Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, who was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, was shot dead by two unidentified youths at 7.20 am on Omkarweshwar bridge near Cosmos Bank in Pune on Tuesday morning.
Dhabholkar, founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), was gunned down while he was on his daily morning walk.
Dabholkar's murder comes days after the Maharashtra government assured introduction of the anti-superstition bill even as Right Wing groups continued to oppose the bill.
Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol, who confirmed Dabholkar's death, said that police were investigating the motive but no suspects have so far been identified.
Eyewitnesses informed the police control room about the incident. Dabholkar's body has been sent to Sassoon Hospital for autopsy.
Police identified Dabholkar from his wallet and his identity cards. His wallet contained two signed cheques, one in the name of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti and another in the name of an individual.
Police inspector Manohar Joshi, incharge of Deccan Gymkhana police station, said, "We are scrutinising nearby CCTV cameras for the identity of suspects. Eyewitnesses have noted the number (7756) of the motorbike. We are probing the incident. Dabholkar was shot at from a close range and the assailants fled the place via Rasta Peth Road."
Dabholkar spearheaded the "Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti" (Anti-Superstition movement) to change social mindset and inculcate scientific temper.
A staunch fighter for the cause of eradication of inhuman rituals and superstitions, Dabholkar was also in the forefront of the campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, opposed by certain sections of Warkari sect, in the State legislature.
Dabholkar, who had a degree in medicine, started working in the field of superstition eradication in 1983.
In 1989, along with other like-minded people, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti.
The spot where Dabholkar was shot
In the past 20 years he confronted many babas, buas, tantriks, etc. and led many agitations against several forms of superstitions, water pollution and animal sacrifices.
He was also the founder member of a de-addiction Centre, Parivartan in Satara.
As the news of his death broke, reactions on Twitter ranged from disbelief to shock. Here is what Twitteratti had to say:
Social Activist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in #pune. Shame! May he rest in peace.— Vinod Sobale (@vinodsobale) August 20, 2013
Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar's heinous murder points to Talibanisation.of our society and attacks on freedom of speech & rational thinking— Subash Babu A (@subashb) August 20, 2013
Shot dead! In Pune! Omg. Still can't believe. Very sad news. ?? Rip. Narendra Dabholkar sir ..— M@dhur@ (@MadhuraCulkarni) August 20, 2013
Dr. Narendra Dabholkar killed. Shocking! May his soul rest in peace. Now please stop #purogamiMaharashtra crap!!!— homely hippie (@homely_hippie) August 20, 2013
Shocked to hear about Narendra Dabholkar !! What's happening!!! RIP. Great man he was..— M@dhur@ (@MadhuraCulkarni) August 20, 2013
RIP ): "@sureshpathare: RIP Hon. Narendra Dabholkar.... We have lost strong leader ......"— AAP follower (@aap_umesh) August 20, 2013
Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar shot dead in #Pune. Shocking. So much for progressive Maharashtra.— Amruta Byatnal (@amrutabyatnal) August 20, 2013
Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar shot dead in Pune...RIP— Mehran Hamid Zaidi (@mehranzaidi) August 20, 2013
Dr Narendra Dabholkar won the most prestigious Chatrapati Shivaji Krida Puraskar for Kabaddi from the government of Maharashtra— siva kumar (@Sivakumar_king) August 20, 2013
Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist and a sane voice against superstition and Nirmal Baba types shot dead in #Pune. Shocking.— ???????? ?????? (@thepiyushpandey) August 20, 2013
Narendra Dabholkar constantly fought against goons hiding behing religious veil. He is shot dead. May his death strengthen his struggle.— John HeyGhaati (@Sant_patil) August 20, 2013
Here is a video of Dabholkar giving a talk on Nirmal Baba.