RUPESH SAMANT/THE GOA SPOTLIGHT
It’s a Sanstha of suspense. And to many, of intrigue, and to the CBI and the Anti Terrorism Squads (ATS) of Maharashtra and Karnataka, of conspiracy and diabolical criminal planning. Away from rarified sanctuary of beaches, restaurants and party palces of Goa, the Ponda based ostensibly highly spiritual Sanathan Sanstha is getting too closely linked to too many assassinations of high profile thinkers and intellectuals, who have openly propagated and written against the sanstha
The CBI in Maharashtra told a Court in Pune last weekend that Sachin Andure of Aurangabad one of the alleged sharp shooters who killed rationalist Dr Narendra Dabolkar, hatched the conspiracy with Dr Virendra Tawde, a member of the Sanathan Sanstha. The CBI has filed a chargesheet against Tawde in October 2016, identifying him as an an alleged “western commander of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), an offshoot of the right-wing group, Sanatan Sanstha as the key conspirator in the murder” . He was also arrested and released in bail on the Govind Pansare murder case
The Sanathan Sanstha website (www.sanatan.org) refers to Tawde as a “Sanathan Seeker”
Interestingly Sarang Akolkar was also named as a sharpshooter in this case, who according to newspaper reports quoting sources stated was a sanathan member and the CBI is on the verge of arresting his accomplice shooter Sharad Kalaskar soon. But the master mind remains Virendra Tawde
The CBI, according to reports of the Dabolkar murder investigation, his killing was actually planned in 2007 but was put on hold by the middle which carried out the pre-diwali blasts in Margao Goa in 2009. Hard disks recovered from the Sanstha office in Panvel, near Mumbai revealed that after failing to conduct “successful” blats in Vashi Thane and Goa, the sanstha focused on specific anti-hindu activists. Each of the targets were referred to as “rakshashas’ (demons)
The Goa Spotlight looks back on the dangerous conspiracy ridden Goa headquartered Sanatan Sanstha, tucked away in the interiors of Ponda away from tourists and totally anti-thetical to the visual narrative of Goa of beaches, churches shacks and laid back cottages.
GOA (PANJIM/PONDA) : IN 2007, on the eve of Diwali that one blast changed the entire perception towards the organization that was till then perceived as centre for Hindu spirituality.
The investigations in the Margao bomb blast case were unbelievable for many and shocking for rest when the role of Ramnathi-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha surfaced. It was then that Malgonda Patil, one of the accused who died in the blast, was found to be associated with the Sanstha.
The promoters of Sanatan Sanstha had refused their role in the blast and had said that Patil had distanced themselves from the accused much before the incident happened.
Sanatan Sanstha continued to remain away from limelight till 2013 when once against it came under the radar of investigating agencies.
Importantly, as the alleged involvement of people linked to or are members of, the Sanstha, high profile murders surfaced, the trend continued for 5 years from 2013 to 2018 and counting) right upto the murder case of firebrand journalist Gauri Lankesh, killed in Bangaluru
on September 5, 2017. The investigations had zeroed in on five accused. The investigators had said that all the five were also linked to the killing of Kalburgi.
Of these five, Amit Ramchandra Degwekar has been linked with Sanatan Sanstha and has been living at its Ashram in Ponda for nearly ten years. He was roommate of Malgonda Patil, one of the accused in Margao bomb blast, who lost his life while allegedly trying to plant a bomb.
He was the promoter of the Sanatan Prabhat newspaper, and has been touring around to promote the distribution of the newspaper. He has been associated with Sanatan Prabhat since the inception of their Goa and Sindhudurg editions.
Degwekar has also worked on projects like ‘Sanatan Panchang’ and others.
While sources claimed that the Special Investigation Team which is probing Gauri Lankesh killing was refused entry in Sanatan’s Ashram, the management claimed that not a single time SIT had contacted them.
Earlier in the past the hard-line Hindu organisation Sanatan Sanstha’s founder-chief Dr Jayant Athavale was questioned in February 2016 by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with the murder of anti-superstition activist Dabholkar.
A CBI team led by Additional Superintendent of Police S R Singh questioned Dr Athavale and one of the sanstha’s directors Virendra Marathe over two days in Goa at the organisation’sPonda headquarters.
Several Sanatan Sanstha ‘sadhaks’, including spokesman Abhay Vartak, were also questioned.
On August 20, 2013, Pune-based anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was killed when he was on his morning walk.
Dr. Virendra Tawde, a fringe rightwing Hindutva activist was arrested by CBI for killing Dabholkar. The involvement of Sanatan Sanstha came when his name was linked with Sanatan activist Sarang Akolkar, one of the prime accused in the 2009 Margaon blast case in Goa, who is presently on the run.
The year 2015 saw two killings and both were linked to Sanatan sadhaks
On 16 February 2015, at 9:25am, Govind Pansare, rationalist thinker and anti superstition activist and his wife Uma were returning from their morning walk from their society in Mumbai. Two men on a motorcycle shot five times at them at a close range outside their house. Pansare was injured in his nape and chest. His wife was injured in her head
Both were taken to the Aster Aadhar Hospital by their daughter-in-law and grandsons. Where after surgery, both of their conditions were reported to have improved but they remained critical. His wife regained consciousness the same day but he remained in a coma. He regained consciousness on 17 February.
On 20 February 2015, Pansare was airlifted to the Breach Candy Hospital after he reported a swelling in his lungs. On the same day, Pansare succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. There was a worrying similarity between the killing of Pansare and Dabholkar.
Here again, Samir Gaikwad, a youth who was arrested for killing Pansare had links with Sanatan Sanstha.
While India was grappling with the death of Pansare, the killers struck again. This time by murdering Karnataka based writer and professor M M Kalburgi right inside his house at Dharwad.
On 30 August 2015, two men on a motorcycle came to the residence of Kalburgi in the Kalyan Nagar locality of Dharwad and knocked at his door. Kalburgi’s wife Umadevi answered the door to the two men, who posed as students of Kalburgi. She went inside to fetch coffee for them, but at 8:40 a.m. , one of the men fired two rounds at point black range, striking Kalburgi’s chest and forehead, while the other waited outside keeping the motorcycle running.
Immediately following the shooting the assassins fled the scene on the motorcycle. An ambulance was called and attempts were made to resuscitate Kalburgi. He was first taken to a private hospital and then to the District Civil Hospital of Dharwad, where the doctors declared that he had died en route
Even as the Sanstha has vehemently claimed that their members, (seekers) are innocent and there’s no evidence of any conspiracy in which they could have had a hand, the degree of probability of the absolute innocence of sanstha members is going down with each new arrest or development presented by investigating agencies.
A govt run from hospitals, but surviving all right
Rupesh Samant/ Team Spotlight
GOA: As we are getting ready to wind up with the year 2018, Goa will remember these 365 days as the one calendar year without the State getting Manohar Parrikar touch. The Chief Minister has been ailing, seriously, since February this year, slowing down the pace of governance in this BJP and alliance parties ruled State.
The year was marked with the politicking of alliance partners and opposition Congress party. While Congress has been trying to create a wedge in the alliance, BJP’s partners have remained firm despite passing out from the honeymoon period.
Since the year 1994, when Parrikar emerged on State’s political scene, this was the first time that we saw him “being there but not there” due to his health conditions.
Here we bring to you a crisp and quick round up of the political year in Goa that we are readying to say good bye.
Alliance kept government on notice
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party led other alliance partners in its impatient behaviour during the year. MGP President Dipak Dhavalikar gave several deadlines to the State government warning of a stringent action but none of their demands were fulfilled. MGP’s primary demand was to hand over the Chief Minister’s responsibilities to Sudin Dhavalikar owing to the ill-health of Parrikar. Dhavalikar was supporting his elder brother as he the senior most amongst others in the cabinet.
Goa Forward Party’s strategic moves is the main reason why Dhavalikar despite coming close to the chair could not get it. The events on the budget day in February signified how BJP and its CM Parrikar were decisive on maintaining a distance between Dhavalikar and CM’s post. On the budget day, Parrikar who was admitted in Lilavati Hospital of Mumbai rushed to present the budget statement on the floor of the House.
Since February till December 15, the MGP has been giving deadlines, the recent one being related to resumption of mining activity. But they never dared to walk out.
GFP also showed their impatience, during certain time, over the slowing down of the Administration. GFP President Vijai Sardesai was occasionally vocal on the issue but was quick enough to add in the same breath that people “needed to understand that CM is unwell.”
Vijai Sardesai has been one of the most loyal politicians to BJP even compared to their own MLAs, something which has earned him the respect if the
Independents like Rohan Khaunte and Prasad Gaonkar too raised the flags of rebellion, but not with much seriousness. Gaonkar resigned as Chairman of Goa Forest Development Corporation, but post that, he had made no attempts to redress his grievances.
Rumblings within BJP
BJP was at its worst during the year with internal fighting becoming order of the day. Michael Lobo and Francis D’Souza were furious at the party organization on various occasions for different reasons. D’Souza was sacked from the cabinet along with Pandurang Madkaikar. D’Souza minced no words in criticizing the BJP.
Another big ticket fight was between a former Chief Minister and state party president Laxmikant Parsekar and current state president Vinay Tendulkar. Parsekar was upset after the Congress MLA from his constituency Mandrem, (against whom he lost) Dayanand Sopte was inducted in the BJP and would be given a BP ticket to contest the by-elections, as a result of his resignation
Similar was reaction from former Industries minister Mahadev Naik when Subhash Shirodkar became a BJP leader in Shiroda
By the end of year, BJP had their RSS troubleshooter General Secretary Satish Dhond back in Goa. After his arrival some of BKJP’s defeated leaders like Dilip Parulekar, Damodar Naik, Kiran Kandolkar, Rajan Naik has once against started climbing up the stairs of Navelcar Arcade, where the Goa BJP’s headquarters are located in Panjim
Mining crisis dented BJP’s image
The crisis hovering on the Iron Ore mining industry was one of the major highlights of the year. The Supreme Court delivered a judgment on February 7 quashing 88 mining leases. The order came into force from midnight of March 15.
The closure is estimated to have affected two lakh mining dependents. But those who are impacted in a big way are around 20,000 people. BJP could not salvage the industry from crisis. In the absence of CM Parrikar, none from the party or the government were able to provide the solution. The party agreed to suggestions of Goa Mining People’s Front to amend the Mining Law in the Parliament giving a new lease of life to mining till 2037.
Auctioning or forming State run Corporation were two other ways that were being thought about to restart mining. But those solutions also stand discarded, at least till now.
The shadow of mining crisis, will hover over the next elections, as the BJP had won majority seats in the iron ore rich belt in the year 2012 and retained their monopoly till 2017.
Major decisions remained on hold in the absence of CM
Major decisions like Tourism Master plan (final), the Casino Policy (final) and others being kept on hold as CM remained hospitalized for most of the year. Tourism Policy is yet to see the light of the day. So also, the off shore casinos are getting extensions after extensions to stay put at River Mandovi, causing angst amongst the NGOs and anti-gambling lobbies.
The State had assured to create an Entertainment Zone near proposed Mopa Airport so that they can be shifted on land. The policy is yet to take shape. There is no word coming from the State government on this issue.
TCP Amendment and the Opposition
TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai faced a lot of opposition during the year. First it was the formation of Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority and later amendment to the TCP Act, the minister continues to be on the target of NGOs and civil society activists. Ironically the minister, responding to the people had actually scrapped most of the panchayat areas, hitherto included under the Greater Panjim PDA
But when it came to case-to-case basis conversion of land from Orchard to Settlement, he faced flak. The minister has said that the case to case basis was to help those people whose lands were suddenly transported into orchard from settlement during drafting of RP 2021. As the process of conversion is going on, the opposition seems to be dying down. He explained that the move was to see that those who made investments as per the land categorization prevalent then and then suffered as the categorization changed.
IT Park at Chimbel sparked Rohan versus Rudolf war
IT Minister Rohan Khaunte’s ambitious plan to have Information Technology and ITES park at Chimbel caused an altercation with former minister Victoria Fernandes and her son Rudolf.
Khaunte went on the record to abuse Rudolf as “goonda” and “extortionist” while latter continued shooting from the shoulders of social activists and locals from Chimbel.
The opposition for IT Park has continued though the State government has already appointed a consultant for the project. The year 2019 will see more events and clashes related to the IT park.
Looking at 2019, the BJP led government has to take decision making forward and in quick time especially when it comes to finances, jobs, tourism and land issues while going on working on the ongoing issues like garbage disposal and errant taxi drivers. Most importantly, Goa needs to emerge as a decision making, and not a decision dragging state.
Forensic head of GMC faces serious charges for wrong disposal of Januz Gonsalves’ body
CCP officials may not face charges since they weren’t tasked with identifying bodies
-Aldona boy Januz Gonsalves’ dead body was disposed off with a set of unclaimed bodies by a mistake
-GMC morgue officials made this tragic and shocking goof up
-Charges of criminal neglect among others likely tp be slapped on former head of Forensics, Dr E J Rodrigues, junior technician Machindranath Jalmi and post mortem attendant Prakash Narvekar,
GOA (PANJIM) There is no replacement to the loss of a loved one and Januz Gonsalves’ family would understand better than most. All hopes that the bereaved family would find justice are pinned on the investigation that is in final stages.
But there’s already a surprise in store. The Crime Branch may not press charges who were asked to dispose off three unclaimed bodies and they picked Januz’ body by “mistake” and disposed off it even before his family members arrived to claim it. Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) staff may be given relief since they were not tasked with identifying bodies before their disposal. “Identification of the bodies lying in the GMC morgue is the responsibility of the hospital authorities and not the CCP. The forensic team handed over the body to the CCP staff without verification and therefore the hospital authorities will face the charges of criminal negligence,” a government official said wishing anonymity.
But serious charges against suspended Forensic Head of the Goa Medical College Dr E J Rodrigues, junior technician Machindranath Jalmi and post mortem attendant Prakash Narvekar, are in store
Gross human error and malfunctioning of the morgue cabinets led to the forensic department hand over wrong body to the CCP, which ultimately deprived Januz’s family give him a decent burial.
The CB claims to have gathered clinching evidence against the errant GMC officials.The five-year-old state-of-the-art mortuary is infamous for repeated breakdowns. The blunder in the case of Januz was a result of this same technical error.
The blunder also gave rise to wild speculations on the possibility of organ harvesting. Whether or not the accused were anywhere involved in organ trafficking is expected to be covered in the investigation, although, highly placed sources have said there is no proof so far.
The GMC has seconded the findings of the Crime Branch on the organ trafficking angle with Dean Dr Pradeep Naik denying any such illegal trade in the hospital. “There is no organ trafficking activity in the hospital,” he told this reporter.
The sinister leadership in the GMC morgue affairs however continues to haunt the hospital. While immediate suspension was one way of rectifying the blunder, the GMC has taken a step further and terminated the extension to the then head of forensics GMC, Dr Edmundo J Rodrigues, The Dean said that the Forensic HoD, who was on an extension till mid-2019, not associated with the hospital anymore. “His extension of one year, from mid-2018 to mid-2019 is terminated,” Dr Naik said.
Dr Edmundo had the responsibility for granting approval for handing over the bodies for disposal. The Crime Branch is investigating whether the bodies are actually checked before handing them over to the CCP for disposal.
The Crime Branch is also investigating the overwriting and scribbling on the department’s register that raised suspicion over the exchange of dead bodies in the cabinets. The investigation team has found that while the entry timing of other bodies was made in blue ball pen, entry in one column of an unclaimed body was in red pen. The age in another column is also re-written indicating foul play. The Superintendant of Police of the Crime Branch, Kartik Kashyap, while refusing to discuss the details, has only stated that the handwriting has been sent for forensic examination. “The report is awaited, otherwise the probe is complete. Once the report arrives and we get government sanction to charge-sheet the government servants, we will file a charge-sheet. It should be done in about two months,” he said.
Each rape of a tourist is a new nail in Goa’s tourism coffin
GOA (CANACONA) The arrest of the supposed rapist of the 48 year old British woman in Canacona within a day, might give the Goa police some breathing space, as criticism mounts over the safety of foreign tourists in Goa. However, the rape in Canacona, where such violent incidents have happened before is yet another nail in the coffin of Goa’s tourism.
In the latest case of the 48 year old British woman, the Margao police have picked up a robber on the run who was arrested in Pernem after stealing about Rs 31 lakhs, and found that he had the ATM card of the British woman who was raped. This was a sheer stroke of luck and perhaps luck is all that the Goa police needs and has, to get out of the spiral of unsolved rape and murder cases of foreign tourists.
What has made Goa unsafe in the perception of foreign tourists, tour operators and sections of the government- especially in Britain- is that many criminals roam free and escape the arm of the law. To a large extent this is true.
The accused in the latest Canacona rape case was identified as Ramchandran Y ( 31) from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, in other cases, like the gang rape of a Goan woman in Betalbatim, the perpetrators were from outside Goa. Goa is increasingly becoming a hunting ground for rapists from other states, whose acts deliver a blow to the prospects of Goa as a safe destination for tourists and even locals.
The latest Canacona rape in December follows an open letter written In November 2018, by Sanna Pirhonen Cutter and Minna Pirhonen aunt and mother of the deceased Finnisbh tourist Felix Dahl, to the Goa government on behalf of families who have lost their loved ones, in Goa, each of whom have died under mysterious circumstances
In 2015, Dahl was found dead on the streets of Agonda.
The letter reported by most of the local dailies of Goa, was written in the backdrop of the draft tourism policy of Goa released around that time. The letter sated “As usual, the most important aspect has been left out completely, which is the tourist itself. Tourists make the tourism in Goa. Because today there is no safety, law or order to protect the tourists, they choose a safer destination at the moment. Due to the unsolved murders and death cases, Goa today seems a very risky and dangerous destination”
The letter went on to add “The unsolved murders should be investigated rapidly to have the guilty Goans or any other nationals prosecuted and convicted. Crimes happen elsewhere too, but there is an attempt to catch the killers, but that is not the case in Goa…When the local authorities clean the destinations from the dangerous elements, they can be recommended to tourists as safe destinations. Tourists should be warned about those localities where unsolved crimes still exists.
The cases are piling up. And when you have murders and/ or rapes of international tourists annually, it’s enough to scare even the most ardent Goa loving foreign tourist.
Importantly, the number of rapes and murders/ mysterious deaths of foreign tourists in Goa’s southern most taluka, Canacona is something that both the foreign press and families of victims are contending with and there is ring of solidarity around them.
And this group, for all the right reasons, continuously raise red flags in social media and elsewhere, not letting the focus on these cases as well as the level of policing and investigation in new cases, to cease.
Danielle McLaughlin was killed in March 2017 in Canacona, the same village where the latest gruesome rape happened. But here the trial is going on in court and the alleged killer has been identified.
Going back to Dahl’s death, In 2015, Finnish student Felix Dahl, was found killed, in suspicious circumstances and his body was found in Patnem in Canacona with skull fractures and brain haemorrhage. In 2016 the Goa police closed the case which was then handed over to the CBI on the orders of the High Court.
And the High Court’s observations about the shoddy investigation, is a clear indictment of not this case alone but a pattern of the manner in which these cases are dealt with. Commenting on the nature of police investigations in the case filed to get the Felix Dahl investigations done by a seemingly more competent agency, the bench of Justices Prithviraj K Chavan and NM Jamdar observed “In the entire investigation papers, there is no indication at all that angle of homicide is considered. Why not is the moot question,” it said.
The bench further noted, “The skull is one of the hardest bone in the human body. For the skull to have five life-threatening fractures with haemorrhage, it was likely to be a result of a violent force. What we find surprising is that this theory was not even considered as possible”.
But there was another line in the observation which was the most damning because here the bench indicated that there was actually a motive behind the police steering away from the homicide angle and it wasn’t just professional incompetence, mentioning that the police “chose” to avoid investigating this as a murder case. It stated “The local police have CHOSEN to steer the investigation clear of the angle of homicide, even though it was one of the strong hypothesis,”
And in North Goa, we woke up to the death of Denyse Sweeney in 2012, after her visit to a night club a case still mired in mystery. And of course, the drowning ( a case of potential murder though the judgment in the trial court did not conclude as such) of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, was one of the most covered and watched cases in the world, through the first two years since Scarlett died in 2008.
The latest rape of a British tourist in the week leading up to Christmas has once again brought Goa back in the national and international media glare as an unsafe tourism destination, and we are entering the high tourist season.
There have been many such cases that have seen no closure. It could, in the long run, lead to a closure of the tourism industry in Goa.