Why the Sanatan Sanstha came into the limelight following the murder of Narendra Dabholkar

08 September 2016
The rationalist Narendra Dabholkar lived from 1945 to 2013.
courtesy maharashtra andhshraddha nirmulan samiti
The rationalist Narendra Dabholkar lived from 1945 to 2013.
courtesy maharashtra andhshraddha nirmulan samiti

Three years after the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on 20 August 2013, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed the first charge sheet accusing Virendra Tawade of murder and hatching a conspiracy. Tawade, a Panvel-based doctor and member of the Sanatan Sanstha offshoot Hindu Janajagruti Samiti was named a key conspirator and was arrested on 10 June 2016 after investigators discovered coded emails exchanges between him and another senior Sanstha member where they discussed killing Dabholkar.

In our last month’s issue, Anosh Malekar reported on the murders of Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.

On the day [Narendra]  Dabholkar was murdered, after the news had broken, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, or HJS, a group affiliated to the Sanatan Sanstha, uploaded onto its website a photograph of the activist with a red “X” over his face. The move drew sharp criticism, and the cybercrime cell of the Pune police directed the HJS to take the image down. The matter ended there.

The Sanstha had long kept up an attack against Dabholkar, disrupting his public meetings, criticising him in its publications and on its websites, and terming him a “Hindudrohi,” or traitor to Hindus. But this image echoed the many anonymous threats that Dabholkar received while he was alive. Perhaps the last of these read, “Remember Gandhi. Remember what we did to him”—a threat that his family told me he received often, sometimes even at public functions. Dabholkar chose to ignore these warnings, and declined police protection.

A day after Dabholkar’s death, the Sanstha published a statement by its founder, Jayant Athavale, on the front page of its website. It read, “Births and deaths are pre-destined and everybody gets the fruit of their karma. Instead of dying bedridden through illness, or after some surgery, such a death for Dabholkar is a blessing of the Almighty.” Athavale added that though “Dabholkar was an atheist and did not believe in god, the same god would give solace to the departed soul.”

Anosh Malekar is an award-winning journalist based in Pune, who prefers traveling in rural India and writing about people living on the margins of society. He has worked with publications such as The Week and the Indian Express.

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