An atheist and anti-superstition activist was shot dead in religious and superstitious India.

Anti-Superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar is shot dead in superstitious India. He was killed because he committed a crime, his crime was he fought against superstitions and he wanted to eradicate deep rooted superstitions in India.

Narendra Dabholkar, leading anti-superstition campaigner, social worker and journalist, was gunned down in Pune by unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants, police said.

The attack took place around 7.30 a.m. near Omkareshwar Temple, when Dabholkar, in his 60s, was on his morning walk.The two gunmen fired indiscriminately at Dabholkar and sped away, leaving him in a pool of blood.The victim was rushed by other co-walkers to Sassoon Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Dabholkar, a doctor, was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade the Maharashtra Government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill called the anti-JaduTona bill. Right wing Hindu groups, including certain sections of the Warkari Sect and political parties had been opposing to the bill.

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A rationalist known for his bold views and sustained campaign against superstitions for over three decades, Dabholkar had rubbed many people the wrong way.In his 60s, he was largely instrumental in pushing the state government to frame an anti-superstition law which is in the final stages of legislative approval.

In 1989, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS)– the Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith –, along with a few like-minded people and raised cudgels against all types of superstitions, irrational practices, blind faith and beliefs, confronting dubious tantriks and babas who preyed on the gullible masses.

He also led agitations against superstitions, animal sacrifices and even water pollution, wrote columns and articles on his favourite topics and was editor of a couple of journals dedicated to the cause.

A look at the website antisuperstition.org showed how passionate he was about the cause and showcased the depth of his research about the topic. The site explains many superstitions like ghosts, black magic, witchcraft and provides scientific arguments against them.It also lists down many activities that one can undertake to dispel such superstitions and support the cause.

Dabholkar, known for his campaigns to promote progressive and scientific thought, had for several years been lobbying for Maharashtra state’s parliament to pass legislation banning superstition and black magic.

Two years ago, in an interview with AFP, he rejected critics’ charges that the bill was anti-religion.

“In the whole of the bill, there’s not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away,” he said.

“This is about fraudulent and exploitative practices,” he said.

Over the years, Dabholkar had also challenged some of India’s “godmen,” self-styled Hindu ascetics who have huge followings, over their claims of “miracles” performed. He has also campaigned against animal sacrifices sometimes used during religious rituals.

Dabholkar, who Indian media said was aged 71, was editor of a magazine called “Sadhana” or spiritual practice, devoted to the propagation of progressive thought.

Dabholkar’s killing has been widely condemned by people from all sections of society and political parties alike. But if our netas truly want to honour his life, they should give the Anti-Superstition bill, for which he fought so fervently, a serious thought , rather than engaging in mere lip service.

What a loss!
Let’s all shed tears for this loss. Let’s salute brave Narendra Dabholkar for his great struggle. Let’s bow to him.

Someone told me today, ‘you should be careful’. I was asked to be careful because I have been doing the same work Narendra Dabholkar was doing. I am fighting against religion and superstitions and trying to encourage people to have scientific outlook. I would probably be killed one day exactly the same way Dabholkar was killed today. He got four bullets. I would get ten bullets. Two bullets for fighting religion, two bullets for fighting superstitions, and six bullets for fighting misogyny. Indian society is not only superstitious, it is a very misogynistic.
No, I am not worried for myself. I am sad today for losing a great man. India needs people like Narendra Dabholkar more than India needs anything.

Happy Independence Day!

Today is August 15. . 66 years ago India got independence from British rule. Let’s celebrate the day.

I was asked by The Hindu, one of he leading newspapers of India to write about my own experience of this country.

Here is what I wrote.

‘When I first visited India in the late ‘80s, I did not for an instant think I was in another country. I felt I belonged here and that it was, in some fundamental way, inseparable from the land I called my own. The reason for this was not my Hindu forebear. The reason was not that one of India’s many cultures is my own or that I speak one of her many languages or the fact that I look Indian. It is because the values and traditions that define India are embedded deeply within me. These values and traditions are a manifestation of the history of the subcontinent; I have been enriched and enlivened by it. I am also a victim of its poverty, colonial legacy, communalism, violence, bloodshed, partition, migrations, exodus, riots, wars and even theories of nationhood. I have been hardened further by my life and experiences in a poverty- and famine-stricken, ill-governed country called Bangladesh.

The intolerance, fanaticism and bigotry of Islamist fundamentalists forced me to leave Bangladesh. I was forced to go into exile; the doors of my own country slammed shut on my face for good. Since then I have sought refuge in India. When I was finally allowed entry, again, not for an instant did I feel out of place. Even after spending decades in Europe, it never felt like home. However, I felt a deep connection with India; I felt I knew the people; I had grown up somewhere very similar, almost indistinguishable. I felt the need to do something for this country and its people. There was a burning desire within me to see that women become educated and independent, that they stand up for, and demand their rights and freedom. I wanted my writing to invigorate and contribute in some way to the empowerment of these women who had always been oppressed and suppressed. Moreover, I wanted to do everything possible to make people aware of the need for secular education to become enlightened, tolerant, rational, and peace loving.

Not many people understand why I, as a European citizen and a permanent resident of the U.S., am so eager to live in India! I know it is not easy to live here; my book was banned in this country, five fatwas were issued against me, prices were set on my head, religious fanatics physically assaulted me. I was bundled out of West Bengal, I was thrown out of Rajasthan, I was put under confinement in a “safe house” in Delhi, I was forced to leave the country — but I did not give up. I came back again and again to live in the land that abandoned me and humiliated me.

I asked why the world’s largest democracy, a secular state, could not shelter a person whose entire life has been spent for the cause of secular humanism, a person without a country to call her own, someone who regarded India as her home. I have been struggling to settle in my beloved country; it has now become a challenge. I want India to prove that a secular state can honour a secular writer. I want India to honour the nation’s tradition of great hospitality and its democratic principle.

India is a land of plurality, with people from different religions, ethnicities, languages and cultures coexisting together. I want her neighbouring countries to learn from India how to secularise the state and how not to violate anyone’s right to freedom of expression. I believe that India, unlike Bangladesh, will triumph over all kinds of fundamentalism. The love and respect I get from Indians makes me feel this is my true home. I still believe that for a sincere, honest, secular writer in the subcontinent, India is the safest refuge, the only refuge.’

Stop going to mosques!

Mosques are dangerous. It is better not to go to mosques for prayers. Mosques are now the biggest target for Islamic terrorist attacks. A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a Sunni mosque in central Iraq, killing at least 20 people in the middle of a sermon on Friday.

mosque blasts

Don’t forget about the other mosque blasts.

1. Mecca Mosque bombing.

2. Jama mosque attack.

3. Jama mosque explosion.

4. Malegaon bombings.

5. Walsal bomb blast.

6. Ajmer Dargah attack.

7. Red mosque event.

8. Red mosque suicide attack.

9. Bombings in Pakistani mosques.

10. Damascus mosque suicide bomb blast.

These are just a few of the hundreds of mosque blasts.

Mosques are called Allah’s houses. Allah’s houses are not safe. Non-Muslims or non-believers rarely attack mosques. Most of the times Mosques are bombed by believers of Allah to kill believers of Allah.

Free Femen

Caroline Fourest, the courageous French writer and journalist and I have joined a Tunisian secularists’ demonstration held in Paris day before yesterday.

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We showed our solidarity towards Tunisian secularists and Amina as well.

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We have been campaigning for Amina,the Tunisian Femen activist.

FREE FEMEN
Francois Hollande, the President of France is going to visit Tunisia in July. We ask him to remember four names, Amina, Pauline, Josephine and Marguerite. A Tunisian, a German and two French women. Four FEMEN. They are now in prison. Three of them, including two French activists, just scoop four months in prison for protesting topless in front of the courthouse. An act considered “indecent assault, indecent and disturbing public order”. It was a peaceful protest, demanding the release of Amina, the first Tunisian Femen, which is even arbitrarily detained for several weeks.
Her crime? She wrote a word on a wall. Femen. A word on the wall made 40,000 Salafists angry on May 19. Amina has been accused of “indecency”, “grave desecration” and “conspiracy.” Amina would be sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison. Amina, Pauline, Josephine and Marguerite are political prisoners. They are not the only ones to endure this kind of repression since the revolution. Ghazi Beji and Jabeur Mejri, two bloggers were sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for blasphemy. One in absentia. He had to take refuge in France. The other is serving his sentence in terrible condition. The Franco-Tunisian journalist, Hind Meddeb continued for denouncing the severity of the sentence of rapper Weld el 15: two years in prison for singing an irreverent song to the police.
The filmmaker Nadia El Fani can not return to the country of her childhood, where she faces up to six years in prison for having made a film about secularism ”Secularism Inshallah”! Her lawyer has also recently been persecuted for “sodomy”. Through these highly political judgments, the Tunisian justice shows a terrible face: nice with terrorists and hard with free spirits.
We are not asking the president not to go to Tunisia. Rather, he should go there for the release of these political prisoners. Undaunted by those who cry to interference or convene the past. Nothing, not the “stability” of Franco-Tunisian relationship or economic interests that justify overlook these unjust laws and how they are applied. François Mitterrand, at the time, was able to forget the diplomatic modesty to defend the cause of dissidents during his trip to Moscow.
Today, dissidents are in Tunis, Cairo, Algiers, Doha, Riyadh, wherever international theocratic attempts to gain ground on democracy and universal values.
On behalf of its voiceless dissidents, we ask the president to challenge his counterpart, the Tunisian president who claims to be a former activist of Human Rights, who had taken refuge in France when he was even persecuted under the former regime, but is silent about violations of the basic right to freedom of expression by its own government.
When President Hollande will be in Tunis, he should demand the release of Amina (18), Pauline (27), Josephine (age 19) and Marguerite (22 years), not because both of these political prisoners are French nationals, but because women’s rights and the right to freedom of expression are universal. This trip will be a challenge for the French president, whether these words have at all any meaning.

At Caroline’s house in the evening, Femen leader Inna Shevchenko came. Inna had to leave Ukraine because Christian fundamentalists were threatening her for cutting down the holy cross. Franco-Tunisian film maker Nadia El Fani also came. We all raised our voices to free Amina who is now in a prison in Tunisia.

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Freedom of expression is still a distant dream.

Islam should be scrutinized critically

Qatar jailed a Nepali teacher on charges of insulting Islam.

A Nepali teacher who taught chemistry at Qatar Academy has been jailed in Doha on felony charges for insulting Islam. Dorje Gurung, who has taught chemistry to middle and high school students in the United States, Britain and Australia, appeared in a Doha court on Thursday. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

Gurung was fired from Qatar Academy after arguments with students on April 22 and 23. Although he was set to leave the country, he was summoned by the police and has been jailed since last Wednesday.

Gurung has been accused of comparing all Muslims to terrorists.

Islam doesn’t feel insulted. Islam is not a human, it is just an ideology. Ideologies have no hearts and minds. Islamists may feel insulted when we critically scrutinize Islam. The truth is, whoever scrutinizes Islam gets killed, jailed or exiled. All other religions can be scrutinized except Islam. This is so ridiculously weird. Who gives Muslims the right to constantly violate our human rights? The barbaric and brutal blasphemy law must be abolished. Muslims must not have the right to terrorize the whole world in the 21st century with their 7th century’s laws that are against democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.

Ignorant insane humans!

We take care of our fellow ignorant humans. We defend their right to be insane.They use that right to violate our right to be sane.

A bunch of ignorant insane humans have been occupying Bangladesh and demanding the execution of atheist bloggers. They want laws against blasphemy. They want no one’s freedom of expression except their own.

Hifazat-e-Islam occupied Bangladesh today.

At least 50 vehicles were set on fire in Dhaka by Hifazat-e-Islam.

Three people were killed.

Death toll tops 600 in Bangladesh garment-factory-building collapse. Islamists do not think it is enough. They have killed some people today and asked the government to kill some more.

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They may not be good in English, but they are very good at killing.

The brain!

”Researchers have developed a process that renders an intact mouse brain transparent. By replacing the opaque fatty components in the brain with a transparent hydrogel, the wiring and molecular structure of the brain become clear to see with visible light and chemicals. The research opens a door to new imaging techniques that could potentially be applied to human organs.”

Brains are now as clear as Jell-O.

Aren’t we curious to learn more about the brain, the most interesting and fascinating complex thing in the universe!

If you have encouraged barbarism once, you are done for.

Salman Rushdie was barred from entering Kolkata. The news, though unfortunate, was hardly surprising. Been there, done that. For the past 25 years, my freedom of speech has been trampled upon. I have been living the unsavory life of an exile; despite writing in Bangla, I am persona non grata in both sides of Bengal. I have been physically assaulted, and there are at least seven or eight separate prices on my head. How on earth can anything like this ever surprise me again?

Today the atmosphere is rife with loud, grief-stricken wails and funerary dirges from certain quarters because Rushdie was prevented from entering Kolkata. Those who are crying a river now were mostly silent or supporting ban in 2003, when my autobiographical book, “Dwikhandito”, was banned by the West Bengal government. At that time, Muslims had not taken to the streets, or demanded any restriction on the book. Rather, the-then Chief Minister of the state, Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, instituted the ban proactively; the odious idea of the ban had its genesis in his mind. Ostensibly, he did mention that a group of about 25 intellectuals importuned him with the task of banning – but he should have realized that those who whine in favor of the censorship of an author, are anything but intellectuals. The reasons presented to bolster the idea of the ban were baseless and ridiculous, a fact that was borne out when, in just a couple of years thereafter, the Honorable Kolkata High Court made the same observation, lifting the ban. I was (and still am) at a loss to understand why Mr. Bhattacharya felt so obliged to come down heavily against freedom of expression, which is the cornerstone of democracy.

It was a time when I’ve been living in the city of Kolkata. Following the ban, Mr. Bhattacharya, an erstwhile friend of mine, had started to maintain a safe distance from me – a sad situation which didn’t change even after the ban was lifted. I naively thought perhaps he had realized the error of his ways, but I was grossly mistaken. Immediately after the Islamic fundamentalists assaulted me in Hyderabad, he was finalizing his new designs. I don’t know how many of the so-called intellectuals were complicit in that. I am a harmless, harassed, and homeless author; I never had a clue about political machinations. In August 2007, Islamic fundamentalist leaders of Kolkata banded together with the fundamentalists from Hyderabad to hold a large rally at the center of the city – a rally with the express purpose of putting a price on my head. If someone beheads me, he will be awarded an ‘unlimited amount’ of money. High officials of the Police were present there, and yet, that day, no one was arrested on charge of issuing an illegal Fatwa; rather, the fundamentalists were felicitated. But under this pretext, Mr. Bhattacharya started sending high-ranking Police officials to my residence, with the idea of intimidating me into leaving Kolkata, or West Bengal, or perhaps even the country. Why did I have to leave? Apparently, if I stayed back at Kolkata, the government said, it would hurt the feelings of the faithful Muslims of the city.

Meanwhile, around this particular time, the state government was in a royal mess regarding the affairs in Nandigram and Singur, and the case of Rizwanur. The ruling Communist Party had earned the wrath of the Muslim community. On the 21st of November, a few people emerged from a Park Circus alleyway and started setting vehicles on fire and pelting stones at the police. Their anger was about the political murders of Muslims in Nandigram and Singur, and the myserious death of Rizwanur Rehman. At the end of the day, someone lifted up a piece of paper for the benefit of the media: on it was written, “Taslima go back.” That was the excuse the government was looking for. I was picked up from home and sent to Jaipur, on the other side of the country. The ticket was already purchased by Mr. Bhattacharya – a one way ticket. I haven’t been able to set foot on West Bengal since, even though my home, cat, friends were all left back in Kolkata. I was thrown out of Bangladesh, too. But my eviction from West Bengal was even more heartless and painful. Mamata Bandyopadhyay, the current Chief Minister, may well not see eye to eye with her predecessor, Mr. Bhattacharya, on any issue, but she sure agrees with him that Taslima has no place in West Bengal. In this regard, she has faithfully followed the footsteps of Mr. Bhattacharya. Last year, in the prestigious and tradition-rich Kolkata Book Fair, the release ceremony for my book “Nirbasan” (Exile) was canceled by her government.

While Rushdie’s unceremonious exclusion didn’t surprise me, I am putting my outrage and protest on record against this. I have protested against the unlawful abridgement of the freedom of expression of creative people such as Maqbool Fida Hussain, A K Ramanujan, James Lein, Rohinton Mistry, and Kamal Hassan. When fundamentalists make a demand to the government, however unjust or plain wrong, the government has a propensity for buckling down. The proffered reason is mostly a variation of “not to offend” them or “preventing a communal disturbance” by them; the same or similar reasons have been used time and again to justify unreasonable and undemocratic decisions taken by the government. This were the reasons given for banning my book – the same reasons advanced to prevent Rushdie from visiting Kolkata for half a day. Clearly, the state has gone to pot, and the sole responsibility lies with Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya. Had he not banned my book that day in a cowardly manner, had he not thrown me out for life, Rushdie could have set foot in Kolkata without a hitch.

Mr. Bhattacharya has given strength and encouragement to the fundamentalists. Now they can reach all the way to the airport, and hold up the another piece of paper saying ‘Rushdie go back’. And why not? They have been given to understand that they would be furnished with whatever they desire, sometimes even before they ask for it. Today, Mr. Bhattacharya claims that had he been in power, he would have facilitated Rushdie’s visit. That’s a lie. Even if he had been willing, the fundamentalist Frankenstein that he helped create would have brought its considerable weight to bear against it; it would have rioted. Evicting Taslima did not ultimately win Mr. Bhattacharya and his party a single extra vote; the same Frankenstein had defeated him in the elections. The outcome, in any event, would not have been different.

Not only in West Bengal, I have encountered intolerance in the rest of India, too. Mufti of Kashmir brought out a fatwa banning young women from singing. Kamal Hasan’s movie was not allowed to be screened in Tamil Nadu. Art galleries cannot display nudes. Continued indulgence to intolerance has raised it to impunity. Once you have mollycoddled intolerance, once you have made nice with barbarism, that is how it is going to be for the rest of your life. The problem is not with barbarism, it is your fault; you have invited it in. You have drunk from the poisoned chalice. Now, when death is nigh, at least confess to your sins, would you not?

Meanwhile, the question remains: for how long would this situation be allowed to continue? How much longer will the government display this cowardice in facing the fundamentalists? How much longer will it accede to unwarranted, unfair and irrational demands from these groups? Unlike Bangladesh or Pakistan, India is a democracy – the largest democracy in the world. India’s democracy doesn’t have the shaky, nominal pretensions to democracy of the flavor practised by its neighbors. India now stands alongside the developed countries in technology, power, education and stability. Why is such a great country lending itself to abuse by regressive fundamentalists? Intimidated by the fear of a handful few, the elected representatives have not hesitated to dishonor the Indian Constitution (Article 19A), or objected to pushing the nation back a thousand years. Worst of all, these fearful actions and disgusting pusillanimity of people in position of authority have had a terrible unintended consequence; they have been instrumental in painting a whole community, a whole religion as an intolerant, barbaric one. Who would bear that responsibility?

The only visible concern seems to be winning elections. Let the country rot, let the nation’s future go to hell – I must win the elections. Acceding pathetically to the unjust demands made by some immature, illiterate, uncouth, crazy, misogynistic extremists, the undemocratic enemies of progress, some people in power have been taking away the fundamental freedoms of civilized, educated, enlightened and progressive littérateurs and intellectuals. This can only result in the enhancement of power and prestige of the fundamentalists, encouraging them towards further atrocities. I can say unequivocally that such people are the enemies of the state. My life is at risk, but I shall not be silenced.

Translated from Bengali to English by Kausik Datta (@kausikdatta22)

Happy Birthday, Newton!

Newton said, ‘We build too many walls and not enough bridges.’ Newton probably had asperger’s syndrome. He did not have enough bridges in his brains that worked for physics, alchemy and theology. Different areas of his brains worked independently, but each with intense local power. If his brains were integrated, he wouldn’t have been Newton., he would be just another farmer.

How does it feel!

As if it was me, not Felix Baumgartner. As if I jumped from space. As if it was me who floated for two hours in a capsule towed by an enormous helium balloon before leaping from 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airline. I was feeling cold, I had fear that the speed I fell at would send me into an uncontrollable spin and the exposure to vacuum would literally cause my blood to boil. I was worried that my space suit could tear and that the low pressure in the stratosphere could cause my lung and blood circulation problems. Suddenly something happened. I blew my fears away. I forgot all the problems. I started feeling like a bird. I was flying in my dreams. It was like a dream until I landed on Earth.