The killing of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was on Tuesday received with shock and anger by leaders across the political spectrum who expressed grief over the attack on rationalist and progressive ideology.
"The progressive movement of Maharashtra is now bereft of a face, with the killing of Dabholkar," Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said. "Thoughts cannot be crushed by such cowardly attacks," he added.
"The murder of an unarmed, principled thinker is a blot on the progressive image of Maharashtra," NCP State Working President Jitendra Awhad said. The cowardly attack on Dabholkar is an attack on rationalist thinking, Home Minister R R Patil said. A crime branch probe has been ordered into the killing, he said. Condemning the murder, Congress leader Ulhas Pawar said the culprits should be nabbed immediately.
Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde said the killing of Dabholkar is akin to the murder of all good things in society.
"Dabholkar's killing has shown that activists who work fearlessly for social cause, are not safe in the state," he said.
"Dabholkar was working for social awareness through his movement. His work was befitting the progressive ideology of Maharashtra," CPI leader Sukumar Damle said. "We strongly condemn the cowardly act and demand a speedy probe into the killing," Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi said. Hailing from Satara, Dabholkar studied medicine from Miraj Medical College and practised medicine for about a decade, before taking up social work.
Dabholkar was also the editor of Sadhana weekly, which was started by Sane Guruji. He was associated with social worker Baba Adhav's agitation of 'one village one well' and Akhil Bhartiya Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, but later separated from it.
He was a crusader against all types of superstitions in society, and fought for passage of the anti-superstitions bill in Maharashtra.
He met opposition from certain sections of the Warkari sect. Dabholkar had recently blamed Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for the delay in passage of the bill, saying Chavan had betrayed all progressive people in the state.
"This could be the only bill which has figured in the list of business for last seven sessions, but has never come up for discussion," Dabholkar had said, asking Chavan to ensure that the bill is passed this year.
Faced with strong opposition from extremist organisations to the bill, Dabholkar was determined to get the bill passed and said he was not against anybody's faith, but was against superstition.
Dabholkar had also recently started a campaign against Jat (caste) Panchayat and had held a workshop at Nashik.
Dabholkar also opposed immersion of idols in water bodies and appealed devotees to immerse idols in water tanks to protect the water bodies from being polluted.