Dr. Narendra Dabholkar a well-known anti-superstition activist and the founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti was shot dead in Pune on August 20th early in the morning while he was on his morning walk. The shocking murder of Dr. Dabholkar stunned the people. People came on the streets in many parts of Maharashtra, to protest the brutal killing of a social activist who has been sincerely and tirelessly against superstitious practices. Despite constant threats to his life and vilification of his work, Dr. Dablholkar had continued his efforts with unparalleled passion and steadfast conviction to the cause of superstition-free society, for the past three decades.

The reaction from the government and those in power was predictable. Maharashtra chief minister immediately declared that this murder is a “political conspiracy” and the search for the culprits is on. To prevent backlash, and douse people’s anger, the government of Maharashtra in the most opportunistic way issued an ordinance on blind faith and superstition, supposedly based on the draft prepared by Dr Dhabolkar, which had been gathering dust for more than 13 years, and has seen more than 26 revisions and amendments. Governor on Saturday, August 24th also signed the ordinance. People are no doubt suspecting their intentions and sincerity of the government. It was quite obvious that the establishment was not interested in curbing practice and propagation of blind faith and superstition, nor is this on their agenda.

While they pay lip service to rational thought, scientific temper and so on, their practice and public behaviors leaves no doubt where their interest lies. Is it just a matter of chance that superstition and blind faith thrives despite all claims? While ordinary people, mostly victims of such practices resort to blind faith due to ignorance, desperation and helplessness, those in power use it as a weapon to subjugate the people, keep them ignorant so that they can be easily duped. No wonder that many of those are also the promoters and supporters of various god men (and god women), and seek their blessing (sic) during elections and so on, openly endorsing their “spiritual” powers. Even many public servants openly flaunt their allegiance to various godmen.

The system thrives on ignorance, superstition and lies
Despite claims to the contrary, the system refuses to ensure rights to people and forces them to seek remedy and solace in acts of miracle. In the face crisis and tragedy they are left to fend for themselves. But irrational thoughts are not limited to the realm of godmen and quacks and other such practitioners. It plays important role in the present political system to mislead people. One myth that is often repeated in our country is that the existing system of parliamentary democracy is the best and it has been established to solve the problems of people. Much like the godmen, the established parties make us believe that somehow this system can be made to deliver to broad masses, provided their party is brought to power. This myth is spread day in and day out through various channels and sources, through schools, collages, and curriculum and books, mass media and so on. Our own experience shows us that the parties, who come to power in the present political system, serve the interests of their financiers and if at all, we can only hope for a few crumbs thrown at us, as a concession to mitigate the terrible consequences of their “democratic” rule. The victims of this myth are surprisingly not the poor and uneducated, who very well know how system works against them, but the well educated who are fooled by the sophistry of those defending the system. They fail to see that unless and until the people are empowered and participate in the day today decision making, they and their families can never hope to lead a life of dignified existence.

In addition to several superstitions which are part of our legacy from the past, there is yet another superstition which is being propagated ad infinitum by those in power and their spokespersons, that the program of globalization through liberalization and privatization is the panacea to the problems facing us. Is the spectacular failure of this program causing devastation of productive forces in the society and perpetrating continued misery of our people during the last three decades not enough to convince us that we need to fight against this superstition?

Another myth is that the Indian “socialist” and “secular” state is there to protect our life and liberty against all kinds of threats. Dr. Dabholkar’s brutal murder is the grim reminder to all of us that this is not so. Those like Dr Dhabolkar, who take upon themselves to promote rational thought and scientific temper, are not protected, but made target of vicious attacks. Perpetrators of such attacks enjoy political patronage from established, and never brought to book. All kind of communal and fascist politics and polarization is allowed and given publicity. People are different persuasions are stereotyped and targeted based on their identities and beliefs. The state organized genocides of 1984, 1992, 2002 and even before, and continuation of attacks on innocent people in Punjab, Kashmir, Manipur and in several other parts of the country – exposes its real nature. There are numerous such examples, which can be given to prove that the culture of superstition and blind faith is institutionalized in the present system.

One might speculate as to who is behind the murder of Dr Dhabolkar, and the motive behind it. Going by the track record of investigations of such brutal and sinister attacks on those who are fighting in defense of peoples’ human and democratic rights, we will never know the real culprits or the mastermind behind this attack on Dr. Dabholkar. But there cannot be any doubt as to who is responsible for the murder of rational thought, and scientific temper in the society. Those who are in power and control the state organs continue to propagate several lies and mislead the people since our own experience does not match their “words of wisdom”.

By Pravin Ramteke

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