A court in Goa has dismissed a civil defamation suit, filed by Hindutva organisation Sanatan Sanstha, against publishing house Juggernaut Books and author Dhirendra K Jha for publishing and sale of the book ‘Shadow Armies: Fringe Organizations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva’. The plea, moved in 2018, had sought Rs 10 crore as damages, but was rejected after proceedings on February 15.
Jha said that he felt relief and vindication after the judgement was passed. “Persons who feel deeply uncomfortable by my research and my work attempted to silence me by alleging defamation and unleashing a punishing process on me and my publisher,” he said. “But truth is a defence against defamation and, in this case, justice and the truth have thankfully prevailed.”
“At our core we believe that books, authors and ideas must be defended against attempts to silence, censor, ban and injunct,” a joint statement by Chikki Sarkar, the publisher of Juggernaut Books and Chief Executive Officer Simran Khara said. “It can be intimidating to face multi-million-dollar lawsuits but in this instance at least the courts have really come through for us and we are overjoyed by the judgment.”
Sanatan Sanstha is an extremist Hindutva group whose members have been linked with the murders of rationalist thinkers such as Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh and Govind Pansare. The group has accused publishers, authors and historians of defaming it in the past.
In October last year, the group said it had filed a defamation case against the editor, publisher, proprietor, and the printer of a Marathi newspaper, along with journalist Nikhil Wagle and Hamid Dabholkar, son of Narendra Dabholkar. The case was filed after Wagle and Hamid Dabholkar allegedly defamed the group during a public event, and the newspaper had published an article titled “New terrorism of anti-nationalists out of selfish motive” on the organisation.
In August 2018, historian Shrimant Kokate, one of the leaders of the Maratha movement for reservation in jobs and education, claimed a threat to his life from the Sanatan Sanstha. Kokate had claimed that he was being targeted because of his work as a historian, which portrays 17th-century Maratha king Shivaji as a secular monarch interested in the welfare of peasants, as opposed to the Hindutva version where Shivaji is seen to be an exclusively Hindu king fighting Muslims to protect Brahmins.