Narendra Dabholkar murder case | Pune court convicts two, acquits three

Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar get life imprisonment for murdering the anti-superstition activist in 2013; his son and daughter want the ‘masterminds’ to also be punished  

Updated - May 10, 2024 11:32 pm IST

Published - May 10, 2024 11:46 am IST - MUMBAI

File photo of Narendra Dabholkar.

File photo of Narendra Dabholkar. | Photo Credit: PTI


After nearly three years of trial, a Pune court on Friday convicted two persons and acquitted three others in the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Achyut Dabholkar.  

Dabholkar, 67, a well-known social activist, writer and rationalist, was shot dead on August 20, 2013, by two motorcycle-borne assailants on the Omkareshwar bridge near Pune’s Shanivar Peth area when he was out on a morning walk.

Sessions Court Judge P.P. Jadhav pronounced the judgment sentencing the assailants, Sachin Andure and Sharad Kalaskar to life imprisonment and imposing a fine of ₹5 lakh. Virendrasinh Tawade, Vikram Bhave and Sanjeev Punalekar were acquitted due to lack of evidence. Dr. Tawade was alleged to be one of the masterminds of the murder.

Also Read: On the murder of Narendra Dabholkar

Speaking to The Hindu, Dabholkar’s son and daughter, Hamid Dabholkar and Mukta Dabholkar said, “We are satisfied that the two accused have been convicted and sentenced to life, but the masterminds also need to be punished. We are determined to pursue justice and take the case to the Supreme Court. The chargesheets, including those related to murders of Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh reveal alarming connections, indicating a broader conspiracy spanning multiple cases. All the cases have a common thread, which is what investigation agencies have been saying. Until the conspirator in all these cases is apprehended, the safety of all rationalists remains in jeopardy.”  

Ms. Mukta added, “This journey of 11 years was not easy, but we stuck together. The family and Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti [MANS] activists channelised our hurt and anger into getting justice. The loss suffered by our family cannot be compensated in any way, and the damage caused to the social movement in Maharashtra cannot be undone. It has been life-changing.” 

For the first five years after his murder in 2013, the family and supporters of Dabholkar had gathered at the bridge where he was shot dead. “On the 20th of every month, we had been gathering, addressing the public and demanding a thorough investigation into the case,” said Ms. Mukta. 

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president Nana Patole too demanded that the masterminds be brought to justice, highlighting that “Dr. Tawade and his aides have been acquitted”. 

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a statement said it took over the case based on orders of the Bombay High Court in May 2014. “Chargesheets were filed in Pune court on September 6, 2016, supplementary chargesheets were filed on February 13, 2019 and November 20, 2019. The trial of the case was conducted in the special court for Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [UAPA] against the accused Sachin Prakashrao Andure, Sharad Bhausaheb Kalaskar, Virendrasinh Tawde, Vikram Vinay Bhave and Sanjiv Punalekar. After completion of trial, on May 10, 2024 the sessions court convicted accused Mr. Prakashrao and Mr. Kalaskar and sentenced them. The other three accused were acquitted by the court.” 

Case background 

Dabholkar was the editor of the weekly Marathi magazine Sadhana that focused on topics such as caste, politics, and religion with a scientific approach. Being a prominent campaigner against religious superstition, Dabholkar had also spent several years writing in support of legislation to ban fraudulent and exploitative superstitious practices. He was known for founding the Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith (Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, or MANS).

A few days before his murder, the Maharashtra government had said it would introduce a controversial anti-superstition Bill. According to Mr. Hamid, his father had received death threats before being murdered.  

In September 2021, the special court framed charges against the five accused, marking the beginning of the trial.  

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