Arrests shatter myth only Muslims behind blasts: Chief Minister

By Prashant Rangnekar & Kavitha Iyer

THANE, MUMBAI: Maharashtra Police on Tuesday arrested two more members of a 
little-known radical Hindu group in connection with the crude bomb blasts at 
theatres screening a controversial Marathi play, close on the heels of Chief 
Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh saying the arrests in the case had blown a hole in 
the popular perception that Muslims are to be suspected for all such attacks. 

The two men arrested on Tuesday were members of the Sanatan Sanstha while the 
two held on Monday were members of the Sanstha as well as that of the Hindu 
Janajagruti Samiti (HJS). They have been accused of planting bombs in two 
auditoriums in Navi Mumbai and Thane two weeks ago and for one which went off 
during the screening of Bollywood film Jodhaa Akbar, also in Navi Mumbai, in 

Only two of the three bombs - crude, low-intensity devices -exploded and 
injured a handful of people. The two organisations have been quick to disown 
the men, saying they were acting on their own even though the HJS has been 
vocal about its opposition to the Marathi play, Amhi Pachpute, saying it 
insults Hindu mythologicals. 

But the arrests were enough for Deshmukh to point fingers at the possibility of 
Hindu groups being involved in subversive activities too. "Normally, when such 
incidents take place a particular community is suspected," the Chief Minister 
said in a statement late on Monday. "But the arrest of two people belonging to 
a Hindu organisation proves that such suspicions are baseless. Criminals don't 
belong to any religion." 

Although the HJS and the Sanatan Sanstha have vociferously proclaimed their 
innocence, the arrests have brought back memories of April 2006 when two people 
were killed in a blast in the house of prominent RSS activist in Maharashtra's 
Nanded town. Those men were believed to be members of Bajrang Dal according to 
Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) investigators and the ATS suspects Sanatan Sanstha 
and HJS may have links with or worked in the past with the Bajrang Dal. This 
week's arrests, they say, have thrown the spotlight on what are apparently 
shadowy organisations that have largely been operating in the hinterlands of 
Maharashtra and fuelling right wing extremism. 

HJS national spokesperson Dr Durgesh Samant was agitated when asked if his 
group was a "Hindu terror" organisation as investigators suspected. "We are not 
just a Hindu nationalist organisation. We also take up nationalissues. All 
these allegations that we are a saffron group are incorrect and have been 
created by miscreants," he told The Indian Express from Goa where HJS is 

On the other hand, the Sanatan Sanstha, set up in 1999, has an ashram in 
Sukhapur village near Panvel, about 50 km from Mumbai. Over the past week, the 
ashram on the banks of the Gadhi river saw several police teams visiting to 
question the sevaks and the management. "The allegations against us are false," 
said Abhay Vartak, the spokesperson for the ashram. "In fact, we condemn such 
incidents and this is not the way of protesting." 

Those at the ashram recollect Ramesh Gadkari, arrested for planting the bomb 
that exploded in Thane's Gadkari auditorium, as a quiet man living in the 
ashram with his wife for five years. "They did menial jobs. He mostly looked 
after construction activities. He attended satsang only once a week," said 

Through its newspaper Sanatan Prabhat, the ashram has condemned the blast with 
an editorial that said, "Though we condemn the act, the mindset and the anger 
of these (arrested) people should be understood and the mocking of Hindu gods 
should be stopped."

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