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Last threat to Dabholkar: ‘Remember Gandhi’

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  • Sukla Sen
    I/II. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Last-threat-to-Dabholkar-Remember-Gandhi/articleshow/21944884.cms Last threat to Dabholkar: æRemember
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2013
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      Last threat to Dabholkar: ‘Remember Gandhi’

      Vivek Waghmode & Radheshyam Jadhav, TNN | Aug 21, 2013, 01.09 AM IST

      PUNE: "Remember Gandhi. Remember what we did to him," was probably the last threat noted rationalist Narendra Dabholkar received from right-wing organizations opposed to the Maharashtra (eradication of black magic) bill. Dabholkar's Andrashradda Nirmulan Samiti(ANS) has been campaigning for the passage of the bill, which has been pending for 14 years now.

      Dabholkar, who was shot dead here on Tuesday by unknown assailants, had referred to the threat while speaking to TOI last month. "I have been used to such threats since 1983," he had said. "But I'm fighting within the framework of the Constitution, and those opposing the bill should debate and discuss it as many times as they want. Only those who swindle the common people need to fear the bill. It has been pending in the state legislature for the last six sessions. Misguided forces keep raking up some issues and the government hesitates to approve the bill."

      Dabholkar's family and friends said he had received frequent threats and was attacked many times with weapons and sticks. But he had refused to take police protection. Now, his followers and friends regret the threats were not taken seriously.

      Veteran Communist leader Govindrao Pansare said the fight against superstition would continue. "Dabholkar's assassination is an indicator that there're fundamentalists and fascists among us who want to quell all rational voices with violence," he said. "He was a brave social crusader who was aware of the dangerous path he was treading. His fight against those who reap the socio-economic benefits of superstition will continue and we all vouch to strengthen his movement."

      Pradip Patil, a Sangli-based ANS activist, recalled a couple of attacks on Dabholkar. "He and [the actor] Shriram Lagoo were attacked by a mob with sticks in Sangli in 1991," he said. "In 1994 he was attacked with weapons in Tasgaon (Sangli), the native place of home minister R R Patil. But Dabholkar refused to lodge a police complaint, saying he wanted to fight the battle with non-violence and within the framework of the Constitution."a

      S M Mushrif, former inspector general of police, Maharashtra, said: "They (right-wing members) are committing offences and the state machinery is sitting helplessly. The state's probably scared to take action against them because they've penetrated all systems of power and governance."

      Sham Manav, Dabholkar's one-time associate and anti-superstition activist, said he was attacked five years ago at a function at Balgandharva Rang Mandir here. "Police ignored the attack," he said. "We had then asked the state government to take serious cognizance of the threats and attacks on anti-superstition workers. But nothing happened and right-wing members continue to bully those who speak against them."

      When Dabholkar's body was brought to the office of the newsweekly 'Sadhana', thousands of activists shouted slogans against right-wing organizations and demanded the government impose a ban on them.

      "This is shocking," veteran activist Vilas Wagh said. "Pune, which boasts of the rational tradition of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, has witnessed violence against rationalistic individuals even in the past. It's a cause for concern that fundamentalism has reached a level where people aren't even being allowed to air their views."

      CM faces wrath in Satara

      Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who paid respects to activist Narendra Dabholkar in Satara, was confronted by the latter's angry supporters who shouted slogans against the state government and demanded the immediate approval of the Maharashtra (eradication of black magic) bill. In Pune too, activists shouted slogans against home minister R R Patil and demanded his resignation.


      ‘Let blind custom be buried’
      16 hours ago , By A.R. Venkatachalapathy 
      People take part in the funeral of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar who was shot dead in Pune on Tuesday.
      People take part in the funeral of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar who was shot dead in Pune on Tuesday.
      Rationalists have been with us throughout Indian history

      Faith and disbelief, God and atheism, caste and equality are twinborn foes. When one is born, the other rises to challenge it. Even as the Vedic tradition was consolidated, atheism emerged in ancient India, as chronicled by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. When Thiruvalluvar asked in his Thirukural, ‘What is the purpose of knowledge if one did not worship at the feet of God’ he was conceding that there were indeed scholars who thought otherwise.

      Knowledge progresses with questioning. A society bereft of questions and smug in its received wisdom can only be sterile. Even as organised religion thrived, feeding on royal patronage and legitimising social inequality, the other tradition survived.

      Sithars, the rebel songsters of Tamil Nadu living outside the pale of society, asked blunt questions: ‘What is this mantra / you mumble within your mouth / going round and round / a planted stone,/offering it flowers?/ Can a planted stone talk/when the Lord is within you?/ Can the pot and the spoon feel the taste/of food cooked in them?”

      “Will the rains fall only for a few/and exclude others? /Will the winds discriminate/against a few? /Will the earth refuse to bear the weight of a few? /And the sun refuse to shine on some?” asked a latter-day Kapilar in a famous akaval poem.

      A 15th century Dalit girl of Paichalur, Uttaranallur Nangai, who had fallen in love with a Brahmin boy, challenged the villagers who came to torch her alive: “I saw a tuft/on the heron’s head/and a wattle/on the head of a hen. /I saw a flabby tail. /I saw fire on water. / So do not talk/of the four Vedas/saying that you belong/to a superior caste.”

      Written canons tried to silence such voices, but they were kept alive among people, transmitted orally across generations. In the 19th century, western-educated intellectuals influenced by Enlightenment thought drew on these traditions to buttress modern egalitarian ideas. The rediscovery of Buddhism strengthened the rationalist arsenal. Lower-caste ideologues such as Athipakkam Venkatachala Nayakar and Ayotheedas Pandithar were rooted in this heterodox tradition. If the Bengali Brahmo Samaj appeared to be tame in the context of Tamil Nadu, the credit should go to this tradition.

      Even Subramania Bharati wrote in his last years that the smritis and the epics are but ‘figments of imagination meant to impart morals.’ When his follower Bharatidasan espoused Periyar’s rationalist ideals, the critically-inclined short story writer Pudumaippithan silenced obscurantists by asking if he was any more radical than the Sithars.

      One of the early publications of Periyar’s rationalistic Self-Respect Movement was a selection of Vallalar Ramalinga Swamigal’s poems. Vallalar’s radical denouncement, ‘Let blind custom be buried in the earth’ figured prominently in the book. Tamil translations of Bhagat Singh’s Why I am an Atheist and Lenin’s On Religion too came out from Periyar’s press.

      In 1943, when C.N. Annadurai declared that ‘let the fire spread’ and called for the burning of Kambar’s Ramayanam and Periya Puranam, god-believing Tamil scholars Somasundara Bharati and R.P. Sethu Pillai met Anna on the platform. Word was matched by word, and idea by idea. Not by bullets and blood.

      Not every atheist holds an Oxford Chair like Dawkins. Vallalar disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The rebel of Paichalur was lynched. Bullets may have riddled Narendra Dabholkar’s body. But words, songs, and ideas yet live.

      (The poems quoted in this article draw from a forthcoming book of Tamil Siththar poems translated by M.L. Thangappa and edited by A.R. Venkatachalapathy to be published by Navayana. chalapathy@...))

      Peace Is Doable
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