Five years ago today, the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune. Dabholkar was a well-known anti-superstition activist in Maharashtra, and a prolific writer in Marathi, though little of his work is available outside the state. This year, a compilation of Dabholkar’s writings that was originally published as a Marathi book Timiratuni Tejakade in 2010, will be released as a two-volume series in English by the publishing house Context. The book has been translated by Suman Oak, a long-time associate of Dabholkar who worked with him closely at the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, referred to in the book as ANiS, an anti-superstition organisation that the late rationalist founded in 1989.
On 18 August, the Central Bureau of Investigation detained a former Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar, in relation to Dabholkar’s murder. The past year has also seen Hindutva outfits such as the Sanatan Sanstha come under scrutiny in relation to the murder of the journalist Gauri Lankesh, and their links to the assassination of Dabholkar. In the following extract from the first volume of the translation, titled The Case for Reason: Understanding the Anti-superstition Movement, Dabholkar recounts the pressures he faced from religious organisations, such as the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha, as well as by members of the BJP and Shiv Sena.
For some reason or the other, various adversaries keep targeting me for attacks. Narendra Maharaja is one such person. He has a reason to hate me. In one of his interviews he had mentioned, “Eradication of superstition is not the task of the likes of Narendra Dabholkar and ND Patil and their foreign bookish science. These great men are in the business of eradicating our Indian culture itself under the name of eradication of superstition. They target only Hindus. They are out to destroy the lofty religiosity of our Indian culture. What they do under the guise of eradication of superstition is nothing but an attack on people’s religiosity. If people follow Dabholkar, they will become irreligious, leading to shameless licentiousness. Narendra Dabholkar is corrupting the society.”