Since the last three years, I have had to make regular court appearances in a defamation case slapped against me and my editor Tarun Tejpal by the Sanatan Sanstha, the organisation which is now in the news over allegations on the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. The article in concern is this 2009 investigative piece on the Sanstha after it was chargesheeted by the Goa police for a blast that took place in Goa.
While it was baffling that the Bombay High court accepted the case, although it is now on the verge of being dismissed, the content of the complaint perhaps explains the nature of this organisation, the proposal for whose ban has been lying with the Centre. The complaint alleges that this reporter by virtue of her religion has been at the forefront of helping jihadist forces in the country and the evidence that they present for the same is an interview published with the lawyer of terrorist Ajmal Aamir Kasab (much after the mainstream media had fleshed it out).
While it may be hilarious to the reader of this piece and might sound nonsensical, as many ministers in the Maharashtra dispensation would want you to believe, the fact is that this outrageous cult whose existence came to the forefront in 2008 after its complicity was proved in three blasts in Thane, has almost been given a free hand. An off shoot of the HJS (the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti), this cult whose very basis of existence is blind faith, has seen an increasing clout in the sleepy town of Ponda in Goa were it is headquartered.
Further, as our 2009 investigation mentions, “Situated next to the famous Ramrathi temple in Goa’s Ponda district, the sprawling complex of the Sanatan Sanstha appears to be in a different world altogether. On display in the complex are burnt and stained clothes (results of spiritual magic by the gurus, we are told), placards exhorting Hindus to fight their enemies and a painting that has an image of India surrounded by four villains – including ‘people who oppose black magic’ and Mayawati’s BSP, an anti-Hindu party for the Sanstha. As I walk on, I bump into a worker who has laminated pieces of paper stuck over the upper half of his body, including the forehead, nape and back. The pieces of paper have mantras inscribed on them. Asked what it’s all about, the worker – or sevak as he calls himself – says it’s like an amulet to ward off evil powers.
The Sanstha’s newspaper, Sanatan Prabhat, which has a circulation of 5,000, calls for the formation of a ‘Hindu Naxal force.’ The Sanstha’s literature is also quite revealing. It talks of Kshatriya Dharma (the dharma of the warrior) and of “destroying evil by all means, even by laying down one’s life” so that the Sanstha’s followers, under the guidance of their guru Jayant Athavale will be able to convert the country into a divine kingdom ruled by them. Athavale, a doctor by training, spent six years practising hypnosis in London and formed the Sanatan Sanstha in 1990 after his return to India in 1988. He has been questioned by the Goa Police in connection with the Madhgaon blasts.”
It is also Sanatan Prabhat which has in the past not just issued threats to this reporter but also published threatening pieces about senior Maharashtra journalists like Kumar Ketkar and Nikhil Wagle who much like Narendra Dabholkar had sought to expose this fundamentalist cult. Infact, the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare who was investigating the 2008 blasts had also recommended that the state ban the organisation which he believed was collecting funds from mysterious sources and was covertly radicalizing the youth.
It isn’t surprising today that the Maharashtra CM had to tell the media that those who murdered Gandhi were responsible for the murder of Dabholkar, but it is indeed surprising that the Congress-NCP run government has given this organisation a free run despite its complicity in four blasts. Why is it that the state dispensation took no action against the provocative speeches made by the Sanstha against Dabholkar and many other activists like him calling for his blood? Why is it that there was no case or FIR registered against the organisation which openly declared from the Azad Maidan ground that these activists will meet the same fate as Gandhi?
The Maharashtra government need not do much of a home work. All it needs to do is to go back to its chargesheets against the HJS and the Sanstha. All it needs is to have a look at their website which openly calls for action against these activists. The fight is not as much against the blind faith of such cults but the blinkered attitude of the state government, unless it is waiting for many more activists to be sacrificed.