The Maharashtra government dillydallied for over seven years to pass the anti-superstition and black magic bill, and it took the murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, who tirelessly pushed for the bill, to goad it into passing it through the ordinance route at its cabinet meeting on Wednesday as a tribute to him. In doing so, however, the state government seems to have succumbed to all-round pressure it faced following the activist’s death, over its failure to pass the bill till now.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, however, strongly criticised the ordinance, saying that the government has failed to follow the assembly’s procedure of debating and discussing the issue and instead making it a personal one.
“An ordinance can’t be passed on an emotional basis, there is a formal procedure for everything,” BJP leader Vinod Tawde told Rediff.com. The BJP’s state president, Devendra Fadnavis, added, “The government has let down Dr Dabholkar, they could’ve passed the bill when he was alive. Why did the government waste so many assembly sessions? We aren’t opposed to the bill of Dr Dabholkar, but you must understand, the Warkaris and many groups have opposed it.”
“The government has deliberately passed this ordinance to distract the public from the total breakdown in law and order in Maharashtra,” Fadnavis said. The two BJP leaders said they will study the merits of the ordinance before considering opposing it.
The Nationalist Congress Party, a constituent of the Democratic Front government, however, blamed the BJP for misleading the public and brainwashing them by calling the anti-superstition bill an anti-religious one. “The BJP has always obstructed the assembly from passing this bill, terming it as anti-religious. They have been creating obstructions, provoking various groups and misleading the public. It is an anti-superstition and black-magic bill,” NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik told Rediff.com.
Meanwhile, there has been no breakthrough in the investigation into Dabholkar’s murder. Recently, in Nasik, he had launched a campaign against khap panchayats, and one theory doing the rounds in Pune was that it could have angered certain people. Pune’s commissioner of police, Gulabrao Pol, however refuted such claims. “This campaign had a presence in Pune, but there seems to be no evidence to suggest it could be because of this,” Pol told Rediff.com, adding that there was no breakthrough in the case so far. “We have got no clues as yet, we are on it,” Pol said.
Many of Dabholkar’s colleagues and friends view the Sanatan Sanstha, an extreme right-wing organisation, as the main suspect behind his murder, since its members are reported to have disrupted many of Dr Dabholkar’s and the All India Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti’s talks. They are even alleged to have held out threats to Dr Dabholkar and his colleague Shyam Manav.
However, the Sanatan Sanstha rubbished such claims. ‘There was no posture of enmity in it. The murder of Dr Dabholkar is as shocking as the accusations by the media and progressive elements to hold the Sanatan Sanstha responsible for this incident. The Sanatan Sanstha opposed Dabholkar’s thoughts. As a result, the Sanatan Sanstha had filed more than 20 court cases for the false allegations made by Dr Dabholkar against the Sanstha. These cases are still pending in courts of law. Apart from this, the Sanatan Sanstha opposed Dr Dabholkar for his atheist thoughts by all democratic means,’ wrote Abhay Vartak, the outfit’s spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for anyone providing information on Dr Dabholkar’s killers.