More than a month after the killing of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, his family is back to what they had been doing for almost a decade – get engaged in their chosen field of social activity.
“We were floored by the love and respect of activists for Dr Dabholkar. The show of solidarity humbled us,” says his daughter Mukta, who in a symbolic way lit up the pyre.
Generally, it is the son who usually does the duty, but when the family figured they couldn’t donate the body as the mandatory post-mortem had denied Dr Dabholkar his last wish, they decided to send a message through this act, shunning the tradition.
The feeling that Dr Dabholkar is no more hasn’t fully sunk in within the family. “He used to travel a lot for his work. We would rarely see him around. So it is still not fully registered that he is not going to be there at all,” says his son Hamid who is a psychiatrist.
All three – Mukta, Hamid and Dr Dabholkar’s wife Shaila – are now back in their respective area of work. Mukta is married to Anis Patwardhan (whose name is short for Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti in Marathi) and works in the field of education in Dapoli in Konkan. Hamid is a trained psychiatrist. He also helps his mother in her de-addiction work in Satara. Though she is a trained gynaecologist, she runs a de-addiction centre in Satara in addition to her passion – agriculture experiments on their farm.
While Hamid promised to tour colleges across the state in a bid to spread the rationalist thought, the family will not be directly associated with the Andhashraddha Samiti activities. The organisation in Mahrashtra will now be led by working president Avinash Patil (he was Dr Dabholkar’s choice five years ago) while the work of Sadhana, a magazine formerly edited by Dr Dabholkar, will now be looked after by Vinod Shirsat.
When everyone thought the socialist movement in Maharashtra was dead, it was Dr Dabholkar’s efforts that the magazine that engages scholarly debates in its issues, earned a respectable circulation of over 20,000. This, when other magazines in Marathi are dying rapidly. Many people wouldn’t know this, But Dr Dabholkar didn’t charge the magazine a single rupee towards his remuneration.
The family is upset that the state government has neither been able to catch the killers nor has been able to identify the brain behind his killing. And yet they don’t see the need for handing over the probe to the National Investigation Agency. A public interest litigation was heard by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, but the family only wants the state police to accelerate the pace so that killers are caught soon.
“We have not demanded probe by the NIA or the CBI. We are pained that they haven’t found the killers yet,” says Hamid. When asked about what he thinks of the future of the rationalist movement post his father’s death he said the response had been overwhelming.
“There were more than a thousand people for the Nirdhaar Parishad in this small town of Satara, and they have resolved that they will work with double the vigour. It is something that I am witnessing across the state,” Hamid says.
He pointed out that three cases had already been filed by the Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmoolan Samiti activists after his father’s death and in Nashik, the people spontaneously supported the movement of donating the Ganesh idols. “There were almost a lakh of Ganesh idols on the banks of Godavari. We will also push the work of Jaat Panchayat. My father is dead, but his thoughts have emerged stronger,” he said.