'Neither the Congress nor the BJP has the political will to take on the Sanatan Sanstha.'
After the arrest of Sanatan Sanstha member Sameer Gaikwad allegedly for the murder of Communist leader Govind Pansare, five families have accused the Sanatan Sanstha of brainwashing women members of their families and keeping them in its ashram forcefully.
The Sanstha claims the young women are willingly staying with the organisation.
Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith) Cchairperson Avinash Patil took over the rationalist organisation after Dr Narendra Dabholkar was assassinated, allegedly by members of right-wing Hindu groups.
Patil, below, left, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com why the Sanatan Sanstha is a danger to India.
How far is it true that the Sanathan Sanstha hypnotises people to induct them into its fold?
It is true to some extent. You see, hypnotism is a state of our mind. A majority of people who are dependent on others need some kind of mental support.
Whenever they face a crisis in life they cannot find solutions and they cannot do without the support of someone. People who have a dependent mentality can be hypnotised very easily and their minds can also be conditioned.
They are told to recite or write mantras on blank paper one lakh (100,000) times. When such people go to gurus and babas they get relief, they feel satisfied.
This kind of satisfaction can be achieved by doing different things too, like a morning walk or yoga or aerobics or dance.
Media reports claimed that some young women were allegedly hypnotised and forced into the Sanatan Sanstha fold. Is that possible?
More than hypnotising I would say they do mental conditioning of the mind. This technique is used by the Sanatan Sanstha as their founder Dr Jayant Balaji Athavale is a psychiatrist.
The Sanatan Sanstha identifies people who are confused in life and do not have any clear idea of what to do, and targets them with their philosophy.
Do you think the Sanatan Sanstha is dangerous to Indian society?
Definitely, they are a threat. We have been saying this for the last 15 years. They have harmed our organisation the most.
Whatever programmes we have organised, they have opposed it. They used to complain that we speak against religion and are a threat to law and order.
They have filed 12 defamation cases against us in Goa and Mumbai. Many of our workers have been targeted.
Why has your organisation taken on the Sanatan Sanstha?
We are not after them, they are after us.
We have a democratic right to organise our programmes. They too have their Constitutional rights, but they want to impose their rights on all of us.
They say we are not religious and are against religion, but the truth is that we are against superstition and black magic.
They also spread lies against us, stating that we are against the Pandharpur Yatra, Satyanarayan Puja and we are against religious beliefs.
Why has the government not banned the Sanatan Sanstha?
We informed four Congress chief ministers (Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan) about their activities. We also informed the then home ministers Chaggan Bhujbal and R R Patil that the Sanatan Sanstha is unconstitutional and a threat to our democratic system.
They publish a magazine, Sanatan Prabhat in which they openly write that they have to overthrow the Indian political system, politicians must be killed and policemen must be opposed. Most of their activities are unlawful.
Did you approach Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to ban the Sanatan Sanstha?
I have met Fadnavis six times in a year personally to apprise him about this issue. He always assures that he is taking some action and will fix up a meeting soon. Till date, he has not arranged any meeting.
We appeal to him that he must show the political will (to ban the Sanatan Sanstha).
Former ATS (Anti Terrorism Squad) chief Hemant Karkare (who was killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks) had proposed to the central government that the Sanatan Sanstha be banned. They are involved in bomb blasts in Goa, Nanded, Osmanabad and other places.
How many bomb blasts has the Sanatan Sanstha been involved in, according to you?
Five blasts. The people involved in these blasts were on the payroll of the Sanatan Sanstha. Five of their members are still underground and wanted by the police.
This organisation is a threat to our society.
We have been telling political parties to take action against them, but neither the Congress nor the BJP has the political will to take on the Sanatan Sanstha.
Has your work been affected after Dr Dabholkar's murder?
There have been many efforts by the Sanatan Sanstha to stop our work. There have been allegations by them that we get funding from Christian missionaries, that we are anti-Hindu.
Another allegation against us is that we have joined hands with the Naxalites. In spite of all this our organisation has grown after the sad demise of Dr Dabholkar.
Today we have more than 300 branches across Maharashtra whereas it was 200 branches during Dr Dabholkar's time. Our organisation has not disintegrated post Dr Dabholkar, but in fact we are doing more work.
After Dr Dabholkar's death none of our activists felt helpless about what would happen to them after their leader has gone.
Some suspect the Sanatan Sanstha's involvement in the murders of Dr Dabholkar and Mr Pansare. Do you agree?
If you see the three murders -- of M M Kalburgi in Dharwad, Comrade Pansare and Dr Dabholkar -- the modus operandi is the same.
There is no motive behind these murders as to whether it was for money or property, a relationship going sour or personal enmity.
They could not be opposed ideologically, so they were killed.
And who was opposing these people openly on ideological terms? It was the Sanatan Sanstha. So suspicion falls on them naturally.
What is the ultimate goal of the Sanatan Sanstha?
They say that Sanatan dharma has to be established in which there is no space for democratic values. They are bad for the democratic system.
Have you met its founder Dr Athavale?
He does not meet anyone, only his followers can meet him.
How many states is the Sanatan Sanstha active in? How many followers does it have?
It is difficult to give a number, but they are active in Goa, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and one or two other states.
Did you find out who funds the Sanatan Sanstha, because they question your funding?
We have not investigated that. Our agenda is not just to oppose the Sanstha. Our agenda is to develop a rational society and strengthen the democratic system. We have a proactive role in that.
IMAGE: The Sanatan Sanstha headquarters in Goa. Photograph: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com