In a press conference organised to defend their member Samir Gaikwad who has been arrested in connection with the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare, Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu extremist outfit, issued a thinly-veiled threat to filmmaker Anand Patwardhan. Advocate Sanjiv Punalekar, representing the Sanstha, had a heated exchange with Mr Patwardhan. The filmmaker was unable to make himself heard. All the journalists who asked questions at the press meet were photographed individually, which the mediapersons objected to.
Mr Punalekar objected to a protest march led by Mr Patwardhan and MLC Kapil Patil after the killing of Professor M.M. Kalburgi. He alleged that despite the court’s order against any protest in public, the police favoured people who encouraged discrimination towards common Hindus. “When people see that Kapil Patil and Anand Patwardhan are getting good treatment from the police even after flouting the court’s order, there is a possibility they may beat them (out of anger),” Mr Punalekar said.
Mr Patwardhan, who was recording the press conference, asked if Sanatan was going to take responsibility if anything untoward happened to him. “Will you take responsibility if something like this happens? If people like Kalburgi are killed, then we will protest,” Mr Patwardhan said. Mr Punalekar said the Sanstha would not take responsibility. However, the question aggravated Mr Punalekar.
Defending Samir Gaikwad, Mr Punalekar declared him innocent and said he had the support of the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Sri Ram Sene, Hindu Gowansh Raksha Samiti, Rajshree Shivba Vichar Pracharak Mandal and Shri Maharashtra Ramlila Mandal. The spokesperson of Sanatan Sanstha Abhay Vartak alleged a few people were conspiring against the organisation.
“Gaikwad has been arrested but not proved guilty yet. But a few progressive people are crying hoarse against our organisation and demanding the ban. This is an injustice as we are working for the interest of the nation. They are putting pressure on the investigation agencies against us,” Mr Vartak said. The Sanstha also claimed it had submitted leads in the Dabholkar and Pansare murder cases, but the BJP-Shiv Sena government in the state ignored it.
Mr Punalekar said that if Gaikwad was proved guilty, he would sit in a room and “everyone could come and beat him with chappals”.