One of Maharashtra’s most well-known rationalist thinkers and anti-superstition activist, Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune. Dabholkar was on a morning walk when he was shot near the Omkareshwar Bridge in the city by gunmen on a motorcycle. He died in the Sassoon hospital.
Reacting to his murder, Maharashtra deputy CM said, “The incident is a blot on the state police and the government.”
“The investigation has been handed over to the Pune crime branch,” said Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil. “It is serious and I appeal to the people to keep calm.”
Dabholkar was at the forefront of campaigns against superstition and also brought out several books on progressive thinking. He relentlessly campaigned against alleged saints and godmen and openly challenged the likes of Nirmal baba, a self-proclaimed religious guru and healer. His crusade against blind beliefs saw him bring out Sadhna, a magazine devoted to progressive thought. He also led the campaign to persuade the Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill — opposed by certain sections of the Warkari sect — in the state legislature.
He was also the subject of attacks by right-wing groups who believed that his aetheism was against Hindu religion, which is why every time he tried to hold a rally in Mumbai’s famous Azad Maidan, he was met by protesters of right-wing groups who objected to his alleged anti-hindu views.
Those close to Dabholkar maintain that he had been receiving threats from the Sanatan Sanstha which has its headquarter in Goa and whose members were chargesheeted in a blast case in Goa. Dabholkar was against the organisation preaching superstitious beliefs to young minds who were admitted to their sprawling headquarters with white paper-tapes pasted on their foreheads. “It was not just Sanatan Sanstha, but also other affiliates like VHP and Bajrang Dal – who supported and aided many godmen from across the state – that felt threatened by his campaign” said an activist friend close to him.
Dabholkar was reportedly collecting financial details of two famous godmen and alleged saints from the state. It is believed that they could also be behind his murder. The state police officials refused to speak on the matter, suggesting that it was too early to talk of the culprits. However, they did not rule out the godmen’s involvement in his murder either.