The Krithi International Book Fair gave a stall to ‘Shree Siddheshwar Dharmajagruti Sanstha’ – is believed to be a sister organisation of Sanatan Sanstha.

Books by Gauri Lankesh murder suspects Sanatan Sanstha at Kerala govt organised fair
news Controversy Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 19:34

They’re suspects in the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and MM Kalburgi. They are being probed by multiple investigating agencies. And yet, books published by Sanatan Sanstha – a Pune-based right wing group – are allegedly being sold a stall the Krithi International Book Fair in Kerala, which is organised by the Sahithya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society (SPCS) and the Kerala state government. At Marine Drive in Kochi, with just three days to go for the fair to end, a book stall by ‘Shree Siddheshwar Dharmajagruti Sanstha’ has sparked a controversy.

The publisher, Shree Siddheshwar Dharmajagruti Sanstha, is registered in Karnataka. Some people who visited the stall say they saw books published by ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ at the stall. When this reporter visited the stall, we found books published by ‘Sanatan’s Publications’ among others; Sanatan’s Publications is a publisher widely featured on sanatanshop.com, a website linked to the Hindu Janajagriti Samiti (HJS). In its website, HJS says it’s affiliated to Sanatan Sanstha.

According to staff at the book stall, though books are being published by Sanatan Sanstha, the stall was booked under ‘Shree Siddheshwar Dharmajagruti Sanstha’ at Krithi. “By taking part in a fair like this, we only aim to spread spirituality among people,” a staffer said.

The organisers of the book fair said they’ve not gone against any rules in giving a stall to Shree Siddheshwar Dharmajagruti Sanstha. “At Krithi, we give space for small distributors and even book stalls, in addition to exclusive publishing houses,” Joby John, the organiser of the book fair, told TNM, “Shree Siddheshwar Dharmajagruti Sanstha is a distributor cum publishing house which is registered in Karnataka. Allotting them a stall was not against any rule.”

“It was only after coming across some posts regarding Sanatan Sanstha’s presence in Krithi did we check the books that are being exhibited there. But we could not find any controversial books; and since the organisation has not been banned by the central or state governments in the country, we cannot ask them to move out,” Joby added.

The organisers of Krithi have also intimated Culture Minister Kadakampally Surendran about the issue, he said.

Harish Vasudevan, a lawyer practicing at the Kerala High Court said that the organisers should have been careful. "There are several private firms organising book festivals. Despite that, Kriti Book Expo is being organised by the state by spending from public exchequer to give a political message. It is not for profit making. So state should have taken a strong stand against fascist saffron fundamental groups. They should not have allowed this in a cultural space like Kriti," he said. 

What is Sanatan Sanstha?

Sanatan Sanstha was found in 1999 by three doctors – Dr Jayant Athavale, his wife Dr Kunda and Dr Ashutosh Prabhudesai. There had been many suspicions and claims regarding brainwashing of people at this ashram by using the technique of hypnotherapy. But mostly, the organisation is known as a close knit community of individuals with staunch Hindutva ideologies.

The organisation is presently being probed by various investigating agencies in the country like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Maharashtra and Karnataka police.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder case of journalist Gauri Lankesh has chargesheeted about 18 persons in connection with the case. Of these 18, five are believed to have carried out low intensity bomb blasts in Maharashtra and were part of the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, murder of Communist Party of India (CPI) member Govind Pansare and assassination of rationalist MM Kalburgi.

In the chargesheet, the SIT has said that Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Shri Rama Sena, and Hindu Yuva Sena, were part of the larger Sanatan Sanstha family and the people arrested so far “only technically” belonged to different organisations as they are all sister organisations of Sanatan Sanstha.

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