There’s a wonderful article in Tehelka by Kumar Ketkar about Narendra Dabholkar (dated August 21).
…what is important to note is that his life as well as his brutal death have completely exposed the hypocrisy and vacuousness of Maharashtra’s claim to be progressive and modern. Indeed, his murder has shaken the establishment to the core, much more than his lifelong struggle to eradicate superstitions from society. For more than forty years, he worked to build the organization Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti ( Association to Abolish Superstition) and established a network of thousands of activists across Maharashtra – rural and urban. He had collected evidence on how thousands of women were victims of superstition and were exploited by sadhus, babas and self-proclaimed tantriks and mantriks. For him, therefore, it was also a struggle to liberate women from the shackles of vicious traditions, rituals and magic. Not only from the so-called gurus, but also from the male members of their families.
While the Congress used to feel embarrassed by the campaigns run by Narendra Dabholkar as their sham claims would get exposed, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena felt threatened because they felt that the movement was against Hindu traditions. The militant wings of the Sangh Parivar aggressively organised against Dabholkar’s movement. Not only the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajarang Dal, but also more vicious outfits like Sanatan Sanstha and their ilk. Their publications routinely abused, threatened and spread calumny against Dabholkar’s organisation and volunteers. But to their dismay, Dabholkar’s reach was expanding and gaining strength. The more support he received from the masses, intellectuals and the media, the more shrill and violent became the obscene campaign of the Sanatan outfits. Just a fortnight before he was killed, some of their activists openly said that Dabholkar would meet the same fate as Gandhi. Social media websites were aflame with vulgar abuses and innuendo against Dabholkar – before his death and even after.
And then he was killed. Hate campaigns sometimes end that way.
Every time he exposed the exploitation of poor villagers, there would be some sadhu or thug sanyasi protected or sponsored by a politician involved. While the BJP and the Sangh Parivar opposed him ideologically and politically, the Congress ‘welcomed’ his campaign publicly, but did nothing to enact laws to stop these atrocities. For nearly two decades, Dabholkar fought for strict laws against inhuman practices in the name of spirituality and Hindu traditions. The Congress and the Rashtravadi Congress promised him legislation against superstitious practices and made him amend the draft he had prepared, but then talked of legislative difficulties and shelved the draft bill. On one hand, they were afraid of losing the so-called ‘traditional Hindu vote’ and on the other, they themselves were superstitious. So they talked of not ‘hurting the sentiments’ of people and procrastinated.
The bill was finally ready, but it was not likely to be passed. So Dabholkar began his meetings with individual members of the House, party leaders, the media and opinion makers. His efforts had an impact and that is what alarmed the Sangh-Sanatan Parivar. His murder was the logical and ideological culmination – conspired, coordinated and executed in the same way Gandhiji was killed. Nathuram Godse belonged to Pune; 65 years later Narendra Dabholkar was assassinated in Pune.
Gandhiji wasn’t much of an anti-superstition activist though.