Month later, police grope in dark for Dabholkar's killers
It's been a month since the brutal daylight murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in this Maharashtra city. The police, however, continue to grope in the dark for the killers.
Police released sketches of a couple of suspects and questioned dozens of people, but have yet to make any significant breakthrough in their investigations.
Dabholkar, a campaigner against superstition and witchcraft, and a mild-mannered medical doctor, social worker and journalist, was shot at close range and killed while out on a morning walk near his residence in Pune, near the Omkareshwar Temple, Aug 20, around 7.30 a.m. The murder created a nationwide furore.
Of at least four bullets fired, two found their target in Dabholkar's neck and back. He succumbed shortly afterwards at the government-run Sassoon Hospital.
A stunned Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan immediately announced a reward of Rs.10 lakh for information on the killers but still there has not been any breakthrough.
Soon after the incident, Home Minister R.R. Patil vowed that the killers would be nabbed at the earliest.
Dabholkar's funeral was attended by top dignitaries including Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, R.R. Patil and top officials.
A rationalist, known for his boldness for over three decades, Dabholkar had rubbed many the wrong way and had reportedly even received threats, which his son said he refused to complain about, claiming that he needed no weapons in his cause.
In 1989, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), with a few like-minded people and raised cudgels against all types of superstition, irrational practices, blind faith and beliefs, confronting dubious tantriks, babas and buas - people who claim to have supernatural power - who preyed on gullible masses.
Dabholkar was instrumental in pushing the state government to frame an anti-superstition law, finally approved and passed as an ordinance a day after his murder.
The new law seeks to eradicate black magic, blind faith, superstitious beliefs, rituals and sacrifices to drive out evil spirits or ensure a male progeny - perpetrated by self-styled godmen, witchcraft and wizardry practitioners - often with the intention of cheating gullible and unsuspecting people.
As no progress was reported on nabbing those involved in Dabholkar's murder, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray Thursday wondered whether it was "a state-sponsored murder."
"Since there is no breakthrough in the murder case, the needle of suspicion is pointing towards the state government. There is growing suspicion whether it was a state-sponsored murder," Thackeray alleged, after meeting the late activist's daughter Mukta Dabholkar at his Mumbai residence.
Thackeray contended that if the state government had cleared the anti-superstitions bill earlier, Dabholkar's murder might have been prevented.
(Posted on 20-09-2013)