Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Narendra Dabholkar...the man who challenged my beliefs...

Today morning (20th August) I woke up reading shocking news of assassination of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. Some unidentified men gunned him down in Pune, it was shocking incident and more shocking for me because it happened in Pune, the place where I was born and grew up, place which is considered as very progressive and tolerant, educational capital of Maharashtra.

For me, he was the man who challenged my beliefs and my faith when I was a teenager. I came to know him through his books, I never met him personally in my life but knew him only through his books and his movement and his organization, Maharashtra andhashraddha nirmoolan samiti (Maharashtra blind faith eradication committee). I was born and brought up in neighborhood where superstitions were very common and regularly practiced, this was going on for years so there was no question of questioning them as everyone thought this is our culture, tradition and it is our duty to follow it, respect it, no questions asked, no explanations offered. I was also one of many who followed things as instructed, blindly without asking any questions, scared of bad omens, praying regularly (even though I don't do it any more, it's not a bad thing to do), proud of my caste (so called upper caste), used to think that I am superior to girls just because I am a boy...so on and on...but as a teenager when I read his books for the first time, I was taken a back, I was shocked, I thought, what the heck this man is talking about? Why is he trying to destroy our culture and traditions? Why is he not talking about any other religions? etc. etc. But when I looked around me carefully, without any bias I realized that whatever this man is saying does make sense, whatever questions he is asking are very logical, whatever explanations he is offering sound logical. After initial hesitation and struggle I became huge fan of this man, so much was his effect on my thinking that I started questioning almost everything around me, that questioning made many people uncomfortable, angry or even they started hating me but my questioning never stopped, when I didn't get any answers from people around me I tried to find them on my own, it started my journey of self realization, this man started it and still it's going on.

People say all superstitions are not bad, many are harmless, I totally agree with this, but his fight was not only against those superstitions (many are very dangerous and even kill people) but was also against that mindset which forbids questioning, which crushes any uncomfortable objections raised against established beliefs. He fought against this with his coworkers for more than three decades in Maharashtra on all levels. The power of his movement was so much that even state government who is not willing to touch anything which is even remotely concerned with religion in the name of not hurting people's sentiments was considering (for long time now) to bring anti-superstition law and relentless efforts of Dr. Dabholkar on all levels was one of the main reason for this consideration. He was about to acheive which was considered as almost impossible thing to do (that is to force government to form a law to stop exploitation in name of religion and God). In this whole process he made lot of friends as well as lot of enemies, there are people who continuously abuse him and his organization, they brand him anti-Hindu, anti-God, they want to preserve some of inhuman practices and rituals in name of culture and tradition, for them he was their number one enemy, but they couldn't defeat him intellectually, they couldn't answer his questions, they just wanted to shut him up, stop him from asking more uncomfortable questions, finally they did it by killing him physically. But people like him don't die, they live through their ideas and thoughts, his physical presence is not required to carry on his task, he has empowered many people who can fight against this system, we all need to continue that struggle.

I am really sad not because he died but the way he died, but he was a fighter and died like a fighter. This was the man who challenged my beliefs and my faith, made me angry, shook me, then educated me about superstitions which were very common around me that time, then ultimately changed my outlook, he shaped my thinking, he taught me to ask questions...I am sure like me he changed many others, this is also a tight slap on progressive movement in Maharashtra, it's a real shame that such thing happened in state which calls it self progressive, where many reformist (like Tilak, Phule, Karve) started their work, as a Maharashtrian I am really ashamed that this thing happened there. Those antisocial elements who were scared of his power, his ability to expose lies gunned him down...they couldn't defeat him so they killed him like a coward..but his spirit won't die..there are 100s of Narendra Dabholkars now, how many they can kill??

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this incident.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

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2 comments:

  1. It was a shock for me. Dabholkar's assassination is shame on 'purogami Maharashtra'. The thing is,we get offended by small things these days.We are getting intolerant. Many many years ago,Mahatma Phule,Agarkar,Justice Ranade etc criticized bad traditions in Hinduism ex. child marriage,satti etc. but no one was killed like this! Dabholkar always faught against superstitions in a nonviolent way. ANS never did 'raada'.It's really sad. But as you said,thoughts never die.
    -Anushka

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    1. Thanks Anushka for sharing your thoughts. This incident really shook me, I was not expecting something like this to happen in Maharashtra and never in Pune. This shows how much intolerant some groups are even towards constructive criticism. Dr. Dabholkar never used any undemocratic ways, he always believed in discussion, he was always willing to listen and then put his points using rights offered to him by our constitution, but some people couldn't face the truth. He was not against faith or religion, his fight was against superstitions. Real tribute to him will be to carry of his fight and oppose these organizations who encourage superstitions in the name of God, religion and culture. Thanks

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