atically radicalised by Hindutva elements is known for his hooliganism and Hin-
step, across all spheres. On the contrary, for over 15 years. Western Maharashtra dutva activities.
over the next five years, HJS will get 4 lakh
is a rich sugar belt with the legacy of a The Sanatan Sanstha has its main
sadhak-karyakarte (spiritual activists).
These activists will perform sadhana and cooperative movement. The coopera- ashram in Goa and Panvel but has attract-
start a religious revolution to establish a tive movement helped the social uplift- ed many followers from western Maha-
Hindu Rashtra … in the next three years. ment of farmers as compared to other rashtra. Its mouthpiece Sanatan Prabhat
Which means, eight years from now, regions of Maharashtra. The milk dair- has a special edition for western Maha-
in 2023, we will establish a Hindu nation.
ies, sugar factories, cooperative banks, rashtra. These organisations believe in
(Haygunde 2015)
educational institutes and engineering twisting history and narrating false sto-
This is where the Sanatan Sanstha colleges were all started because of the ries about historic monuments, spread-
differs with the RSS. At a subtle level, cooperative movement in the region. It ing hatred about Muslims and Chris-
differences between the likes of the was once a stronghold of the Congress tians, using Shivaji Maharaj and Samb-
Sanatan Sanstha and the RSS has an un- and later the Nationalist Congress Party haji Maharaj’s name to attract youths,
dercurrent of tussle between two Brah- led by Sharad Pawar. This region has openly talking about a Hindu rashtra,
min subcastes, namely Chitpavan and been a source and pivot of anti-caste with no hesitation in unfolding its plans
Karhade. This tussle reflects in the frater- social revolutionary movements and about terror activities. When attempts to
nal differences bet ween RSS Hindutva progressive activism. create Hindu–Muslim rift did not work
and Savarkarite/Hindu Mahasabha Hin- This was the part of Maharashtra which in Pune and surrounding areas, systematic
dutva. The origin of the Sanatan Sanstha the RSS could not penetrate for a long time. fissures were created among Maratha
can be traced back into V D Savarkar’s However, Hindu extremist leaders who and Dalit communities by narrating a
thoughts on Hindutva and the making of were disillusioned with the RSS, formed false history of Bhima Koregaon.
a Hindu rashtra. their own organisations and started infil- These activities are suitable for the
The ultimate goal is to achieve a Hindu trating some parts of western Maharashtra. RSS’s ideology and there are grounds to
rashtra. But, the methods they have cho- However, the background of hard line believe that the RSS might be supporting
sen are different. The Sanatan Sanstha’s Hindutva leaders who parted ways with them in various ways. However, if they
ideology is not different from that of the the RSS raises the question whether the are found to be linked with any contro-
RSS but it has camouflaged it with spiritu- RSS itself entrusted them with a respon- versy, the RSS easily disowns them.
ality, religious mysticism and the prom- sibility of concentrating on western Maha-
ise of cleansing the society of all “evildo- rashtra. Manohar alias Sambhaji Bhide Demand for Ban
ers.” This is the reason why Sanatan San- who was associated with the RSS start- The motive of the Sanatan Sanstha is quite
stha keeps talking about corruption in ed his own organisation Shiv Pratish- clear now that it is working towards form-
Hindu temples. It helps them in building a than Hindusthan in Sangli in 1984, a dis- ing a Hindu rashtra and does not dither
“clean” and “righteous” image among trict of western Maharashtra. He has to adopt violent ways for that. Creating a
people. These techniques helped the or- successfully managed to mobilise the parallel system to the existing one is a
ganisations to reach larger masses despite youth, especially from the Maratha com- grave threat to the country. The Sanatan
having a narrow Brahminical ideology. munity, towards Hindutva. In the guise Sanstha has always been ignored for
Nevertheless, the RSS does not want to of telling stories of Shivaji Maharaj, being a small minority of fanatics. But
be overshadowed by the Sanatan San- Bhide has inculcated hatred towards the police and the government are not
stha. On several occasions, the RSS has Muslims. But he seems to be protected probing the financial support, fund-
disowned the Sanatan Sanstha and criti- because of the admiration he receives raising and dealing of lands on which
cised its methods. On the other hand, from political leaders, including Prime the two main ashrams reside in Goa and
Economic & Political Weekly EPW OCTOBER 13, 2018 vol lIiI no 41 19
COMMENTARY

Panvel. The Sanatan Sanstha has shown DNA (2011): “2 Right Wing Activists Convicted in Margao-blast-four-members-of-Hindu-group-
Thane Blast, 4 Acquitted,” 30 August, https:// held-two-killed/article16887287.ece.
the audacity to start an armed battle www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-2-right- India Today (2008): “After Malegaon Leads, CBI to
within the state. They have created an w ing-activists-convicted-in-thane-blast-4-acq- Reopen Nanded Blast Probe,” 23 November,
uitted-1581104. https://www.indiatoday.in/latest-headlines/
atmosphere of hatred among Hindus
Firstpost (2018): “Many Friends of Sambhaji Bhide: story/after-malegaon-leads-cbi-to-reopen-na-
that led to the killing of rationalist Nar- Bhima Koregoan Riots Accused Enjoys Massive nded-blast-probe-33884-2008-11-23.
endra Dabholkar, writer M M Kalburgi, Social Media Following, including Tushar NDTV (2018): “3 Right-wing Activists Arrested after
Damgude,” 29 August, https://www.firstpost. Explosives Found at Maharashtra Home,”
communist leader Govind Pansare and com/india/many-friends-of-sambhaji-bhide- 11 August, https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/3-
journalist Gauri Lankesh. Members of bhima-koregoan-riots-accused-enjoys-massive- right-wing-activists-arrested-after-explosives-
social-media-following-including-tushar-dam- found-at-maharashtra-home-1898987.
the Sanatan Sanstha are caught making gude-5066761.html. Rajput, Rashmi (2018): “Five Held Now for ‘Terror
bombs, openly advocating arms training Gangan, Surendra P (2018): “Maharashtra Recom- Plot’, ATS Prepares Fresh Dossier for Sanatan
and waging war against the state. What mended Bhima–Koregaon Clash Accused Samb- Sanstha Ban,” Indian Express, 26 August, https://
haji Bhide for Padma Shri,” Hindustan Times, indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra-
more evidence does the centre need to 1 March. ats-prepares-fresh-dossier-for-sanatan-sanstha-
ban the organisation? Hafeez, Mateen (2016): “State ATS Had First ban-5324958/.
Sought Ban on Sanstha Eight Years Back,” Sanatan Prabhat (2005): “Nidharmivalyankadun
Times of India, 12 June, https://timesofindia.in- Honare Bharatache Tukde Talnyasathi ata Hindu-
References diatimes.com/city/mumbai/State-ATS-had-first- rashtrachi Nirmiti Apariharya,” 16 August.
Athavale, Jayant Balaji and Kunda Jayant Athavale sought-ban-on-Sanstha-eight-years-back/arti- — (2013): “Hindu Rashtra Sthapanesathi Dharma-
(1999): Kshatra Dharma Sadhana, Madgaon, cleshow/52719016.cms. kranti Avashyak,” 9 June, p 3.
Sanatan Sanstha. Haygunde, Chandan (2015): “Of Sanatan’s Troubles — (2018): “Sanatanchya Santanche Advitiyatva,”
— (2001): Ishwari Rajyachi Sthapana, Sanatan with RSS, the Latest—Not Spiritual Enough, Taken 27 August, https://sanatanprabhat.org/marathi/
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Athavale, Jayant Balaji (2014): Laingik Samasyanvar Hindu (2009): “Margao Blast: Four Members of Shinde, Ramesh and Mohan Gauda (2011): Love
Svasammohan Upachar, Panvel, Sanatan Hindu Group Held, Two Killed,” 17 October, Jihad, Sanatan Bhartiya Sanskriti Sanstha,
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