Maharashtra`s voice of reason silenced, but baton passes on

Activists associated with Narendra Dabholkar`s cause have resolved to carry on his task to promote scientific thinking.

Pune: Notwithstanding the blow dealt to the progressive movement in Maharashtra by the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, activists associated with his cause have resolved to carry on his task to promote scientific thinking and take forward the anti-superstition campaign of which he was a leading light.

Even as police grope in the dark for clues that would lead them to the killers of the 69-year-old activist, his children have declared that the life mission of Dabholkar will be resurrected with a month-long drive starting September 2.

Speaking at a convention here, Dabholkar`s son Hamid and daughter Mukta said the drive envisages a vigorous interaction with college students in the State to make them an integral part of the reformist movement.

A solemn pledge to champion the cause of social reforms and promote rational thought was administered by Shriram Lagoo, eminent film and stage actor, at the event.

Lagoo, a close associate of the physician-turned- rationalist, fought back tears as activists of various progressive groups assembled on Thursday discussed further course of the anti-superstition movement post-Dabholkar.

Among the hundreds who raised their hands and uttered the lines of pledge after Lagoo, were Dabholkar`s son and daughter, who asserted that they would be associated with the movement as ordinary activists to a heartening applause from the meet also attended by scores of human rights activists.

Mukta, a social scientist, said "after the murder of my father (on August 20), I have observed that the voice of reason and rationalism has reached to the common citizen.

"There is no alternative to a strong organisational network which he had created, to carry on the mission of inculcating scientific temperament opposed to a retrograde social mindset."

She urged the State Government, which promulgated an anti-black magic ordinance a day after Dabholkar was shot dead here, to put in place a mechanism to support and implement the provisions of the law expected to be enacted in the winter session of the legislature.

The office of "Sadhana" magazine, of which Dabholkar was editor, yesterday received an anonymous letter warning the activists of anti-superstition movement of dire consequences if they did not stop "hurting religious sentiments" of people.

The new editor of the publication, Vinod Shirsat, has handed over the letter to police.

The Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS), the rationalist group founded by Dabholkar, routinely receives such letters aimed at scaring its workers who are determined to continue the progressive movement, he said.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has expressed disappointment at the slow pace of probe in the murder case and inability of police to nab the culprits even 10 days after the crime and asked officials to speed up the investigation as people were agitated over the issue.

A police official said since the CCTV footage recovered from the site of crime was unclear, it was being sent to London for further examination by experts there.

The Sanatan Sanstha activist picked up for questioning by Pune Police in Goa in connection with the murder has been let off as he could not reveal any information to aid investigation, officials said.