Pune: A day after prominent rationalist and social activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune, political parties have called a day-long bandh. Dr Dabholkar was spearheading a campaign for the Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition, anti-black magic Bill.
Rationalists and politicians have come out strongly against Dr Dabholkar's murder, once again, bringing out how activists feel unsafe in the country. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Indian Rationalist Association President Sanal Edamaruku said, "We rationalists struggle like this every day, but we should not be put down by such things. Instead we should see this as an inspiration to push harder for our beliefs."
NCP leader Jitendra Awhad said the murder of Dr Dabholkar was a let down. "It's a sad day for Mumbai, let down by a few individuals who should have fought ideology with ideology. Probably, the Nathuram Godse (Mahatma Gandhi's assassin) mentality, which has lingered, is responsible for this killing."
Over a hundred activist on Tuesday gathered at Shivaji Mandir in Dadar to protest the brutal killing of Dabholkar. They demanded that the government must act and find out Dabholkar's killers at the earliest.
"I expect Chief Minster Prithviraj Chavan will take cognizance, I appeal to him that he should pass the bill for which Dabholkar was striving for 18 years," said a friend of Dabholkar, Kumar Saptarishi.
They said that this is not for the first time social activists have been targeted. Many social and RTI activist have been killed or assaulted in the state in the last few years.
Dabholkar is the 9th to have lost his life since 2010. Satish Shetty, who exposed land scams in Pune, was killed in January, 2010. RTI activist Ramdas Ghadegaokar was killed in Nanded in August, 2010 after he exposed irregularities in the Public Distribution System. At least 4 other activists have also been assaulted in the last three years.
"Most of the activists have a long list of complaints before some thing like this happens to them. Promises made to the court about setting up an activists protection mechanism have also not been kept," said activist Sumaira Abdulali.
They demanded strict action from Home Minster RR Patil and also raised slogan against him. They said that it is not only the failure of the government but the society as a whole that someone like Dabholkar had to face death this way.
Meanwhile, Patil said that it would be incorrect to name anyone without an inquiry. "It would be incorrect to name any group or individual without first probing the incident. We will launch an inquiry into the incident," he said.
The murder has also triggered sharp political reactions in the state with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray criticised the government. "A swift investigation should be ordered and the culprits should be caught," he said.
Dabholkar was shot dead on Tuesday while he was on a morning walk near the Omkareshwar temple in Pune. Dabholkar was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade the Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill. He spearheaded the "Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti" (anti-superstition movement) to change social mindset and inculcate scientific temper.
The police have launched a manhunt, releasing a sketch of one of the suspects and the Mumbai Police will provide technical assistance.