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'Fundamentalists will keep opposing anti-superstition bill'

By Neeta Kolhatkar
August 22, 2013 22:20 IST
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A day after the anti-superstition and black magic ordinance was passed by the Maharashtra cabinet, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan tells Neeta Kolhatkar in an exclusive interview that ‘fundamentalists’ behind the cold-blooded murder of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar will try to scuttle the Bill, but he will fight for it.

You mentioned that ‘Godse kind of people’ have been responsible for the killing Dr Narendra Dabholkar. An organisation is suspected of assassinating him, can you tell if these suspicions are true.

I have not named any particular individual or organisation for this gruesome murder. You cannot equate any reasonable individual or people to such acts. The people who have done it are those who can’t fight with reason, have resisted scientific reasoning and killed a man who worked tirelessly against superstition and black magic.

This is an attitude, an ideology that is extreme and has used violent means to finish someone who had had a scientific bent of mind. It is sad that such forces have tried to silence reason, change and any logical thought to practices that have been used against people in society.

Why the rush for passing the ordinance? Your government has been criticised for passing the ordinance against superstition and black magic a day after Dr Dabholkar’s murder. Why did you wait till now?

That is absolutely not true. My government has been trying for this law since the time Dr Dabholkar approached the Democratic Front government with the original proposal to ban superstition. This was just before 2005. Since then we wanted to bring it first as a law. But we wanted all-party consensus.

Also, we can’t pass it without introducing it in the assembly. Many organisations and parties opposed the Bill in its original form. I was in touch with Dr Dabholkar; he is from my constituency. At that time the bill was kept aside. When I became the CM, I took the initiative because I too am a science student and could understand Dr Dabholkar’s scientific bent of mind. There was a lot of negative feedback from many quarters. We called all the groups -- Warakaris, the parties opposing and other people who criticised it.

I believe, even if it got diluted, we needed such a bill or law. There are many people who have been victims of voodoo, black magic and superstitions. Some have been victims of human sacrifice, while many have incurred financial loss after being duped.

The poor have been exploited. The good part about Dr Dabholkar was he agreed to so many changes, even though it was diluted from the original draft.

It is hurtful to say that my government did not want this bill to be passed. Congress party has supported it. I personally have taken the initiative. Yes, since the bill could not be passed in the House, I had begun working on introducing it in another way. After consulting all departments and legal aspects my government decided to introduce it as an ordinance and on April 20 it was approved in the cabinet.

The monsoon session was chaotic and I waited till August to get it introduced in the House. Dr Dabholkar has worked on it for a long time and the fact is this is not a victory. I know those who have opposed the bill will do so when we introduce it in the winter session. It is going to be a lot of hard work and I will fight for it. Fundamentalist organisations will always oppose it.

There was a proposal to ban few right-wing extremist organisations. What is the status and is one of the organisations suspected to be behind Dr Dabholkar’s murder?

As recent as few months ago, I reiterated my stand to the central home ministry. Yes, a written request was made to the central government to ban two fundamentalist organisations. I will not be able to tell you the names, as this communication is an internal one between me as the chief minister and the Union home minister.

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