“A third world war will take place between 2016 and 2018, marking the beginning of an end of anti-socials...Training to set up a “God’s kingdom” will continue from 2019 to 2022 and a Hindu Rashtra will be set up by 2023.”
These are not predictions from Nostradamus or a neighbourhood astrologer. This is the time table for the nation drawn up by Sanatan Sanstha, an extreme right-wing Hindu organisation, headed by Dr. Jayant Athawale.
The outfit is under investigation for its role in the 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dhabolkar and more recently by the Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad (ATS) following the seizure of arms and crude bombs earlier this month.
Set up by a doctor couple — Jayant and Kunda Athawale — the Sanstha claims to be working towards the formation of a “Hindu Rashtra” since 1995. The outfit began with a focus on three States — Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Known for its secretive style of functioning, entry into its ashrams is strictly by invitation only.
The Sanstha’s mouthpiece, Sanatan Prabhat, however, ensures that its followers know their enemies. Almost all political parties are termed opponents. The minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, are called the biggest obstacle in the formation of a Hindu Rahstra. The police are not spared either. An article published in the June 9, 2013 issue of the daily says: “We cannot build a Hindu Rashtra without defeating police and the military.”
Investigations into Dabholkar’s murder revealed that the Sanatan Sanstha’s publications have been openly telling its members that violence against durjan (evil persons) is not actually violence at all.
The Sanstha’s book Kshatrabharma (Religion of Kshatriyas) gives a detailed plan of action against such durjan and their kin. “Instead of breaking one branch, if you cut the trunk, all branches will be dead,” the books states.
“If possible, try to stop these people by convincing them; but if that is not possible, then they should be punished,” it adds
The book goes on to explain the need for imparting military training, including with fire arms, to members of the Sanstha. “If one fires the bullet while praying, it hits the aim. Arjuna used to pray to Shri Krishna while aiming with his arrow, hence he was the best archer,” explains the book.
Advocating an armed battle, the publication says Chhatrapati Shivaji did not set up the kingdom by winning elections. “We also have to build the Hindu Rashtra on the same path of battle,” it says.
A passage in the book asserts that the outfit will eliminate 5% of the durjan in the society by turning 10% of the population into its followers.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the murder Dr. Dabholkar, e-mails traced to the computer at the residence of one of the arrested accused, Virendra Tawde, speak of building an army of 15,000 members. Dr. Tawde is a member of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha. Amid claims that a section of police officers is involved with the outfit, the Kshatrabharma says: “The most infamous police department has 5% of our members. They will help us from inside.”
As per the timetable published in the Sanatan Prabhat ’s June 9, 2013 edition, the years between 1999 and 2012 were meant to prepare people’s mind for the elimination of durjan . During 2013-15, a physical, psychological and spiritual battle was to waged against these evil people. A third world war, natural calamities and elimination of durjan are supposed to take place between 2016 and 2018.
Thereafter, training for the functioning of a divine kingdom will take place from 2019-2022. Year 2023 is when the said kingdom will be established, the publication said.
While Dr. Athawale is seen as an incarnation of God by his followers, they are quick to point out that he has never made any such claim. Interestingly, he has not been in public for several years now.
A recent demand from the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil for a probe into Dr Athawale’s activities following the recovery of the arms cache, was dismissed by Sanstha spokesperson Chetan Rajhans, who said the ' paratpar guru' was busy in sadhana (meditation). Mr Rajhans added that his disciples were capable of answering any question.
Under investigation for its alleged involvement in the murder of three noted rationalists and one journalist — Narendra Dhabolkar (2013), Govind Pansare (2015), M.M. Kalburi (2015) and Gauri Lankesh (2017) — the Sanstha has always advocated the need to oppose ‘thinkers’. An article in Sanatan Prabhat for instance says: “It’s a crusade. Revolutionary battle is inevitable to set up Hindu Rashtra. You will claim heaven if you die in this crusade and if you win, you will win the Earth.”
Ahead of the recent investigations into its role in advocating violence, the Sanstha has been accused by former members for indoctrinating adherents. A former close associate and co-author with Dr. Athawale of the Sanstha’s early books, Ashutosh Prabhudesai, a psychiatrist is among those who have left this “cult” on a bitter note.
Dr. Prabhudesai has accused Dr. Athawale of interfering in his marital life and influencing his first wife to divorce him. In an affidavit filed in a local court in Panaji in 2009, Dr. Prabhudesai said his wife was being indoctrinated by Dr. Athawale.
The accusation was echoed by Vijay Rokade, a resident of Khopoli near Mumbai. Mr. Rokade approached the Bombay High Court in December 2011 claiming the Sanstha had applied “'Ericksonian Hypnosis” on its followers and that his wife had refused to return home after joining the Sanstha’s ashram at Panvel. Mr. Rokade’s complaint was backed up by similar complaints from four other families. The petitions have been clubbed and are now pending in the High Court.
The crackdown by the Maharashta Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) began on August 10, 2018 with the arrest of Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar from Nallasopara and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from Pune. Mr. Raut is a member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, while Mr. Gondhalekar is part of the Shri Shivapratisthan Hindustan, both right wing groups. Mr. Raut is known in Nallasopara as a “daring gaurakshak” , while Mr. Gondhalekar's outfit is headed by Sambhaji Bhide, who was booked for instigating the Bhima-Koregaon violence on January 1, 2018.
Though the Sanatan Sanstha has denied that any of the arrested accused are members of its organisation, it claimed that they work for the greater goal of Hindutva and participated in Sanstha's programmes as a part of that objective. However, Mr. Raut was seen on the platform of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), a sister organisation of the Sanstha, to address a press conference against Kanhaiya Kumar in 2016. He also attended programmes organised by Sanstha.
The first seizure of eight crude bombs was on the night of August 9 from Mr Raut’s residence when he was picked up for inquiries. The next morning after he was formally placed under arrest, the ATS went on to raid a commercial space in Nallasopara owned by him.
The massive cache seized from Nallasopara included 12 more crude bombs, two gelatin sticks, four electronic detonators, 22 non-electronic detonators, safety fuse wires, 150 grams of a white powder wrapped in newspaper, two one-litre bottles labelled 'Poison', 10 batteries, a six volt battery, a cutter, a hacksaw, soldering equipment, three switches, two complete PCB circuits, a partially completed PCB circuit, six battery connectors, two battery containers, four relay switches, eight resistors, six transistors, lengths of wires, a multimeter, handgloves, adhesive solution and a hand drawn, partially complete circuit diagram. The ATS’ seizures pointed to a State-wide, highly organised plan.
“The arsenal had obviously been stocked over time, and was being assembled by Mr Raut and Mr Kalaskar. We have information to indicate that they had help from others in this, and are working on identifying and apprehending these people as well,” an ATS officer said.
A day later, on August 11, the ATS also seized 10 country made pistols, along with six partially made pistols, ten barrels, three partially made magazines, seven partially complete sliding mechanisms and other gun parts from a commercial space owned by Mr. Gondhalekar.
Their interrogation, however, provided the first big twist in the tale. Mr. Kalaskar, according to the ATS, confessed that he was “directly involved” in the 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and also named his co-accused, Sachin Andure. The ATS subsequently summoned Mr Andure, a resident of Aurangabad, for questioning and handed him over to the Central Bureau of Investigation after his alleged involvement was established. The CBI said subsequent inquiries confirmed that Mr. Andure and Mr. Kalaskar had gunned down Dr. Dabholkar.
The ATS, also arrested two more accused — Shrikant Pangarkar from Jalna and Avinash Pawar from Ghatkopar in Mumbai.
On August 28 at a custody hearing, the ATS told the court that Mr. Raut and his co-accused were planning to target the Sunburn festival in Pune and had also conducted a recce of the venue. Other targets of the accused, according to the ATS, included movie theatres in Belgaum where the movie Padmaavat was released. On August 29, the CBI, while seeking additional custody of Mr. Andure, told the court that he and Mr. Kalaskar had links with the three accused arrested by the Bengaluru SIT for the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, and that these links were being probed further.