Dabholkar has Done a Gandhi

August 23, 2013

By Anand Teltumbde

“With their backs to the sunrise they worship the night.”
― Robert G. Ingersoll

Maharashtra had one more shame added to a long list of its shames accumulated through history. On 20 August it ultimately killed Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a committed rationalist who had personified the opposition to superstition and humbug that exists in the state, which never tires calling itself progressive claiming the legacy of Phule and Ambedkar. It comfortably forgets that it has many distinctions that contradict this claim. It is the state that abused Savitribai and Jotiba Phule, begot the Rashtriya Swanyamsevak Sangh, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Samarasata Manch; it contributed staunch social reactionaries that culminated in making of Nathuram Godse who gunned down Gandhi, the trend extends down to Abhinav Bharat in recent times that is exposed to have committed a series of terrorist acts. It distinguished itself by materializing a Brahmanist regime that tied a pot round the neck and a sweepstick to the waist of Dalits; and contributed significantly to the statistics of crime against Dalits with markers like Khairlanji. It does not realize that it is because of its deep drawn reactionary character perhaps that Mahatma Phule and Ambedkar had to be born in Maharashtra. It is abiding shame that while it flaunts them as its ideals, it continues with its reaction and kills its Dabholkars.

Dr Narendra Dabholkar was not a kind of person who would provoke one to commit his murder. After practicing his medical profession for little over a decade, he devoted himself to the task of removing superstitions from the society. He always emphasized that he was not against any faith but the superstitions practiced in the name of faith. He was a liberal who avoided extremity in thought and action but remained resolute about his mission. A man of integrity, he toured all over the state addressing people and conducting workshops for youth about educating them against the evil of superstitions with missionary zeal. He spoke unsparingly against the buwas (fake mendicants) and other practitioners of black magic who cheated and defrauded people. While many of them were in a petty category living off the offerings from people, some were big-wigs like Nirmal Baba and such others, who had huge following. Their programmes are beamed on our national television channels across the country. And of course behind them are the institutions of Hindu Rashtra, the strategic multi-fanged outfits of the sangh pariwar, with their mighty propagandist infrastructure comprising websites, and multi-lingual press.

An uncompromising rationalist he was against castes and had recently come out heavily against it in a case of honour killing in Nashik. The shocking case related with a father belonging to Joshi – nomadic tribe (NT) caste, killing his nine-month pregnant daughter, at the instance of the caste panchayat (a governing council of caste) for marrying out of the caste. The evil practice was exposed by a letter written by one Anna Hingmire, also of the Joshi caste, in a letter to the police commissioner on
July 3, 2013, complaining against the Jat Panchayat of his caste for harassing him and his family as his daughter has married a boy of another caste. No one would have an inkling about this heinous practice that has been operational all these years if this murder and subsequent investigation had not exposed it. It is not a matter of a particular caste.The caste panchayats have always been operational in some form or other in every caste with varying degree of power, but have surely resurged during the last two decades of globalization, not only in the Jatland of Haryana but in Phule-Ambedkar’s Maharashtra. It was natural that Dr Dabholkar, of all the progressive people, came vehemently against it.

Naturally, he was targeted by the orthodox elements. The Hindu Sanatan Sanstha (organization of the orthodox Hindus), the entire Sangh Parivar with its extensions like Shiv Sena, and of course the persons and establishments which thrived on the gullibility of people were against him. The Hindu Sanatan Sanstha has been in forefront in this virulent opposition. It carried out a tirade against him in its organ called Sanatan Prabhat, published in many languages. This paper had prominently published Dabholkar’s photo crossing it with bold red, signifying the prospective elimination of a person. What could be a more direct threat than this! It has never hidden its venom against Dabholkar even in the wake of his murder. Just the next day, it commented on the murder of Dr Dabholkar that it was the grace of god that he met with such a death. Invoking Gita, it wrote that one who is born is sure to die; the birth and death are according to one’s destiny. Everybody gets the fruit of his karma (actions). Instead of dying of illness in a bedridden state or painful death after an operation, the death Dabholkar met with was a kind of grace bestowed by god. In a press conference held in Mumbai by the Sanatan Sanstha to declare that it did not have any connection with the murder, its spokespersons were absolutely unapologetic or mournful about Dabholkar’s death. These worthies, on the contrary declared that they would publish many more photos with red cross, directly implying that they would carry out elimination of many more Dabholkars. Sanatan Prabhat carried an illustration showing a mighty elephant representing the Sanatan Sanstha marching ahead ignoring a fellow representing its opposition. It exhorted its readers to stop those who are heaping accusations on the religion-loving Sanatanis.

Another group opposed to Dr Dabholkar was of course comprised of all those who had made exploiting the gullibility of masses as their profession. It included quasi-begging pedestrians ranging from jogis and joginis who carried gods and goddesses on their heads and asked offerings from people. It also included fortune tellers, who sold their service at paltry fees. But it also included individuals like Asaram Bapus and Nirmal Babas, who have effectively institutionalized themselves into a big business. They have huge following, money and access to power. They address their followers on several television channels across the country. For instance, Nirmal baba whom Dabholkar had taken on recently, (see his speech: Nirmal Baba: Shodh ani Bodh (Nirmal Baba: Research and Lessons) on YouTube) ran his paid programme, Nirmal Darbar broadcast by approximately 40 different television channels including such biggies as AXN, TV Asia, Star News, SAB TV selling people divine ‘kripa’ (blessings) as antidote to their problems. His Samagam meetings had tickets for Rs. 2000 (US$32). Most of these Babas having dubious histories were caught many times with criminal acts ranging from defrauding people to sexual misconduct with their female followers but such is their power that they are rarely convicted for them. Not many people could muster courage to speak against them, forget carrying out a public campaign obviously for the fear of consequences. Everyone knew that these Babas could go to any extent, murder being the minor matter, to save their thriving empire of billions.

Dabholkar had recently started a campaign against Jat (caste) Panchayat and had held a workshop at Nashik. Dabholkar also opposed immersion of idols in water bodies and appealed devotees to immerse idols in water tanks to protect the water bodies from being polluted. As has been reported, Dabholkar was campaigning for the anti-black magic bill. “This could be the only bill which has figured in the list of business for last seven sessions, but has never come up for discussion,” Dabholkar had said, asking Chavan to ensure that the bill is passed this year. Faced with strong opposition to the bill from extremist organisations, Dabholkar was determined to get the bill passed and said he was not against anybody’s faith, but was against superstition.

Who killed Dr Dabholkar may remain possibly an unsolved riddle as it happened in numerous earlier cases despite the Maharashtra government exhibiting its keenness to catch the culprits by announcing a Rs 10 lakh prize to anyone who would provide information on them.

[Personal note: I have had some occasions of meeting him after he had called me to write in Sadhna, the magazine started by a legendary Sane Guruji, which he edited. I did comply with his demand a couple of time. But it was not always possible for me to do so as he wanted the article in Marathi. He had invited me for one of the programmes in Pune on SEZ in which I was to offer my expert comment like a discussant. He had a preparatory meeting in Sadhana office and stunned me by his methodical approach. When he undertook the responsibility of execution of annual awards by the Maharashtra Foundation (USA), his organization skills were demonstrated in ample measure. Last year, when he came to learn that I had left Maharashtra for Kharagpur, in his typical style he expressed his dissatisfaction.]

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