The International Humanist and Ethical Union, and many other venues, report that a well known Indian humanist and rationalist, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, was assassinated this morning in India:
He was reportedly shot four times by two men on a motorbike this morning on Omkarweshwar bridge in Pune, Maharashtra state. He was reportedly taking his daily morning walk when he was assassinated, a route that may have been known to his attackers.
The murder comes days after the state government pledged to re-introduce an anti-superstition bill closely associated with Dabholkar’s work and opposed by many rightwing and Hindu nationalist groups as “anti-Hindu.”
I’d be very surprised if the murder didn’t have anything to do with Dabholkar’s activities:
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 founder of the Maharashtra Forum for Elimination of Superstition, Maharashtra Andha Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti, editor of Sadhana magazine devoted to propagation of progressive thought, and had served previously as vice president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA), an Member Organization of IHEU.
Dabholkar’s work over many years confronted and exposed the fraudulent practices of babas and swamis by explaining the science behind so-called miracles, often used to defraud some of the least well-off members of society of their money or possessions. Dabholkar organised teavelling troops of activists travelling all over the state, and campaigned at a political level with great erudition against superstition and so-called ‘black magic’.
An Indian anti-woo activist perhaps more well known to us Sandal Edamarku, whom I met at TAM 2013, weighs in on the assassination at howabi.com:
During the course of his battle against superstition, Dabholkar had received many threats from various groups but had never allowed it to deter him. Edamaruku, the president of an organisation called the Indian Rationalist Association says the threats usually come from those who are perpetrating superstitions and other beliefs.“The rationalist movement has been growing very fast over the last 10 years. I have experienced a lot of threats in my life and so have many others,” he said.
Narendra Dabholkar’s death should be taken as an inspiration by people, who should be encouraged to realise the importance of the struggle against superstition and take inspiration from his struggle, he said.“It is not the victims of superstition who are normally against rationalists but the exploiters who are using superstition and are using the gullibility of people, they are the ones against us,” Edamaruku said.
However, successes are few. Edamaruku pointed out that Dabholkar’s mission ” the anti-superstition bill ”had been significantly watered down and had still not been passed by the Maharashtra legislation.
India is a land steeped in religion and other forms of woo: many people, and, I believe, even the government, plans their schedules using the astrological calendar. Edamarku is on the lam, having fled India under threat of jail for violating blasphemy laws, and has also received death threats. Apparently the price of rationalism in India can be death.