News Analysis |
Bhavesh Patel – one of the two men sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged involvement in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast, returned home to Bharuch two days ago and was given a grand welcome by the crowd which included office bearers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), according to a report by The Indian Express. 40-year-old Patel was handed life term along with Devendra Gupta (42) of Ajmer by a Jaipur court in August 2017.
The Rajasthan High Court had granted him bail last week after the lawyers argued that the men had been convicted on the basis of “human probability… circumstantial evidence… conjectures”. On his arrival at Bharuch, Patel was accompanied by his brother Hitesh and others who had gone to Jaipur to complete the bail procedure. Clad in saffron clothes and calling himself Swami Muktananda, Patel was welcomed by a large crowd at the Bharuch railway station. He went in a procession from the Swaminarayan temple in Dandiyabazaar to his house in Hathikhana area.
hagavan were drawn from organizations such as the Sri Ram Sene, Hindu Yuva Sene, Shivapratishthan Hindusthan, and the recently formed cow protection forums. “There seems to be osmosis of ideas and workers taking place within this network.
The 40-year-old was carried on shoulders by locals at the procession which was attended by BJP’s Surbhiben Tamakuwala, president of the Bharuch municipality, councilor Marutisinh Atodariya, VHP’s Viral Desai and local RSS members, as per the report. Both Bhavesh and Devendra Gupta are former RSS members. People showered rose petals and burst crackers with joy.
Surabhi Tamakuwala, head of BJP’s municipal corporation Bharuch and Viral Desai, president Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) South Gujrat were present during the whole proceedings. The latter defended his presence in the honor of a convict, saying, “Bhavesh is now our religious leader and we call him Swami Muktananda and we have all faith in him. It doesn’t matter what he has done, for us he is our God.”
Meanwhile, investigations have pointed to an unnamed gang, some of whose members have in the past been associated with the right-wing Hindu organization Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliates, killing four rationalist thinkers — Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh — in Maharashtra and Karnataka between 2013 and 2017. Though most of its key members have been arrested, investigators say they are only the tip of the iceberg.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of activist-journalist Gauri has identified over 60 recruits who were radicalized and trained to use firearms. Nearly half of them are from Karnataka, while the rest are from Maharashtra and Goa, said sources. “This is an army of highly radicalized youth trained in arms, to ‘protect Hindu dharma’,” said a senior SIT official. Many of them have no direct links to Sanatan Sanstha or its affiliates.
The Sanatan Sanstha has formed a network which includes an affiliate called the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), used to propel the demand for a Hindu Rashtra. Many consider the HJS to be a militant front of the Sanstha like the Bajrang Dal.
The gang’s large base of recruits comes from a tri-junction region of south-west Maharashtra, Goa and Bombay Karnataka, and from a loose network of Hindu extremist fringe outfits. The hit teams on Kalburgi and Gauri, and the one put together to kill Mysuru-based professor K.S. Bhagavan were drawn from organizations such as the Sri Ram Sene, Hindu Yuva Sene, Shivapratishthan Hindusthan, and the recently formed cow protection forums. “There seems to be osmosis of ideas and workers taking place within this network. Even if this gang is eliminated, there are chances of radicalized persons or groups, trained in arms, turning into lone wolves. It is a serious concern,” an official said.
According to officials, the annual meeting of Hindutva organizations in Ponda, Goa by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and several other conclaves act as a catalyst in this coming together. Recruiters target youngsters with a leaning towards violence and those involved in past communal cases. Parashuram Waghmore, the alleged shooter of Gauri, was a Sri Ram Sene worker accused of hoisting a flag of Pakistan in his hometown, Sindagi, in 2012 to stir up communal tension. He was recently acquitted of the charge.
The Sanatan Sanstha’s main headquarters is at Ramnathi, Ponda in Goa. It has another major office in Panvel, Maharashtra. Moreover, it has offices in Pune, Mumbai, Miraj (Sangli) and other parts of the state. Information about the organizational structure of the Sanatan Sanstha is scarce due to the secretive nature of the organization. However, it seems to be composed of different offices with an inner core that functions like a cult, headed by its leader Athavale. Its members are called sevaks, who are posted throughout the country.
The Sanatan Sanstha has formed a network which includes an affiliate called the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), used to propel the demand for a Hindu Rashtra. Many consider the HJS to be a militant front of the Sanstha like the Bajrang Dal. Recently, it has launched another outfit, which has clear military implications, known as the “Dharam Shakti Sena,” aiming to impart military-style training in an effort to guide Hindus in the art of “self-defense”.
The Sanatan Sanstha is unique in the manner that it is a major Hindutva group that exists outside of the fold of the Sangh Parivar, the network of groups operating under the command of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In fact, the Sanstha has faced most attacks from the political wing of the RSS, the BJP which called for its ban and labeled it a terrorist group.