Murders, drugs, arms, Sanatan Sanstha ‘a holy cow for cops’: Pansare family’s letter after HC direction

The high court had earlier asked the ATS to look into information that will be submitted by the family.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Govind Pansare (left) and Sanstha chief Jayant Athavale

In a 68-page letter to the Maharashtra ATS, the family of slain rationalist Govind Pansare has submitted “evidence” from police documents to point to a strategic plan allegedly by the Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha to kill rationalists and intellectuals in Maharashtra and Karnataka. It alleged negligence on part of investigators to probe the outfit for “reasons best known to them”.

The Bombay High Court, which is monitoring the probe, had asked the ATS last month to look into the additional information that will be submitted by Pansare’s family to probe the motive of the crime. The family met ATS officer and SP Jayant Meena in Pune on Friday last week with the letter which said the perusal of information will enable the agency to identify the masterminds, Newslaundry has learnt. 

This comes months after a judgement in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case pulled up the prosecution for its failure to unmask the masterminds and criminal conspiracy despite 20 prosecution witnesses, three chargesheets, and hoards of evidence gathered by the CBI and Pune Police over 11 years.

‘Attention to 5 chargesheets, 12 accused’

The letter from Pansare’s family details how the Sanatan Sanstha allegedly used large amounts of money, organisational skills, and a committee of sadhaks to carry out murders, arrange arms training camps, track the routines of rationalists, store large quantities of pistols and explosives, and continuously influence the minds of youth.

The family has also appealed to the ATS to carry out a preliminary investigation and act against Sanstha chief Jayant Athavale, leader Virendra Marathe and other office-bearers for their alleged role in the Pansare murder case.

The Sanstha is suspected  to have a role in the murders of Govind Pansare, a leftist leader who was killed in Kolhapur in 2015, academician MM Kalburgi, who was killed in Dharwad in 2015, and journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in Bengaluru in 2017. 

The letter named 12 Sanstha members. 

“We would like to draw your attention to the five chargesheets filed in the case of Comrade Pansare. Twelve persons have been arrayed as accused. Two of the 12 accused have been declared absconding. All the accused are members of Sanatan Sanstha or Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and some of the accused are also named in the murder cases of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Prof MM Kalburgi and Ms Gauri Lankesh and Nalasopara weapons seizure case, and other related cases, which proves that there exists a common link.”

“Besides the commonality of the accused in these cases, there is a significant link between the four murder cases…they were all coordinated and organized by masterminds. This connection is further proved by the use of common weapons…The use of the same weapons in these four cases is mentioned in the chargesheet dated February 11, 2019, filed by the SIT in the Pansare’s murder case.”

‘Agencies not probing Sanstha for reasons best known to them’

The family said agency after agency has turned a blind eye to the alleged role of the Sanstha. 

“We are aware of the fact that you (ATS) and other investigating agencies, like the CBI, Maharashtra Police, Karnataka Police, and Goa Police, are aware of the role of Sanatan Sanstha and its members in these four murders and other serious crimes. However, for reasons best known only to these agencies, this angle has not been investigated. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the role of Sanatan Sanstha and its leaders, Mr Jayant Athavale and Mr Virendra Marathe, as an organised network of criminals.”

To underline organised crime, the letter pointed to bomb blasts carried out by Sanatan Sanstha members Ramesh Gadkari and Vikram Bhave in Panvel, Thane, and Vashi. Gadkari and Bhave were convicted in this case. It also mentioned a recorded statement in the SIT chargesheet about the extensive travels of Sanatan members Virendra Tawade, Amol Kale, Sharad Kalaskar, Sachin Andure, and others – in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, and other parts of the country – to allegedly organise arms and explosive training camps, purchase pistols and bombs, and recruit young people.

“It is evident from the conduct and manner in which the organisation is spread out and functions, that there exists a well-established network, which is operating with a motive to create terror in society by eliminating people who were opposing the thought process of Sanatan Sanstha and its founders and leaders.”

While mentioning the statement of Sharad Kalaskar, the Sanatan sadhak who was convicted of murdering Dabholkar, the letter said, “It is confessed by Sharad Kalaskar that after murdering Dr Dabholkar, all the accused assembled and penned down names of intellectuals, rationalists, etc. who are considered to be anti-Hindu and created a hit-list to target and eliminate such people on directions of accused Amol Kale. It is explicitly confessed and recorded how the hit-list was made pursuant to which Ms Gauri Lankesh was named at the top of the list and was thus murdered.”

It also cited Kalaskar’s statement recorded under KCOCA in which he, along with another sadhak Amol Kale, mentioned a recce in Pune to track retired Bombay High Court judge BG Kolse Patil. 

“The said hit-list seized by Karnataka SIT further named around 35-36 intellectuals, rationalists, etc from across the states, including former MP and journalist Kumar Ketkar, renowned actor Girish Karnad, etc.”

The statement under KCOCA further claimed that Sanatan Sanstha had organised around three teams to plant around 30 bombs at the Sunburn Festival in Pune in December 2017. However, the plan was allegedly cancelled when some members were caught on CCTV cameras. Another plan was allegedly made to detonate bombs at theatres and auditoriums in Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, and Belgaum, Karnataka, that were screening the movie Padmaavat, it said. 

While pointing to the Karnataka SIT chargesheet in the Lankesh murder case, the letter claimed the same sadhaks were responsible for hatching a conspiracy to kill professor KS Bhagwan in Mysuru. And some of the arrested accused in the Lankesh case were also accused in the Pansare case.

“This evidence shows how Sanatan Sanstha was carrying out a strategic and well-prepared plan to kill intellectuals, but also that others in the Sanatan Sanstha apart from the arrested accused are involved. It is crystal clear that there were other people involved in murders of rationalists, apart from those who were arrested by the investigating agencies…Sharad Kalaskar and Amol Kale carried out recce on a retired high court judge when Dr Virendrasinh Tawade was already in jail. Even when the hit-list was made, the prime accused and conspirator, Dr Virendrasinh Tawade was in police custody. This shows the involvement of other key conspirators in these crimes.”

Pansare family also pointed to the doctrine of Kshatradharma Sadhana, a book written by Sanatan Sanstha chief Athavale which advocates the killing of the ‘durjan’ and establishment of ‘Ishwariya Rajya’. The ‘durjan’ is defined as anti-national and anti-Hindu.  The letter said investigations have proved that the syndicate has been underground, carefully planned and marked out the hit-list, and killed them violently.

As per the chargesheet filed in the Pansare murder case, Dabholkar and Comrade Pansare were termed as anti-Hindu.

The Pansare family also said that the murders are linked to the Nalasopara weapons seizure case. Referring to chargesheets, it alleged that the Sanstha organised arms and explosives training camps using homemade guns, pistols, and air pistols in areas such as the Sulibhanjan Forest, Jalna, Belgaum, Aurangabad, Jamboti, Mangaluru, and Pune. In these camps, participants were allegedly trained to make homemade bombs, pipe bombs, rocket bombs, and bombs using gelatin sticks and detonators.

Drugs, finances:  ‘Shocking that you failed to investigate the same’

While calling out ATS for its lackadaisical attitude towards investigation, Pansare family stated, “We are drawing your attention to the chargesheet filed by Karnataka SIT in the murder case of Gauri Lankesh. In the charge column of the said chargesheet, numerous other crimes registered against the present accused have been detailed out. It is shocking as SIT or ATS has failed to investigate the same, as they pertain to the years 2012-14, which is prior to the murders of Dr Dabholkar and Comrade Pansare.”

“It is clear that the involvement of individuals like Dr Virendrasinh Tawade or Amol Kale is not enough to achieve this. Directions and orders must come from influential figures such as Dr Jayant Athavale or Virendra Marathe, the leaders of Sanatan Sanstha.”

The family also highlighted the usage of drugs by the Sanstha, citing a seizure of huge quantity of medicines – such as Alprazolam, Amitriptyline 50 mg, Risperidone 2 mg, Escitalopram 5 mg and 20 mg, Digoxin, Clonazepam 0.5 mg, Amisulpride 50 mg, Quetiapine 50 mg, Etizolam 0.5 mg – from an ashram in Panvel during the Pansare murder probe.

Following the seizure, the food and drugs department in Raigad filed a case against Sanstha’s Panvel ashram and one Dr Asha Thakur. However, the case was dismissed due to alleged negligence on part of the ATS.

“It is shocking that an agency like the ATS never followed up on the drug seizure case at Sanatan’s ashram, which was uncovered by the SIT Maharashtra and later transferred to the ATS. We are equally surprised by such blatant negligence, especially since the ATS was aware of the pending court proceedings. The ATS failed to investigate and prosecute, leading to the case being dismissed in February 2023."

It also referred to the statement of Nidhi Tawade, the wife of accused Virendrasinh Tawade, before the SIT about being administered psychotropic drugs at the Sanstha’s ashram. She claimed that others at the Sanstha were given Risperidone without their consent. Virendrasinh Tawade was also administered this drug, indicating that people beyond Dr Tawade control the members’ actions, the family said.

The Pansare family also criticised the investigating agencies for not investigating Sanatan Sanstha's finances. “The  source of funds has never been traced by SIT or ATS. It has been proved that Dr Virendrasinh Tawade or Amol Kale cannot generate such money unless and until the same was funded by Sanatan Sanstha.”

The court is set to hear the matter again on July 12.

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