Mumbai: A day after Dr Narendra Dabholkar, who was running an anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra and had even drafted a bill for the purpose in the late 1990s, was shot dead in Pune by two motorcycle-borne assailants when he was out for a morning walk, Maharashtra Chief Minster Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday hinted at a controversy.
"It was a pre-planned attack. Similar attack happened in 1948. We have requested the Centre to ban such religious organisations. It won't be right to divulge the names of these organisations at this stage," he said.
There have been allegations that Hindu right-wing group Sanathan Sanstha, which often logged heads with Dabholkar, could be involved in the murder. But the group has been maintained innocence.
"Yes, Dabholkar was our rival and he still is. But we are saddened by his death. It is unfair that an organisation working on spiritual activities is being accused of it. We are being dishonoured. What will happen when the investigation proves that we have nothing to do with it," he said.
Other organisations like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, however, continued to spew hatred. The organisation's website on Wednesday carried Dabholkar's photograph which was crossed off.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the anti-black magic and superstition ordinance. Dabholkar had been campaigning for this legislation for over a decade. His family welcomed the ordinance but added that it came too late.
"If the government supports the cause in time, people like my father won't be murdered," Dabholkar's daughter Mukta said.
The rationalist's son Hameed Dabholkar seconded his sister's opinion and said if the ordinance would have been passed earlier, his father's life could have been saved. "If a day after he was murdered, the Cabinet can meet and pass this ordinance, then they could have done this 18 years ago when the fight for this was on," he said.
A bandh call in Pune to protest against his murder also received a lukewarm response, though there were various peaceful demonstrations held in the city.
A massive manhunt has been launched to trace Dabholkar's killers. Police officials said two assailants came on a motorcycle and shot dead the activist who was taking a walk near the Omkareshwar temple in Pune on Tuesday morning.
Pune Police has released a sketch of one of the suspects and is waiting for the forensic report, which can give details about the pistol that was used to fire the four shots at Dabholkar.