I am not worried for my life, threats are not new to me: Nikhil Wagle

In a piece for mid-day, senior journalist Nikhil Wagle, who has been getting threats from the right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha, explains why he rejected police protection; says it is the duty of the state and the police to protect every citizen and create a democratic atmosphere in which differences in thought are respected

Last week, the Mumbai police visited my home and handed me a letter in which they offered me protection. I refused the offer saying one constable will not be sufficient to save my life. The police did not specify the reason. What they said was that the offer to protect me was based on a general threat perception.

Also read: Senior journalist Nikhil Wagle gets threat from Govind Pansare's alleged killers, rejects security

Nikhil Wagle
Nikhil Wagle

I came to know the real reason only when a senior journalist called me on Sunday from New Delhi, saying that the police have intercepted conversations between sadhaks (workers) of Sanatan Sanstha and found that I could be their next target. They could kill me, said the journalist.

I told the journalist the same thing: I will not accept any protection from the police. It is the duty of the police and government to protect everyone. They can do it by offering freedom of expression. They should stop people who do not approve of any thought or expression that goes against their philosophy or agenda.

Such individuals and institutions are there in large numbers, and they associate themselves with different religions. They do not like the questioning of their conduct, ways and means. Sadly, these individuals and institutions do not adhere to the teachings of their respective religions, which call for non-violent ways.

The ‘theoretical parts’ of religions that exist in this world are common in this regard. I have always sought an atmosphere where healthy debates are accepted, enjoyed and taken part in by all stakeholders. But I must say that today’s atmosphere is poisonous.

Any thought that they (right-wing forces) think is detrimental to their agenda is suppressed with physical force, and intellectual forces are forced to take a back seat. I would request the governments to change this into a democratic setup where people like me can express our views without fear or favour.

As far as Maharashtra is concerned, nobody seems safe these days. People like Bhalchandra Nemade, who is one among the few Jyanpeeth awardees of the state, need to be protected by the police. There are several other intellectuals who live under threat to their life. What kind of a state are we living in?

Instead of asking people like me to accept armed guards, the police and the government should be worried about the state of affairs. They should prepare themselves to deal with this kind of terrorism as well. My sympathisers ask me if I’m not worried about my life. Let me tell them that I’m not worried at all.

Threats to my life are not new to me. Sanatan Sanstha has tried to use force with me even before. They wrote against me in their mouthpieces in print and online and even published my phone numbers, asking their workers to intimidate me through texting and voice calls in 2011.

Sanatan has been after me especially after I did a television debate on the anti-superstition bill in 2011. Their spokesperson had walked out of the debate giving enough hints that I will not be spared by his organisation. The threats continued for at least two months after the debate was aired.

I say again that I’m not worried at all. Earlier, several organisations, including some political parties, had attacked my offices and assaulted me and my colleagues. But that did not deter them or me from doing our job of exposing anti-constitutional forces.

And let me assure them that I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions and moderate debates against bad forces as long as I’m alive and kicking.

Another scribe targeted by Sanstha
Shyamsundar Sonnar, a senior journalist with the daily Prahaar, has come under attack from Sanatan Sanstha for preaching Sant Tukaram’s bhakti philosophy in a rational manner.

Shyamsundar Sonnar
Shyamsundar Sonnar

Sonnar, who belongs to the varkari sect, is invited across the state for preaching and lecture series. His rational views are accepted well even by hardcore Hindus who believe in combining bhakti with modern-age living. Sanatan Sanstha’s mouthpiece ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ wrote an article targeting Sonnar for his interpretation of Sant Tukaram’s philosophy.

What angered ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ was Sonnar’s public speech in Latur on September 7, in which he slammed Hindu fundamentalism and advocated rationalism. The newspaper’s article, which appeared on September 11, 2015, spewed venom against the senior journalist and called him anti-Hindu.

Sonnar has lodged a formal police complaint and has asked the police for protection for him and his family from the right-wing organisation. The Mumbai Press Club has condemned threats to both Sonnar and Wagle and sought the state’s immediate intervention.

Pansare murder: TWO Goa blast absconders under SIT lens
Kolhapur: Investigators probing the murder of rationalist and Left leader Govind Pansare suspect the role of two more members of right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha who have been absconding since the 2009 Goa blast, with one of them believed be to the prime accused.

The two suspects — Rudra Patil and Sarang Akolkar alias Kulkarni — are absconding since the blast in Madgaon in Goa, in which two activists of the Sanstha, Gonda Patil and Yogesh Naik, had succumbed to injuries when the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) they were carrying in a scooter exploded prematurely on October 16, 2009.

“We also suspect Rudra as a prime accused in the Pansare murder case,” a police officer in Kolhapur said. The Special Investigating Team (SIT) has launched a massive manhunt for Patil. Pansare, who was 82 at the time, and his wife, Uma, were shot at by two motorcycle-borne youths on February 16, 2015, near their home in Kolhapur.

Pansare died four days later at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. His wife survived the attack, but suffered severe injuries. Sanatan Sanstha member Samir Gaikwad was arrested last week while three others — one from Mumbai and two from Karnataka — were detained in connection with the case.

"Call Data Records of Samir Gaikwad have shown that he was in constant touch with Rudra and both had recced Pansare’s family residence in Kolhapur in January, a month before Pansare was shot dead,” the officer said. — Agencies

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