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News Analysis l

In the latest development in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, five names associated with the right-wing ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ have emerged as key suspects. Four of them have Interpol Red Notices against them for their alleged involvement in earlier crimes. All five are absconding.

According to media outlets, the five accused are Rudra Patil (37) from Sangli, Praveen Limkar (34) from Kolhapur, Jayaprakash alias Anna (45) from Mangalore, Sarang Akolkar (38) from Pune and Vinay Pawar (32) from Satara. Three of the suspects namely Patil, Akolkar and Pawar are also key suspects in the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, leftist thinker and rationalist Govind Pansare, and Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi.

Outside the fold of the RSS, the Sanstha is under the control of a leader who is worshiped as a god by his followers who obey his every whim

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Senior journalist, activist, and dissenter Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her Bengaluru house on September 5. Lankesh was the daughter of famous poet-turned-journalist P Lankesh, and was known for her weekly Kannada tabloid ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’ which was a critic of communal violence, the caste system, and right-wing Hindutva politics.

Previously, the Sanstha had denied involvement, saying ideological differences are not enough, “to conclude that Hindu activists have carried out the murder is unfair”.

The Hindutva Cult

The Sanatan Sanstha is declared as “a non-profit organization” and has been functioning in India after its 1990 establishment by Jayant Balaj Athavale. The declared core ambition of the organization is to present spirituality in a logical manner for the common public. Its name translates into the Eternal System and is also called the Sanatana Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha.

Sanatan activists were also found to be involved in a bombing in Madgaon, Goa, in October 2009. According to police records, Sanatan Sanstha had opposed an effigy Narkasur competition in Madgaon

The Sanatan Sanstha’s main headquarters is at Ramnathi, Ponda in Goa. It has another major office in Panvel, Maharashtra. 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 called sevaks are spread throughout the country.

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The Sanatan Sanstha has formed a network which includes an affiliate called the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) which is 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. Now it has launched another outfit which has clear military implications known as the “Dharam Shakti Sena” which aims to impart military-style training in an effort to guide Hindus in the art of “self-defense”.

On 30 August 2015, ten days after Dabholkar’s murder, two men on a motorcycle came to the residence of M. Kalburgi in the Kalyan Nagar locality of Dharwad and knocked at his door

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 the most attacks from the political wing of the RSS, the BJP which called for its ban and labeled it a terrorist group.

Trail of Death: 

The Sanatan Sanstha has been found involved in a number of terrorist attacks and killings. The killings of individuals are allowed by the Sanstha’s ideology that promotes destruction on “evil doers” as a spiritual practice. The people that seem to have fallen foul of this new crusade by the Sanatan Sanstha are rationalists or simply critics who oppose traditional Indian practices for being opposite to logic and fact.

On 16 February 2015, Govind Pansare and his wife Uma were returning from there morning walk from their society. Two men on a motorcycle shot five times at them at a close range outside their house. Pansare later succumbed to his injuries on 20 February 2015.

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The Sanatan Sanstha has formed a network which includes an affiliate called the HJS which is 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

On the morning of 20 August 2015, an activist for scientific understanding, Narendra Dabholkar, was gunned down by shots to the head and chest fired at point blank range by two men who immediately escaped on a motorcycle.

On 30 August 2015, ten days after Dabholkar’s murder, two men on a motorcycle came to the residence of M. Kalburgi in the Kalyan Nagar locality of Dharwad and knocked at his door. After gaining entrance, one of the men shot down Kalburgi and fled the scene.

Initially, suspicion fell on the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, whose activist was found celebrating the murder on Twitter, however, it was an activist of the Sanatan Sanstha that was found to be responsible and taken into custody.

Another major atrocity in which the Sanatan was involved were bomb attacks across South India. In 2008; six people who were members of the Sanatan Sanstha were arrested for planting bombs in Thane and Vashi auditoriums and a movie theater in Panvel. In 2011, two of the defendants were convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.

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Someone declared core ambition of the organization is to present spirituality in a logical manner for the common public. Its name translates into the Eternal System and is also called the Sanatana Bharatiya Sanskruti Sanstha

Sanatan activists were also found to be involved in a bombing in Madgaon, Goa, in October 2009. According to police records, Sanatan Sanstha had opposed an effigy Narkasur competition in Madgaon.

Two members of the Sanatan Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, then residing in Goa, were allegedly carrying a bomb on a motorbike to plant near the place of competition on the eve of Independence Day on October 16. The duo died as the bomb exploded before time. Police later arrested six members Sanatana Sanstha in this case.

The Sanatan Sanstha in some ways manifests the rise of a more deadlier and extreme form of Hindutva. Outside the fold of the RSS, the Sanstha is under the control of a leader who is worshiped as a god by his followers who obey his every whim. The rise of Sanatan Sanstha in the Saffron Terror world highlights that Hindutva is no longer a Sangh Parivar specific phenomenon and has yet to reach its high point of brutality and savagery.

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