This appeared in Asian Age...
Murder Most Foul….
Certain ‘dastardly deeds’ ( how our netas love these two words!) are just more ‘dastardly’ than others. The cold-blooded, pre-meditated, daylight murder of a legend called Dr.Narendra Dabholkar was one of them. It managed to shock the nation…. and as we are all aware, these days it’s pretty difficult to shock India.We have become ‘violence proof’, as it were. ‘‘Murders to the right of us, murders to the left of us…” One can also add, “Murders, murders everywhere, not a culprit in sight.” Dr. Dabholkar was a towering figure, not just in Maharashtra, but all over India. His influence reached beyond our shores and included followers across the world…. people who endorsed and appreciated his school of rational thinking, his progressive world view and his sustained campaign against practitioners of black magic and jaadu tona. That he lived and died for his firm beliefs is a testimony to his unshakeable commitment and vision . Not only was Dr. Dabholkar a respected rationalist, he was known for his strong views against casteism, and for the support he extended to inter-religious marriages. Seen in the cultural context of a country which has, for centuries,tolerated and accepted both, his was a particularly courageous stand. Unsurprisingly, his movement had always attracted powerful critics and staunch enemies out to crush him.His life had been under threat for years. But, as he frequently reminded concerned followers, he was a free man in his own country, and unwillingly to ask for State protection against his own people. It was these very people who pumped bullets into the 69- year- old visionary when he was enjoying a morning walk in Pune. It is in the interests of the nation in general and Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, Prithiviraj Chavan, in particular, to find Dr. Dabholkar’s assassins as quickly as possible. Especially after the C.M. hinted he knew who they were!
But will that happen?
I think not.
Ironically, Dr.Dabholkar’s audacious murder( which was obviously a meticulously planned political hit) has manifold implications. The bogus haste to identify and punish his killers is disingenuous at best. Justice plays no role in this bloody mess. The man who spearheaded the Rationalist Movement in India, had enormous nuisance value for extremists of all hues. He threatened the status quo and directly dented the multi- million dollar businesses of well entrenched, well connected individuals running the God Industry in India . Most ashrams with their dodgy religious leaders are nothing more than fronts for politicians to launder ill-gotten wealth while simultaneously nurturing armies of highly gullible followers. The money at stake is enormous. But more than the unbelievable amount of lolly involved, it is the inordinate amount of influence exerted by some of these fraudulent God People that politicians brazenly tap into. It’s a cosy if sinister nexus that works for both – those venal netas and the wily God Guys. It’s a fair exchange - money and votes, in return for protection and cover ups. Most of the established ashrams operate in a highly secretive, closed door fashion that does not permit closer scrutiny of their funding or functioning. Dr. Dabholkar’s life long activism against fraudulent religious practices , made him a soft target. That there were forces out to destroy him, was known to intelligence agencies all along. That nobody acted on the information, can be construed as tacit complicity in this heinous crime.
Maharashtra’s C.M. is apparently keen on getting into Madam’s good books in Delhi. Perhaps that’s what made him jump the gun and voice his suspicions about the identity of the killers ( hint: it’s the same blackguards who murdered the Mahatma!). What Shri Chavan ( who is known for his sobriety and restraint), needs to be reminded about is that he may be playing with fire with this case . We live in dangerous times. Every State is a tinder box, rife with issues that can ignite passions in a flash. Every political party is in search of volatile subjects that can be instantly whipped up and served hot to those interested in taking advantage of the mayhem that generally follows.Throwing politics into the bubbling, over heated religious cauldron in a country like ours, has terrifying implications and repercussions. Intolerance and anarchy have become the rule. Dr. Dabholkar was well aware of the danger to his life when he proposed a sensible Bill to prevent and eradicate black magic, over 18 years ago. That the Maharashtra government passed the ordinance in such unseemly haste, hours after he was killed, is shameful. It’s worse still that the haste is being described as a ‘tribute’ to the iconic leader’s legacy, when it’s nothing more than a cheap political trick aimed at appeasing the bosses in Delhi. Dr. Dabholkar would have scoffed at the clumsiness of the gesture.
His funeral pyre had not even been lit when strident and ugly voices tried to besmirch his name. It is not difficult to figure out why this man was so hated. What his enemies could not stomach was his contempt for them and their devious thinking. Dr. Dabholkar was not anti-religion, he was anti-superstition. He despised humbug and pseudo religious mumbo jumbo .That’s the difference. His killers were just hired thugs. But so well planned was the attack, that the motorcycle hitmen managed to get their target in two easy shots despite the close proximity of police chowkies and a nakabandi on the same road. This also establishes the lax and meaningless exercise we call policing in our state. Arresting and punishing the killers has little meaning, unless the government is equally scrupulous about investigating and revealing the identities of the shadowy figures who hired the gunmen. But that will never happen. There’s much too much at stake. Namely, big bucks and a comfy gaddi.
That catchy old classic ‘Black Magic Woman’ is ringing inside my head and has been haunting me ever since Dr. Dabholkar’s martyrdom. It is tempting to say his enemy number one did jaadu tona on him and succeeded in killing the one person who’d spent his life fighting the peddlers of jaadu tona! What a monumental irony. R.I.P.