Several politicians have called for a ban on the Hindu "Sanatan Sanstha" sect after one of its members was arrested in connection with the murder of Govind Pansare, the renowned rationalist.
Pansare was one of three prominent Indian atheists killed recently, in attacks reminiscent of the killings of secular bloggers in Bangladesh by Islamic fanatics. He was known for attacking discrimination, superstition, caste politics and religious fundamentalism.
However, the Hindu group told Reuters it had nothing to do with the February murder of Pansare. It claimed that its mission was opposed to all forms of violence and the group's members are preparing for the advent of a divine Hindu kingdom in India in another 8 years.
"The aim is to prepare people for a divine kingdom, or Ram Rajya, by 2023," said Durgesh Shankar Samant, a founding member of the group that believes India's secular democracy has failed. "Right now an awakening is going on."
After the return of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a mainstream Hindu nationalist party, to power, the Sanatan Sanstha sect has begun to promote ideas like a ban on cow slaughter, with rekindled enthusiasm.
The movement, which claims thousands of followers and produces newspapers, books and websites, is one of a number of Hindu groups that are growing in prominence.
Recently, the Sanatan Sanstha sect welcomed foreign journalists to its Goa headquarters for the first time. The headquarters is housed in a three-storey building where volunteers work at flat screens.
The content produced by these volunteers in Goa, mostly young women, covers everything from the length of hair and style of clothes to best capture cosmic vibrations, to black energy emitted by Western birthday cakes.
Popularly known as "seekers", the volunteers are spiritually measured in percentage terms, and on reaching 70% they become "saints."
Following the 2013 murder of Narendra Dabholkar, an atheist who founded a group of self-styled rationalists, Sanstha's daily newspaper published an article calling his death a "blessing from God." However, neither Sanatan Sanstha nor any of its members have been implicated in that murder.
Jayant Balaji Athvale, who founded the sect in 1990, is considered to be a manifestation of Hindu god Vishnu by his followers.
The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a political organisation, published an article on Athavale's thoughts on slaughtering cows.
"Hindus, who are indifferent towards cow-slaughter and attacks on 'Gou-rakshaks' (saviours of cows), are not fit to live," Athavale is quoted as saying.
The sect uses electronic instruments to photograph "auras" that Samant said strengthens around people and objects matching with the group's version of Hindu practices. The Sanstha hopes to open a university in the future to teach people this technique.
Sanatan Sanstha caught increased public attention after police arrested one of its workers in September as a suspect in the February shooting of Pansare. However, the suspect, Sameer Gaikwad, has not been charged and the group says he is innocent.
India's counter terrorism organization, National Investigation Agency (NIA) has named another follower of the group, fugitive Rudra Patil, as chief suspect. He was already on the NIA's "most wanted" list in connection with bomb blasts near a religious procession in 2009.
Its illegal activities and outspoken publications have prompted calls for successive governments to ban the sect, including new demands from politicians from Goa and Maharashtra.
"Any organisation that is perpetrating any kind of violence ... you've got to be concerned about, but to ban an organisation, you have to have a basis," Kiren Rijiju, junior home minister said of the last government's decision to not ban the group.