Protests continue in Pune against Dabholkar’s murder
The angry protests sparked by the brutal murder of renowned rationalist Narendra Dabholkar have prompted the Maharashtra government to clear an ordinance enforcing the anti-superstition measures he had championed for years.
Mr. Dabholkar had drafted an Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Bill 13 years ago but it repeatedly failed to get through the Assembly.
The Bill had proposed that those indulging in black magic or cashing in on people’s superstitions be jailed for up to seven years.
It also sought to ban a range of practices including animal sacrifice and magical remedies to cure ailments.
Mr. Dabholkar’s family was sharply critical of the delay. “The Bill was kept pending for years. We do not know if his life would have been saved if the government had acted earlier but it would have sent out a message that the government stands by rationalist thought,” said his daughter Mukta Dabholkar. “His life was a sacrifice. Now the government needs to make it clear whether it will protect those who work for society or wait for more of these sacrifices,” she added.
The Bill was introduced thrice in the Assembly and underwent 29 amendments but still not passed. It ran into opposition from the Shiv Sena-BJP and organisations that feared the Bill would target only the Hindu faith and curb religious freedom. The State government had claimed it would introduce the Bill once again in the Assembly session this July but did not do so.
The Opposition is now blaming the government. “The government failed to introduce the Bill in the last session. This shows it had no will to get it passed,” said State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis.
Meanwhile the murder investigation has not yielded any firm leads for the police. Earlier in the day, protests continued in Pune where Mr. Dabholkar was gunned down. In a march led by students, public anger against politicians was apparent. Local politicians who joined the march were prevented from making speeches. “We will not let politicians score points through their fake solidarity,” said youth activist Siddharthya Roy. “I am angry, but I will not let this anger go waste. It is now our collective responsibility to continue the work that Dr. Dabholkar left behind,” said Tushar Joshi, a 19-year-old student who took part in the march.