New Delhi: In September 2008, Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) filed a 1,020-page chargesheet against six members of two Hindu revivalist organisations, the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS), for setting off bomb blasts in Thane, Vashi and Panvel some months ago.
Manuals published by Sanathan Sanstha teach its members how to fire a gun and speak of “self defence”. It also tells followers "the gaze should be towards the evil doer".
For the Sanstha, the evildoers are Muslims, Christians and secular Hindus.
The outfit’s spokesperson, Abhay Vartak defends, ”We protect the Hindu way of life. We help people at physical level and combating corruption. This can’t be called extremism.”
Bhanudas Adbai says his daughter Swati, a college student studying Ayurveda, was convinced by her roommate to join the Sanathan Sanstha.
With pained candidness, he confesses his deepest fear, that his daughter may have now been brainwashed and turned into a Hindu militant.
“After the Thane blasts I suspect my daughter has become a militant. There may be more blasts. They are brainwashed to give their lives up as the highest form of spirituality,” he says.
But the Sanathan Sanstha rejects Bhanudas's allegations. “We are not a militant Hindu outfit,” says Varta.
It was at an Ashram in Panvel that Swati began her life as a Sadhak (devotee). The Ashram says Swati was not forced and made up her mind on her own.
Over the last four years, Adbai has been trying desperately to contact his daughter, in vain.
“If she has joined the Ashram on her own free will, why is the Ashram keeping my daughter's whereabouts secret?” he asks
What drives them?
Kshatradharma is the central belief of the Sanathan Sanstha, described in their texts as "the spiritual practice of protecting seekers and destroying evil doers”. Maharashtra's Anti-Terror Squad is investigating the scale of the Sanathan Sanstha network.
The police are alarmed by the pictures of the Sanstha's Sadhaks or devotees receiving commando training and provocative announcements in the cult's newspaper, Sanatan Prabhat, urging its members to become Hindu Naxalites to form a Hindu nation.
Sanstha members say the police have nothing to fear. “We are inclined to spirituality and are only taught about that here,” says a member, Prachiti Deshmukh.
But that's not what some of its devotees seem to follow. Some men arrested by the Maharashtra Police are being accused of bombing a theatre in Thane in June this year.
The Sanstha had objected to the staging of a Marathi play at the theatre, which it said depicted Hindu Gods in bad light.
Two of the five arrested for Thane blasts lived in a Sanstha Ashram and reportedly planted bombs at the outfit’s behest.
“The government ignored the play. We will step in wherever government fails. Before the blasts, we did everything possible for the government to ban the play. But government ignored our protests and requests,” says Vartak.
The blasts might be condemned by the Sanstha, but they seem to follow its violent teachings.
Sixty-year-old Jayant Balaji Athavale, the Sanstha's spiritual head lays out a timetable for a Dharmayudh – the religious war to establish a divine Hindu kingdom.
The stages involved, he says, are converting followers to the cause of destroying evil-doer, then, destroying evil-doers in planned attacks, learning to run the ‘divine kingdom’, and finally, setting it up.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Police also says that the Sanstha holds camps to give military training to its Sadhaks.
How these outfits function
The police say such camps have been organised in Damise, close to the Sanstha headquarters in Ponda, Goa; also in Satara; Karad and Raigad.
Allegedly ex-Army men imparted commando training to the Sadhaks. But the Sanstha denies the charges.
‘The Sanstha is engaged in spiritual work and we are not training Hindu militants,” says Vartak.
However, the Sanathan Sanstha's believers also seemingly subscribe to its literature of hate. The Sanatan Prabhat, printed by a trust linked to the Sanstha, publishes articles and cartoons derogatory to other religions.
Christian priests are demonised. When the Sanatan Prabhat published a derogatory article on the Prophet in November 2005, it led to communal riots in parts of Maharashtra.
While the Sanstha provides the ideological base for Hindu militancy, the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti campaigns against the alleged defamation of Hinduism.
The Dharmakranti Sena is the armed wing. They are all supported by mainstream Hindutva groups.
There is photographic evidence to show the Bajrang Dal, RSS, Shiv Sena and even Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have shared platforms with the Sanstha.
Rabid write-ups on the Janagruti Samiti website endorse the Bajrang Dal's violent campaign against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka – clear linkages within Hindu Right wing groups, many of whom have allegedly organised acts of terror.
Two months ago, Jalgaon in Maharashtra witnessed communal riots, when the Sanstha's members distributed CDs that incited members of a minority community.
The hate speech practised by the Sanstha leaders and its provocative posters and CDs have attracted not only the attention of law enforcement agencies but also many who believe in the idea of the Hindu nation.
Vikram Bhave is a veteran member of the Sanathan Sanstha from Varsai, infamous as the hometown of Nathuram Godse.
Bhave's son Vinayak was one of the men arrested for carrying out the theatre blast in Thane. Bhave says he did not know of his son's plans, but he doesn't condemn the attack.
“Whatever these people have done, they have done it for Hindutva,” he says.
Upshinge, a sleepy village in Satara district of Maharashtra, is home to Mangesh Nikam, arrested for a series of bombing in the state.
His father, retired army Subedar Dinkar Nikam, says his son was brainwashed into joining the Sanstha, even quitting a steady government job.
“They gave him three books and then he quit his job. He would just read those books all the time,” says Nikam.
The trick, some say, is to target vulnerable and upcoming professionals from interiors of the state and groom them over the years according to the extreme Right wing Hindu ideology.