MAKING NEWS: The Sanatan Sanstha shot into the consciousness of the Goan public after the 2009 Margao bomb blasts. Two accused — Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik — who ferried the IED to a Diwali pandal in Margao, died when the device accidentally exploded. Six other Sanathan members were later acquitted by a special court
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
With Senior Civil Magistrate, Ponda, Anil Staria, dismissing the civil defamation charges filed against the editor, publisher and printer of the Goan Observer by the Sanatan Sanstha, we are finally free from the ten year harassment. The criminal case was earlier dismissed by the Judicial Magistrate First Class of the Ponda Court. Media and rationalists should unite to move the High Court against the tsunami of frivolous cases filed by the Sanatan to harass those who are critical of their murderous agenda for killing so-called evildoers
On Saturday, April 7, 2018, the honourable Civil Judge, Senior Division, Ponda, dismissed the defamation suit filed by Sanatan Sanstha against Rajan Narayan, editor, Goan Observer, Tara Narayan, the publisher, Elegant Offset Printers and Pradnya Gaonkar, the author of the article in question. Both, civil and criminal cases were filed against Goan Observer and the others on August 25, 2008, in respect of an article written by Pradnya Gaonkar, and published by Goan Observer on June 28, 2008. The article shared the contents of an alleged self-defence manual published by Sanathan Sanstha which seemed to advocate hatred against minorities. The volume was entitled “Swarakshan Prashikhan”.
The Sanatan Sanstha, which has its HQ at the Ramnathi Temple complex in Ponda, in the statement made on behalf by its managing trustee, Virendra P Marathe, residing at Sanatan Ashram Ramnathi, claimed that the Sanatan was a public charitable trust established to educate people in the science of spirituality by organising seminars and workshops. It claimed to have thousands of seekers around the world. The managing trustee claimed that the article published by Goan Observer under the title ‘Protecting Hinduism — Sanatan Style’ was defamatory and was published and circulated with malice to defame the Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanatan Sanstha claimed damages of `1 crore in its civil suit.
The preliminary objection filed on behalf of Goan Observer was pointed out that this was a case of malicious prosecution and that the suit of the Sanatan Sanstha was not maintainable under law as there was no cause of action against the defendants. The defendant Goan Observer in the written statement filed on their behalf by Advocate Joseph Vaz denied that the article was defamatory. The best defence against defamation is the truth, because the truth can never be defamatory!
The written statement pointed out that Goan Observer had relied upon a Marathi volume published by Sanatan Sanstha under the title “Swarakshan Prashikhan”. Pages 92 to 114 of volume 5 and 6, show the Sanstha was engaged in giving training in different types of weapons for self-protection and as such reporting on the matter in the publication and carrying excertps in the article does not amount to defamation.
In the cross examination by advocate Joseph Vaz, the managing trustee admitted that it was true that the book excerpts in the Goan Observer were published by the Sanatan Sanstha. Marathe further admitted that it was true that the pictures of the article of Goan Observer of P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, P6, P7, P8, P9, P10 are reproductions from the book “Savarakshan Parikshan”. The pictures P5, P6 show the use of the trishul for self-protection — P5 shows that the use of trishul against the knees of a person and P6 shows the trishul being used against the throat. Pictures P7 to P10 show the loading of a gun. It is true that all these pictures and the articles show training on the use of weapons. The book also has pictures of the use of lathis, dandas and swords.
In the cross examination advocate Joseph Vaz questioned the trustee on whether the use of gun and sword form part of spiritual teaching. The reply of the trustee was “I cannot say”. The trustee claimed that Sanatan Sanstha was engaged in charitable activity such as distribution of free note books to students, organising health camps etc. Marathe was asked whether imparting training in guns, swords and trishuls is part of charity, and again the answer was “I cannot say”. The Sanatan trustee also had no answer the suggestion by the Goan Observer advocate that in the name of charity the Sanatan has misused the trust and in the process lowered the esteem of Hindu religion. Questioned about the fact that the book on self defence did not carried a single passage from Bhagvad Geeta, though it claimed that it was based on the principles of the Bhagwad Geeta and Vedic religion, the Sanatan trustee virtually admitted that he had not read the book published by the organisation, reflected by his answer, “I have to read the said book published by us”.
Further, Virendra Marathe, the managing trustee, acknowledged that Vedic culture does not propagate the use of swords, trishuls and guns, but allows the use of trishuls and swords for eradication of evildoers. Asked specifically to point out the part of Vedic literature that allows the use of trishuls, the trustee specified a passage highlighted in the article published in Goan Observer but then admitted that it does not speak of violence and is more spiritual in nature.
Marathe admitted that the police had come to the Sanatan premises in Ponda and took with them the hard disks of computers and other documents. Indeed Marathe acknowledged that the arrest of members of the Sanatan Sanstha, called the seekers, in the murder of Dabolkar and Pansere lowered the esteem of the organisation. He also admitted that the trust deed of the Sanatan Sanstha does not specifically mention training in arms, guns, trishuls and lathis. Marathe denied that the case against Goan Observer had been filed to blackmail the publication, and that the legal notice was sent only to threaten the Goan Observer. Marathe also admitted that the besides the present suit against the Goan Observer, four or five suits of defamation had also been filed against other publications. In the Ponda civil and criminal courts alone Sanatan has filed more than fifty cases against publications and reactionaries.
That the Sanatan Sanstha is advocating violence as a spiritual practice in protecting speakers and destroying evildoers is clear
from the comments contained in volume 1E of ‘Science and Spirituality’ titled ‘Spiritual Practice of Protecting Seekers and Destroying Evildoers’, subtitled ‘The best spiritual practises for the present times’ compiled by the head of the organisation Dr Jayant Athavale and Mrs Kunda Athavale. The essence of their beliefs seems to be that the end justifies the means and can be seen in various parts of the book For instance, Sec 12A subsection 12, says “Krushna’s strategy of conduct does not mean plotting fiendishly, rather it is the ability to transgress even the rules of Righteousness to attain victory for Righteousness.” Some disturbing excepts can be read in the box. The sections headers speak for themselves — “Violence towards evil doers is non-violence itself”, “It is a sin not to slay an evil doer”, with section 15 giving guidance on “Actual destruction of evildoers”, which says that writing letters is not enough, action must be taken and asking seekers to make lists of evildoers to be acted against. Section 17B, Stage 4, subsection 3 even speaks of using any available weapons like sticks, stones etc to fight.
The book gives examples of evil doers, and lists, among others, those who seek donations for Ganesh Chaturthi, vegetable vendors who cheat on weights, rickshaw/taxi drivers/doctors/lawyers who charge extra, mechanics who cheat on repair of vehicle etc. The list includes ‘fake saints;’ and ‘those making false propaganda against Spirituality’ which effectively means that seekers of the Sanatan will be the judge, jury and the hangman of anyone they want to deem an ‘evildoer’. The book actually says “Since [the lists of evildoers] are made by seekers there is no question about their veracity.”
WINNING THE CRIMINAL SUIT
The criminal case against the Goan Observer and the other defenders was dismissed by the judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) Ponda, Ms Divijple Patkar, on August 28, 2011. In an order the learned judge acquitted the accused numbers 1 to 5 of the offenses punishable under section 500, 501, 502 r/w 34 of the Indian Penal Code. While dismissing the criminal defamation suit filed against the editor of Goan Observer and other defendants, the honourable judicial magistrate first class Ponda stated “the complainant has alleged that the accused number 1 to 5 with their common intention to defame the complainant wrote, published and circulated defamatory article against the complainant in their Weekly, Goan Observer, dated June 28, 2008 at page number 3 under the title, “Protecting Hinduism —Sanatan Style.” She further stated, “I have gone through the books (from which excerpts from which pictures were published in Goan Observer) admittedly published by the complainant. The said book speaks of destruction of evildoers. The said book contains information relating to use of Karate, lathis, trishuls, knife, air rifle and provides guidance with regard to use of the said techniques/weapons in self-defence and destruction of evil doers”….. “ a reading of the entire article alleged to be defamatory published in the weekly gives clear indication that it highlights the books published by the complainant [Sanatan Sanstha] on self-defence and destruction on evildoers, investigation carried out by the Maharashtra police in bomb blast cases and in connection with the Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram in Panvel and a report published, in the national newspaper “the Indian Express”… “As observed earlier, the said pictures are from the book of the complainant itself and not a creation of the accused [Pradnaya], who is admittedly the author of the article.”… “The cross examination of the public witness 3, Shriramprasad Kushte, has also revealed that he could not tell the contents of the article and that he does not recollect the contents. It is hard to believe that a person who claims that upon reading a publication concerning the [Sanatan Sanstha], the reputation of the [Sanstha] in his estimation was lowered would not recollect the imputations allegedly defamatory of the [Sanstha].” “The complainant has failed to prove that the statements in the publication are false. The complainant has failed to prove that the article in the weekly is defamatory i.e. in the eyes of fair and reasonable persons, it reflects to the discredit of the complainant. Further the imputation or accusation alone will not suffice to constitute the offence of defamation. The complainant will have to prove that the imputation was made with an intention or knowledge or belief of [defaming the Sanatan Sanstha].” “To sum up, the complainant has failed to establish that the imputations are of a defamatory nature and false. The complainant has miserably failed to prove that the accused number 1 to 5 have committed the offense of defamation.”
CIVIL WIN TOO
In the latest judgement before the honourable civil judge, senior division Ponda, on Saturday, April 7, 2018, the charges against the defendants Goan Observer and others have been dismissed. The honourable judge, Anil Staria, accepted the claim of the defendants that they have only reproduced excerpts from books published by the Sanatan.
Sanatan Sanstha seems to consider everyone who disagrees with its interpretation of Hinduism to be evildoers. As already
pointed out, the founder of the Sanatan Sanstha, Dr Athavale, in his writings has shown that he does not consider it evil to kill evildoers (or rather those perceived to be evildoers by the Sanatan).
The Sanatan Sanstha has been implicated in the cold blooded murder of Narendra Dabolkar (killed on August 20, 2013 in Pune) and Left veteran Govind Pansere (killed on February 16, 2015 in Mumbai) both rationalists who had opposed the fanatical statements of the organisation. The murder of MM Kalburgi (killed on August 30, 2015 in Dharwad) was also suspected to be related. The Sanatan Sanstha has also been implicated in the murder of Gauri Lankesh. Indeed, on Saturday, the Indian Express revealed that among the accused who have been arrested in the Gauri Lankesh case was K T Naveen Kumar, a man closely connected with the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a sister organisation of the Sanatan Sanstha. The accused had attended the conference of fundamentalist organisations held in Ramnathi by the Sanatan Sanstha. The Indian Express report reveals that the accused had been entrusted with the task of planning a murder of another Mysore based rationalist because of the good work he did in the Gauri Lankesh case.
The police believe that it was the accused, connected with the Sanatan, who planned the murder of Gauri Lankesh. It would appear that Sanatan members have started carrying out the time table for elimination of evil doers drawn up by Dr Athavale in his book ‘Spiritual Practice of Protecting Seekers and Destroying Evildoers’ which was published in an article in a Dussehra special issue of the Sanatan Prabhat.
The media and rationalists should come together to challenge harassment by the Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanstha has gotten away before because the media wants to avoid the inconvenience of attending court, particularly when it is a criminal complaint. In the case of a criminal complaint the accused has to be present virtually at every hearing. This was what drove the painter MF Husain from India, as the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and other groups filed thousands of criminal complaints which would have required him to give up painting and spend all his time in court. Hussain was given citizenship of Qatar where he could paint in peace and died as an exile in London.
In our own case it took eight years for the criminal complaint, and ten years for the civil matter, to be dismissed, during which time we must have made more than 500 trips to Ponda. Frivolous and vexatious litigation like this should not be entertained by courts as they are a waste of time of the judiciary. It would be desirable for the High Court to club all the cases pending against media organisations and others by the Sanatan so that the time of the court and rational people is not wasted by fundamentalist elements.
Excerpts from volume 1E of ‘Science and Spirituality’ titled ‘Spiritual Practice of Protecting Seekers and Destroying Evildoers’, subtitled ‘The best spiritual practises for the present times’. Compiled by the head of the organisation Dr Jayant Athavale and Mrs Kunda Athavale
On Page 56 of this volume E, Section 11 says “There are three types of spiritual practice for destroying evildoers, namely physical, psychological and spiritual. Section 11A goes on to explain the “Physical” and says “5% of seekers will need to undergo training with weapons”. It says the requirements necessary for physical battle are 1. Good physique, 2. Chanting the Lord’s Name, and 3. Other spiritual practice, and goes on to explain that “It does not matter if one is not used to shooting. When one shoots along with chanting of The Lord’s Name the bullet certainly strikes the target due to the inherent power in the Lord’s Name.”
Page 78, Section 14 J, under the title “Violence towards evildoers is nonviolence itself”, states “this is meant to illustrate whether righteous people should punish unrighteous ones or not. Unrighteousness by other will definitely cause us unhappiness but it will also cause them sorrow. That is why their unrighteous behaviour has to be curbed. If this is not done then we will have to endure a fraction of their demerits stemming from their unrighteous behaviour.
As far as possible this should be done by conciliation. However if this is not possible then he should be punished. Punishing an unrighteous man does not tantamount to violence. In this context violence does not mean inflicting unhappiness but implies harm. …
Non violence is not a principle of Righteousness rather a bare minimum of violence is a principle of Righteousness…
Further in 14 K Dr Athavale under the title “It is a sin not to slay an evildoer”, states “The sin arising out of slaying one who
does not deserve to be killed is equivalent to not killing one who deserves to be killed” (Page 79).
On page 82 of the same volume, in section 15, titled “Actual destruction of evildoers” Athavale writes that “Real seekers, that is those who do not want anything other than the realisation of God, should start making lists of evil doers. Since they are made by seekers there is no question about their veracity. Other newspapers publish complaints of readers on the departments of insurance, electricity, telecommunications, railways, public works, etc. In our daily and weekly newspapers ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ we are not going to stop with publication of letters but will prepare society to take action to fight this irregularities.” (all emphasis ours)
LOCALS WANT SANATAN OUT!
Periodically reports surface of locals demanding that the Sanatan move out of Ramnathi in North Goa district. So far their efforts have not succeeded.
In 2015 the villagers went to the extent of giving the state government a week’s time to ban the Sanstha or shift the ashram at Ramnathi saying that they would organise a rally and a public meeting at Ponda (taluka) bus stand if their demands were not met
They had done so earlier also after the 2009 bomb blasts when mastermind Gonda Patil and accomplice Yogesh Naik, both full-time members of the Sanstha, died while ferrying IEDs on their scooter to a Diwali gathering in Margao, located 35 km from Panaji.
Ramnathi Yuva Sangh President Saurabh Lotlikar also sought to free the village from the “menace of Sanstha” after its members came under the scanner for alleged involvement in the murder of veteran communist leader and rationalist Govind Pansare in Maharashtra.
Sameer Gaikwad, a full-time seeker of the Sanstha, has been arrested in the Pansare murder case.
The Special Investigating Team (SIT), probing the murder of Pansare, suspects role of two more Sanstha members Rudra Patil and Sarang Akolkar alias Kulkarni, who are absconding in connection with the 2009 blast, in the case.
Rudra along with Sarang have been declared absconders by National Investigation Agency (NIA) since the Goa blasts.
Pansare was shot along with his wife near his residence in Kolhapur in Maharashtra on February 16. He succumbed to injuries four days later in Mumbai.
The Sansthan claim that member Rudra Patil, who is suspected by the investigators as the ‘prime accused’ in the Pansare murder case, is not in touch with them since 2009.
Despite all the unrest the Sanatan has continued to court controversy. Last June, the sixth All India Hindu Convention for Establishing a Hindu Rashtra was held at the headquarters of the Sanatan Sanstha in Ponda, and many Goans were aghast to hear one of the guest speakers, ‘Sadhvi’ Saraswati call for public execution of beef eaters. Later In September, the murder of Gauri Lankesh, in which the Sanatan was implicated, kept the Sanatan in the news.