Unchecked since 2008, Hindu outfit Sanatan Sanstha now a well-organised outfit
Sanatan Sanstha – the right-wing Hindu group which proclaims itself to be an organisation with a mission to protect the country and religion – had its members arrested for planting a bomb at a theatre in Panvel in 2008 when ‘Jodha Akbar’ was being screened. That same year, another bomb was planted at a theatre in Thane against the play ‘Amhi Satpute’.
In 2009, its members were accused of carrying a bomb on a scooter which went off prematurely at Madgaon in Goa. Since then, the outfit’s name has featured in the killings of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Kannada scholars MM Kalburgi and Govind Pansare, and in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Security experts say the lack of focus among the state and central agencies has led the group to flourish, and diversify in a systematic manner to form sub-organisations that spread terror.
Police sources said the group trained at least 50 sharpshooters and planned to assassinate at least 36 prominent members, including IPS officers.
“It is a systemic failure on part of the central agencies that they did not keep a check on the activities of what was nothing more than a gathering of few people in 2008. The organisation has managed to gain substantial followers which could prove to be a threat in the days to come,” said a senior IPS officer who has been tracking right-wing extremism in the country.
A proposal was sent to the Maharashtra government to ban the outfit. “The DG’s office had sent a proposal to the then government to ban the outfit when its association with terror activities surfaced in 2008 and 2009. But it never materialised,” said a retired officer, requesting anonymity.
Home ministry sources privy to the proposal said that the then dispensation of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party was not in favour of banning it. “It wanted to start dialogue to keep such organisations under control,” said a senior government official, requesting anonymity.
The government’s unwillingness could also have stemmed from the fact that it was legally untenable to ban the outfit. “The outfit has divided itself into units which are spread across the state and do not have a specific ideology,” said an officer.
The units are registered separately to ensure that in case of any criminal investigation launched against the group, the key leaders or instigators can safely distance themselves from the perpetrators of crime, added the officer.