NEW DELHI -- While the police have launched a manhunt for a suspect in the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare, it has emerged that Marathi journalist Nikhil Wagle was allegedly the target of right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha.
Sameer Gaikwad, a member of the Sanatan Sanstha, whose phone was bugged by the authorities, is allegedly heard boasting about eliminating Pansare, and naming Wagle as the next target, NDTV reported on Monday.
On the morning of February 16, two assailants on a motorcycle shot at Pansare, a veteran Communist Party of India leader, and his wife, when they were returning from a morning walk to their home in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. The 84-year-old Left Leader was flown to Mumbai for treatment, but died four days after being shot.
Wagle told NDTV that he had turned down a formal offer of security from Maharashtra police.
"I will continue my life without fear, whatever happens will happen, they will give me one constable, how can one constable save my life," he said.
The news channel reported that Wagle had received several threats from the group since he hosted a TV show on Maharashtra's anti-superstition bill in which a member of the Sanatan Sanstha walked out.
In Pansare's case, the police are looking for Rudra Patil, another member of the right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha, suspected to be behind the killing, who was declared absconder by National Investigation Agency since the 2009 Goa blasts, NDTV reported.
Meanwhile, The Indian Express reported that Jayant Balaji Athavale, founder of Sanatan Sanstha, enjoys an exalted status among his followers, who believe that he has undergone "divine changes” over the years.
The "changes," the newspaper reported, which are listed in websites and blogs officially linked to Athavale and the Sanstha, include “hair turning golden”; “divine particles” that “fall off from his body”; an Om symbol on his “fingernails, forehead and tongue”; “various fragrances” emanating from his body.