Tomorrow is 20 Aug 2018 – 5 years back on 20 August 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, the legendary figure of rationalist movement in India, was shot dead in Pune when he was out on a morning walk. His ‘crime’? He was the founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti – a popular anti-superstition front propagating rationalist ideas. His campaigns against godmen and self-styled holy-men, as well as his questioning of ‘faith’ and religious rituals and beliefs had earned him some powerful enemies. Dabholkar had been receiving threats ever since he began his campaigns in the early 1980s. Clearly, it was only recently that his opponents felt emboldened enough to launch a murderous assault on him.
Over the past five years, we have witnessed a spate of murders of political dissenters whose opinion challenged the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. CPI leader Govind Pansare was killed in broad daylight in 2015; scholar M M Kalburgi was shot dead in his own home by an ‘unidentified’ assailant in 2015; intrepid journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered in 2017 as she was returning to her home in Bangalore. As investigations now show, there is an undeniable link between all these murders – the accused are activists or sympathisers of the Sanathan Sansthan and the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.
Sanathan Sansthan: Epicentre of a Terror Trail
Terror Network: Several terror groups exist, whose membership often merges into each other. All of them enjoy deep fraternal relations. Spread across Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, these groups include Sanatan Sanstha, its affiliate Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), Sambhaji Bhide’s Shri Shivpratishthan Hindustan, Pramod Muthalik’s Sri Ram Sene and the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti.
According to the CBI, the prime accused in Dabholkar’s murder are Virendra Tawde and Vinay Pawar, both members of the Sanatan Sanstha. Sarang Akolkar is a co-accused, and has also been named in a case of a 2009 bomb blast in Goa. Yet another Sanatan Sanstha activist, Samir Gaikwad, was arrested in 2015 in connection with the murder of Pansare.
All the names which have come up in the Gauri Lankesh murder case – Amit Degwekar, Amol Kale, Manohar Edave and Parashuram Waghmare – are connected with the Sanatan Sanstha and the Sanstha-affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS).
Moreover, recently, more and more chains of the Sanathan Sanstha terror link have been exposed. Sanstha members Sudhanva Gondhalekar, Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar were arrested, along with a huge stash of weapons and explosives. Gondhalekar is allegedly associated with ‘Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan’, an organisation headed by Sambhaji Bhide. He has shared the dais with several members of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha.
WHAT has been recovered will now? 20 crude bombs, large cache of firearms and ammunition, including 16 country-made pistols, five air guns, ten pistol barrels, seven pistol slides, nine partially assembled pistols, 30 live cartridges, six pistol magazines, three partially-made magazines and springs and triggers for firearms. Among the other articles seized are two gelatin sticks, 26 detonators, safety fuse wires, 150 grams of white powder wrapped in newspaper, two bottles labelled ‘poison’, batteries, soldering equipment, PCB circuits, relay switches, a hand-drawn partial circuit diagram, circuit drawings and printouts on the composition of explosives.
While we may not know who exactly pulled the triggers on Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Lankesh (as the investigations are still on), what we know, beyond any doubt is who celebrated their killings! Following each of these murders, the right-wing online and offline ecosystem erupted in glee. Trolls claimed that these ‘anti-Hindu’, ‘anti-nationals’ deserved what they got (https://indianexpress.com/article/india/i-never-heard-of-gauri-lankesh-i-was-a-nobody-until-that-tweet-4835028/). In Gauri Lankesh’s case for instance, Nikhil Dadhich called her a ‘bitch’ (kutiya) whose death should not be mourned: “Ek kuttiya kutte ki maut kya mari, saare pille ek sur mein bilbila rahe hain. These trolls claim loud and clear that they are ‘proud’ to be ‘followed’ on Twitter by various Cabinet Ministers and even Prime Minister Modi! Modi in fact hosted a social media meet, ‘#Super150’, where some of these known trolls were invited guests (https://www.thequint.com/tech-and-auto/tech-news/twitter-trolls-among-super150-invited-by-pm-modi)! He continues to follow these abusive trolls, despite repeated demands to stop encouraging them. There is NO doubt about WHO encourages this brutal and even deadly assault on political dissent on the many Gauri Lankeshs of our time.
We also know how the shadowy organisations like Sanathan Sanstha and the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, whose members are accused of several murders, got publicly encouraged and felicitated by the political establishment ruling the country today. No less than Narendra Modi sent solidarity message to the HJS in 2013, in his official letterhead of the Chief Minister of Gujarat! When HJS organized the second All India Hindu Convention, calling for a Hindu Rashtra in June 2013, Modi sent the following message to this conference: “I feel proud when I heard about the convention from HJS. The great personalities coming from all over the world will be discussing issues related to the welfare of Hindus as also the world. I was happy to get invitation to attend such convention. My best wishes for success of this convention, which has far-reaching effect”. (https://www.hindujagruti.org/news/16434.html). We now know what those chilling “far-reaching” effects were! It was no routine or token felicitations message which VIP’s normally write for number of organizations. It was an official message from Gujarat CM who was aware of the HJS’s global role in protecting Hindu culture!
India today is witnessing a new normal where political dissent is dealt with through witch-hunt, violence, murder and trolling, abuse. Just as mob lynchers feel secure in the support they are sure to receive (they openly admit to their crimes on publicly shared videos), murderers of Dhabholkar, Pansare, Lankesh and Kalburgi and their supporters seem equally secure too.
The GUN is Trained on Democracy!
In the past few days, we have witnessed some chilling attacks. Last night, identified goons carrying guns, sticks and beer bottles brutally attacked AISA activists Kawalpreet, Ankit, Jatin and Rishabh in Vijaynagar, stone’s throw away from DU North Campus. The goons threatened to shoot kill them, before beating them up. After a massive spirited protest today, some of the assaulters have been arrested today. There was an attempt to kill Umar Khalid right in the centre of Delhi, in the high-security area of Constitution Club. The attackers are not yet nabbed, even after they have posted a confession online! In the past one month Swami Agnivesh has been assaulted not once, but TWICE – once in Ranchi and once in Delhi. The goons in both cases are known activists of the Sangh Parivar. A student of Jamia from the minority community was threatened on Independence Day by a group of drunk youngsters, who abused him and told him that they could kill him and NOTHING would happen to him. The victim had to leave his rented accommodation in fear of his life.
Dalits are being publicly flogged, humiliated and even killed, their houses burnt – in Una, Rajkot, Shaharanpur and elsewhere – for skinning a cow, wearing shoes, for riding a horse or for ANY show of political and social assertion. Public lynchings of Muslims is the “new normal”, as lynchers are publicly honoured by Ministers and RSS-BJP leaders. The victims are branded as ‘child lifters’, beef eaters, cow smugglers and slaughters, love jihadis. Any ‘excuse’ is now enough to ‘justify’ the killing of a Muslim.
These signs are indeed ominous. On the anniversary of Dabholkar’s horrific killing, let us remind ourselves of this death blow on democracy we are experiencing every moment today. The footfalls of fascism are well and truly here. We can ignore these signs only at our own peril. The need of the hour is to rise in unison and robustly resist this onslaught.
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