New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Public Meeting
Who is Afraid of Reason?
(Astronomer & Science Communicator)
(Scientist, Poet, Social Activist & Film Maker)
(Teacher, Dept of Physics, St. Stephens' College & NSI activist)
5 pm to 8 pm; 30th August, 2013
SPWD Conference Hall, 14-A, Vishnu Digambar Marg, ITO, New Delhi. (SPWD is next to Hindi Bhavan and Ajoy Bhavan)
Well known rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was murdered on Aug 20 on a busy street in Pune. From all evidence his killing was a well planned conspiracy. Dr Dabholkar was a lifelong campaigner against superstition, blind faith, and godmen who exploited the gullible. His murder shocked many in Maharashtra. Citizens of Satara, his hometown, observed a spontaneous bandh. The city of Pune observed perhaps the first non-political shut down in its history in his memory. Popular sentiment against his murder appears so strong that the state government, which had been sitting on an anti-superstition bill drafted by him for more than a decade, passed it in two days after is death. Who could be so scared of Dr Dabholkar’s campaigns to get him killed?
Crores of poor Indians in villages and tribal areas believe in and practice superstitions handed down through generations, which are part of their folk culture. These wretched of the earth hardly have resources to survive, let alone attack anyone. In the recent past, urban propertied sections too are increasingly turning to self-styled godmen/women, irrational practices like astrology and tarot card reading, and ritualistic religiosity. The culture of these people does not equip them for confronting challenges and stresses of modern life in a rational manner. Dr Dabholkar’s questioning of their beliefs must have disturbed these people. Yet, that does not appear to be a sufficient reason to desire, or even support, his death. Dr Dabholkar’s killers were driven by an aggressive intolerance and a self-righteous arrogance. The organization which actually planned his murder may be little known and small. Yet the ground for intolerance in current India is very large and fertile. The same Maharashtra Govt which is now claiming that the ideology that killed Gandhi is behind Dr Dabholkar’s murder, had accorded state funeral to Mr Bal Thackery, who built his political fortune by openly advocating violence against religious and linguistic minorities. The popularity of some one like Mr Narendra Modi among urban upper caste Hindus, and the wide berth given to him by the media, also show that intolerance, aggression and arrogance are looked up to by a significant section of Indians.
Dr Dabhokar in life symbolized reason, open mindedness, and a resolute fight against exploitation based on blind faith. His murder is a sign of a deep malaise afflicting India. Saving India from it will be the best homage to Dr Dabholkar.