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Narendra Dabholkar assassinated in India

Dabholkar was a leader of the rationalist movement in India, who had been fighting for anti-superstition and anti-black magic bills. He was gunned down by cowards on motorcycles this morning — it was an assassination, plain and simple.

I’m passing along a brief summary I received this morning.

With deep distress and regret I have to report to you the assassination this morning of one of India’s most important Rationalist and Humanist leaders, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, founder of the Maharashtra Andha Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti or Maharashtra Forum for Elimination of Superstition. News is trickling in.

Inspired by the work of the great rationalist Basava Premanand, Dr. Dabholkar, a medical doctor, plunged into anti-superstition work in 1983 and built a concrete movement in his home state of Maharashtra. He was briefly Vice President of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, a Member Organisation of IHEU.

A person of great charm and commitment to the cause,he refused to spread his activism outside Maharashtra because he was keen on first developing a branch of his organisation in each village of Maharashtra.

Organisational work of this kind made the movement a force to reckon with in Maharashtra state where he was spearheading the movement for a Bill against Witchcraft earlier called the Anti-Superstition Bill. The earlier Bill was passed in one house of the legislature but did not get through the second. His untiring efforts were successful, and the new Bill garnered the support of all the political parties except that of the Shiv Sena and the BJP. The ruling Congress party, however, did not take it up on the Business Agenda of the Legislature – many suspect that this was because of the upset it would cause to the orthodox. When passed, it would be a most potent weapon in the fight against superstitions which sap the life blood of Indian society.

Babu Gogineni

Comments

  1. says

    @Stardrake – No different, really, from the ancient and time-honored method of spreading religion by cold steel.

    Thank goodness that Hinduism is a religion (well, several closely related religions, actually) of ahimsa.

  2. says

    Ugh. And the reactions to this are both interesting and baffling. The BJP, the conservative party with ties to Hindu nationalism are demanding an inquest and the Congress, the “secularist” party founded by agnostic Nehru, is dragging its heels. Anytime I read about Indian politics I come away with a big hole inside. I’m going to spend a lot of time staring at the wall tonight.

  3. grumpyoldfart says

    The BJP and other opposition parties in Maharashtra have reacted sharply and demanded an investigation into Dr.Dabholkar’s murder.

    Is that just journalese, or does someone have to ask/demand before a murder investigation is started in India?

  4. says

    Presumably they want someone besides generic Indian cop to take a look into this. So, are they convinced someone who wasn’t a Hindu extremist did this, or are they trying to cover their asses when it turns out one one of their fans did it?

  5. says

    It could’ve been hindus, muslims, christians, hell even buddhists. Sanal Edamaruku’s (another leading indian rationalist) been charged with blasphemy/insulting christians in India, it really could be anyone.

  6. Sameer Marathe says

    Recently Dr. Dabholkar had started a campaign against the Jaat Panchayats (Caste Panchayats). Panchayats are the smallest unit of elected government at the village level in India. These caste panchayats are extra-constitutional governance structures based on caste lines operating in parallel with the duly elected panchayats. Often they mete out very harsh and sometime violent punishments on members who they deem have violated some arcane rule or another – such as marrying a person of another caste. These caste panchayats are little fiefdoms of some very nasty but powerful people with an axe to grind and it is possible that one of them was responsible for the murder of Dr. Dabholkar.

  7. Antares42 says

    I’ve probably used up my quota of platitudes already, but here goes: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

    Fucking fuck. I was actually having a pretty good day, progress at work and sunshine and all.

  8. anuran says

    Every movement has its martyrs. Remembering what was lost with his death may inspire others to remember and carry on his work.

  9. Gregory Greenwood says

    It looks like there are some fanatics in India who are actually doing what the fanatics in countries like the UK and US are currently (for the most part at least) only fantasising about.

    It says something truly disturbing about the state of a society when one risks murder simply for saying that magic isn’t real, and that irrational superstitions are, well, irrational superstitions rather than some kind of conduit to ‘enlightenment’. The problem may be more obvious in India, bit only the terminally naive would think that the same attitudes couldn’t be found just as easily in all corners of the world.

  10. CaitieCat says

    This is appalling, my deepest sympathies to those who loved him. The desperate insecurity of the religious, terrified of anyone who might expose what the faithful know, deep down, is really just bullshit in shiny clothes.

  11. anchor says

    Damn.

    Unbearably sad. One can only find solace in the hope that 10,000+ new anti-superstition converts sprout up in outraged response. They’ll never, ever get rid of us.

  12. steffp says

    My deep-felt condolences.
    Appalling to see those occasional outbursts of religiously motivated violence, often by people who’d in everyday life would avoid to step on a poisonous spider. But of course, rationalism goes to the very foundations of the (double) power structure of rural India, which enforce caste based marriage prohibitions and other discrimination. So there is a strong social-reformist attitude in Dr. Dabholkar’s work, which adds another group to the usual subjects.
    The rise of a modern “Middle Class” in India, which is often seen as weakening the caste system seems to be a mostly urban phenomenon. So are the rather mechanistic affirmative action laws, which reserve quotes for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in education, government jobs and such.
    An awful lot of work still to be done.

  13. DLC says

    First : allow me to offer my condolences to the family of Dr Dabholkar. He was a stout hearted defender of reason, and a foe of the irrational con artists. I read of his activities some years ago and wished I could have helped. Shitheads like the scum who shot him deserve to be shut away from the rest of us where they can’t do this any more. Well, they *deserve* what they gave the Dr. But we’re civilized and don’t murder murderers. Sometimes I wish we did.

    side note: weren’t the castes officially dissolved some years ago ? (yes, I know, that doesn’t mean it went away, any more than the voting rights act or equal rights acts rid the United States of bigotry.)

  14. says

    It says something truly disturbing about the state of a society when one risks murder simply for saying that magic isn’t real, and that irrational superstitions are, well, irrational superstitions rather than some kind of conduit to ‘enlightenment’. The problem may be more obvious in India, bit only the terminally naive would think that the same attitudes couldn’t be found just as easily in all corners of the world.

    I started looking around on the inter-tubes for information about the proposed law mentioned in the news reports. I have not found as much as I hoped but it looks like the main points addressed had to do with frauds and hucksters bilking frightened ignorant people.

    I found the Web site of the organization Dabholkar founded. Here are some highlights of activities the law would prohibit:

    To punish and to beat mentally ill patients in the belief that they are possessed by evil spirits.
    To sell or deal in so-called magic stones, talisman, bracelets, charms.
    To dispense magical remedies for curing rabies and snake bites.
    To dispense medical remedies with claims of assured fertility.

    There were others, several I still can not understand or find explanations for, such as

    To perform Karni, Bhanamati,
    To perform Aghori rites.
    To perform “Gopal Santan Vidhi” to beget a male offspring.

    Anybody have any insight as to what these last three are? All the search engine results I obtain refer back to the murder or the law but not much detail about these rites.

  15. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    Every movement has its martyrs. Remembering what was lost with his death may inspire others to remember and carry on his work.

    Fuck that. I don’t want martyrs. I want converts.

    And by converts, I mean decent people who won’t kill you or rape you or throw you in jail because you don’t worship like they do, or have the wrong set of genitals, or love the wrong sort of person, or whatever.

  16. shash says

    @sadunlap

    Karni and Bhanamati are just different names for black magic. Details don’t really matter – think voodoo.

    The Aghori are a particular sect of Tantric Shaivites. They’re extremely weird – especially the necro cannibalism, but otherwise pretty harmless in that they keep to themselves. Honestly, I don’t know why they were included, since their main centres are nowhere near Maharashtra. I guess you could say ban their “healing” rituals, but otherwise, I don’t think there’s much to worry about them.

    Gopal Santan Vidhi is a rite to beget a son; a pretty big deal in a male heir obsessed India. Again, the rite itself is pretty harmless – just mumbo jumbo. However, it’s a) gender biased, and could lead to a whole lot of mistreatment of the woman involved, as in “even after the magic, you only give me a daughter, you evil woman” and b) the performer can keep raising costs with each female child born, and suck the “client” dry. It’s more of a question of exploitation than anything else.

  17. pradiprawat55 says

    Dr. Narendra Dabholkar’s contribution to Indian society can be aptly described by this Jerry Coyne quote

    We’re in a war not for science, but against superstition, which enables nonscientific views.